Saturday, May 19

Going Nuts: CBS In Crisis

If there is a tipping point between viral fun and crisis communication, CBS seems to have found it. As if a battle with The National Association of REALTORS over a CBS "60 Minutes" story isn't bad enough, the network is trying desperately to prevent an all-out war with its own customers, viewers who became enamored with the television series "Jericho."

Originally, Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, took the hard view, telling the Vancouver Sun and other media outlets ... "that show would still be on the air if the audience was there. No programmer wants to p.i.s.s. off their audience. When that happens, it's unfortunate. Part of what we try to do is create viewer loyalty, and then build on that ... But we're running a business."

Today, on CBS Jericho message boards, her bluntness has been dulled and her talk-tough approach humbled.

"Please know that canceling a television series is a very difficult decision ... It is a show we loved too. We truly appreciate the commitment you made to the series and we are humbled by your disappointment. In the coming weeks, we hope to develop a way to provide closure to the compelling drama that was the Jericho story."

What changed? A combination of viral fan campaigns that demonstrate the relative ease of organizing an army of angry customers online. The site includes all CBS phone numbers, e-mails, and addresses; affiliate and advertiser contact information; links to an online petition growing by 10,000 viewers a day; sample letters; show ratings; and even links to other networks to encourage them to buy Jericho.

On any given show cancellation, maybe a single viral idea might stick. Not so with Jericho. In addition to the NUTS campaign we reported on yesterday, fans have been busy.

They have made fax sheets, T-shirts, and posters featuring CBS "nuking" the show; added links to where you can order "nuts" online; solicited celebrities; threatened CBS boycotts; spammed other show message boards (resulting in scores of CBS fans being removed from the CBS Jericho site); and dozens of other ideas, many of which are being promoted on the CBS Jericho message boards and hundreds of blogs.

The fallout being caused by hundreds of thousands of viewers (a fraction of millions who watched it) and CBS is one that all major networks can take note of: show promotion and social media represent a double-edged sword. It may increase viewership and buy-in but it also evolves viewers into customers.

Ratings conducted by Nielsen are no longer the only measure of a fan base. Consumers are recording their favorite shows in record numbers; watching full episodes with an online platform that, ironically, CBS provided; or waiting to catch up when an entire season is released on DVD. Personally, I'm surprised Tassler and her staff didn't factor this, along with the fanaticism of fans they did create, into the equation. First run ratings are seemingly becoming one of the least effective measures for successful programming.

The mistake, what some are calling the worst cancellation error in television history, is taking a major toll on CBS. Enough so that the latest rumor is that if CBS doesn't release the show to another network, it may produce a 2-hour series finale to tie up loose ends.

I'm no longer convinced it will work. The finale idea might have been successful a few days ago, but now organized fans seems less willing to settle after being ignored then talked-tough too then booted from CBS message boards and now seemingly placated by the executives. Tensions are so high that even CBS affiliate Eyewitness News 12 in Kansas has defected to the customer camp.

In sum, this entire event is demonstrating that passive viewers have evolved into active customers. As such, networks might think twice about going to war against them. Such wars only make advertisers and shareholders extremely anxious, nervous, and less than impressed.

Digg!

8 comments:

Rich on 5/19/07, 2:07 PM said...

Even More Words:

Yet another Jericho fan site has made a splash online: Jericho Rally Point was created by fans who were disappointed by a CBS decision to increase message board monitoring. It also links to various sites, blogs, and message boards. Amazingly coordinated, including a rally point on Second Life.

Kim on 5/19/07, 3:49 PM said...

I sent a bag of nuts (cashews and pistachios, respectively) to Nina Tassler and Les Moonves over at CBS today. At .99 per bag and .75 each for postage, $3.48 is a small price to pay to make a statement.

I hope EVERYONE who loves Jericho will do the same.

Jericho fans, please keep in mind that Les is the top dog over at CBS, so getting his attention is crucial. Nina just might find herself out of a job.

Rich on 5/19/07, 4:19 PM said...

Famous Words:

"Perhaps no canceled show over the past weeks has garnered so much disappointment and response from its fan base as Jericho." — Your Entertainment Now

Rich on 5/20/07, 7:23 PM said...

Famous Words:

"Jericho fans have gone NUTS and Chicago is one of their main protest cities. Fans of CBS's "Jericho" are up in arms after their shown got cancelled. Fans of the show have made the lives for workers at CBS busy and hard. As stated on their Protest site they Have been emailing their story out to our NBC station here in Chicago trying to get competitors of CBS involved.

Chicago joined with New York and Los Angeles have been key cities for this protest. According to their site there will be 3 large protests to get their show back. If it happens it would be on Memorial Day. Some other media sources called this "One of the biggest Network Television protests in CBS history."

As part of their campaign they are sending boxes of nuts to CBS stations across the country. Chicago is dealing with this worse than other citites. Milwaukee is also getting hit hard, as one member said "I am one of the many thousands across the nation that are joining in the campaign to save the CBS television show Jericho. While I understand you are an NBC affiliate, we are trying to spread the word to help our cause."

Who knows are Jericho fans really NUTS or are they just trying to save their show. Only time will tell." — James Young, Chicago Independant Media

(soucre: http://chicago.indymedia.org)

Alans on 5/21/07, 12:47 PM said...

http://www.nutsonline.com/gifts/jericho.html

Send NUTS!

Rich on 5/21/07, 2:26 PM said...

Alans,

I have to admit I was pretty skeptical about this web address until my staff told me fans actually secured a discount through this company. The relationship between the fans and the company is explained on the CBS Jericho message boards.

If you visit the site, it leads with a marketing message that screams: "NUTS! Save Jericho! Jericho fans unite. In addition to sending individual orders to CBS programming executives, as a Jericho fan you can now contribute money to massive shipments of nuts. NutsOnline will do our part by pooling monies and supplying nuts at a steep discount! At the end of each day we will tally dollars collected and ship out huge quantities of roasted peanuts in the shell! In checkout you can include your message to the folks at CBS to Save Jericho."

Among other things, the company is reporting how many nuts it has shipped. Within minutes, it reported more than 500 pounds, convincing me that my original post greatly underestimated the number of nuts CBS will receive.

I am also amazed, but not surprised, that the fans have moved this issue into the mainstream media. Wow! This truly is the largest show cancellation protect in history.

sarah on 5/21/07, 6:02 PM said...

Actually, we've now gotten orders for 1838 pounds of freshly roasted peanuts, at discounted case prices for EVERYONE. Orders are pouring in minute by minute. Go visit our order page to see the live tally at http://www.nutsonline.com/gifts/jericho.html or check out photos of us in the warehouse today on our blog at http://www.nutsonline.com/blog/

Rich on 5/22/07, 9:58 AM said...

Thanks Sarah! And make sure you see our May 22 post about your store's smart customer service.

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