Sunday, May 20

Saving Jericho: Seven Solutions For CBS

If Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, is wondering why providing "closure to the compelling drama that was the Jericho story" does not seem to be enough to stop the hemorrhaging caused by the loyal fans of Jericho, she need look no further than the proven practice of crisis communication. Asking the right questions will always lead to effective solutions.

First and foremost, the network has to acknowledge something went wrong. Given the relentless activity at sites like Jericho Rally Point, Jericho Lives, and Save Jericho, something obviously did go wrong.

Add to these sites the increasing number of social and mainstream media outlets taking notice: film.com, SoundtheSirens, and TV Guide forums. Or try a simple "Save Jericho" search. That's all it takes to see the gravity of the situation even without the NUTS campaign. (We hope CBS donates to food shelters).

Since there is no question that the drama attached to save Jericho efforts will continue to catch fire, making the CBS decision sound like a comedy of one error after another, it's time to ask how the broadcaster can stop a siege of loyal viewers and then transform bad public relations into network performance.

Solution One: Make A Commitment. Since "ending" the show does not seem to be enough, give it a limited run commitment with six shows squeezed somewhere into next season's line up. The announcement would provide CBS enough breathing room to get something done besides husking nuts. Considering the show left off with a major battle between New Bern and Jericho, it would be all too easy to drop any actors who don't wish to come back.

Solution Two: Fast Track DVD Season One. Everybody heard Tassler say that CBS is a business, so then maybe CBS could act like a business. Fast tracking the first season of Jericho to DVD would revive the fan base lost during the midseason break, generate cash flow, capture new fans (because some will be curious to see what they missed), and provide a better measurement than ratings alone.

Solution Three: Restore Fans Online. Dozens of fans, especially "save Jericho" leaders, were allegedly kicked from CBS forums. If there is to be any hope to restore peace, they could be reinstated on the condition they do not spam other show sites. These fans are not the enemies, but rather CBS allies who never thought the network lost its edge (because it created the show they love). They are also the ones who might not vote up ratings, but they are very willing to vote with pocketbooks.

Solution Four: Merchandising. Merchandising remains one of the biggest misses for Jericho this year. CBS could reverse any lackluster or perhaps non-existent show merchandising by involving fans in the design process (maybe a contest). Some have demonstrated a knack for producing merchandise that needs no more than a little polish.

Solution Five: Public Relations. Bringing the show back now would be a big public relations coup that will be talked about for months by entertainment news outlets because it would represent a dramatic shift in industry thinking. As I often say on this blog, we cannot choose what people say about us, but we can choose how we react to it. The appropriate reaction is not to look at fans as raving lunatics, but rather as living proof that CBS can create endearing programs.

Solution Six: Drop Subscription-Based Videos. There seems to be plenty of evidence to support the idea that a monthly subscription to multiple shows is not going to work in the age of new media. Single purchase downloads are much more effective because they allow the consumer to make the choice. The network could potentially make more money and the fans would be happier. Apple, YouTube, and Joost have already set this as the standard for on-demand digital media.

Solution Seven: Learn From Past Mistakes. CBS is not alone. Mid-season breaks almost killed several shows this year. While mid-season breaks might be palatable for shows that are largely based on a single standalone episode like House, CSI, and Two And A Half Men, they clearly don't work with serials. When fans miss a week, they are less motivated to return.

So there you have it. With seven solutions, I believe CBS could be in a prime position to turn a public relations nightmare into next season's leader, especially as more people learn what it was about Jericho that the fans found so addictive.

To me, it all seems pretty easy to figure out. Jericho was much more than a sci-fi "fallout" thriller. For many fans, from what I've read, it was a testament to being a family-oriented American: a small town consisting of top-drawer actors struggling against the odds to remain loyal to the very best qualities this country can offer. Who can blame them for liking that?

In times like these, when government sometimes seems too polarized to show forward motion and the evening news focuses too much on people who make the wrong decisions, is it any wonder why a few million people found hope in the citizens of Jericho as they made sacrifices to make the right moral decisions? At least, that's the way I see it.

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12 comments:

Rich on 5/20/07, 12:48 PM said...

Famous Signatures:

The online petition to save Jericho breaks 56,000. A second petition at You Choose gathered an additional 700, but what makes the second one unique is that the fan subscribed to Google AdSense to promote it.

Rich on 5/20/07, 6:23 PM said...

Smart Decision:

CBS creates a Save Jericho section on its message boards.

Rich on 5/21/07, 12:17 PM said...

Even More Words:

The Los Angeles Times picks up on the story of fans trying to save Jericho as the online poll pushes past 60,000.

Rich on 5/21/07, 12:33 PM said...

And more:

The Chicago Tribune adds to the speculation of what will happen to Jericho. Something will, but no one knows for sure.

Save Jericho (Tricia Kate) on 5/21/07, 9:37 PM said...

Thanks so much for your article. It is greatly appreciated!

http://www.jerichorallypoint.com - forums

http://www.jericholives.com - main hub

http://www.myspace.com/savejerichonow - myspace portal

MR_Cub on 5/22/07, 9:08 AM said...

Excellent points. Thanks for the suppot. Save Jericho!

Rich on 5/22/07, 9:59 AM said...

Thanks Tricia and Mr. Cub. You've earned it.

Rich on 5/22/07, 3:26 PM said...

And more:

United Press International is the latest to the Jericho fan campaign.

Special shout out to Jericholives.com for asking fans to NOT disrupt other stations with blast faxes and to be respectful to CBS employees. It's never easy to control mass movements, but they are doing a fine job.

UPI link: http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Entertainment/2007/05/22/fans_tell_cbs_bring_back_jericho/8002/

BoonDoggie on 5/23/07, 11:35 AM said...

I agree completely. I had a similar conclusion in my article today:

I'd like to think that this was a masterful stroke on the part of CBS -- they announced the cancellation without the intent of actually canceling it, so they could bring it back with a huge groundswell. They may have known how dedicated the fans were based upon the web activity. In which case they have pulled off the most amazing viral marketing campaign in the history of the web, but they can't tell anyone about it.

Rich on 5/23/07, 12:00 PM said...

Thanks for the addition Boondoogie. Good article too. You're right... if that is the case, they certainly could not tell anybody about it. Their best bet is to say they made a terrible mistake ... one about the size of your average Asian elephant ... and growing.

Jeremiah on 5/24/07, 8:37 AM said...

Wonderful article. CBS could potentially have a situation where they do nothing but win. To do that though the fans have to win as well. Hopefully they will realize what they have and make the most of it.

SAVE JERICHO!

Rich on 5/24/07, 11:57 AM said...

Thanks Jeremiah! Much appreciated!

Unfortunately, I think the longer CBS waits, the greater the possibility that even bringing the show back might not be enough. People will only look at a car accident so long before they're disgusted.

The fact that the fans have bought an ad in Variety ... it's amazing.

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