It seems to be the number one question being asked by people all over the world, including CBS. Who are these people that have sent more than 35,000 pounds of nuts to CBS and flooded executive e-mails and phone lines? Who are these people who can rally more 1,000 to 5,000 signatures a day, every day? Who are these people who have captured headlines in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times? Who are these people who dominate the Internet on blogs, forums, and BlogTalkRadio?
Who are these people?
They are students like my first fan contact Brian Kalinka in New Fairfield, Conn.; administrative assistants like Diane Roy in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada; business owners like Lisa Ludvicek in Overland, Kansas, and Debra Newman in Bonner Springs, Kansas; online talk radio hosts like Shaun OMac in Las Vegas; and radio operations managers like Clarke Ingram in Pittsburgh, Penn. People with diverse jobs, educations, incomes, and interests that all have found common ground in a television show called Jericho and CBS Jericho message boards.
“All of us were concerned about cancellation because word was that the show was ‘on the bubble,” says Ingram, talking about message board discussions just prior to the May 15 leak that the show would be cancelled. “The next day, May 16, Shaun OMac hosted what was going to be a ‘wake for Johnston Green’ show, but it turned into a discussion about the cancellation.”
According to Ingram, the radio show put voices and real names to the screen names that make up most message boards. They were real people, and it served to unify them to save the show. It also served to bring some ideas. Ingram is credited with being among the first to say “Nuts!” to CBS (he refutes this, offering up that dozens of other fans said it first); OMac suggested they put the words into action; and a Canadian fan, Jeff Knoll, quickly made arrangements with Jeffrey Braverman at NUTSOnline.
Who are these people?
They are a cross sampling of North America, 9+ million Jericho fans who enjoyed the show and feel unrepresented by Nielsen Media Research. Many watched the show as a family (as evidenced by many comments left on our blog alone). Some were CBS message board regulars. None of them seem to typify the definition of the cult following that they’ve been compared to since capturing the title of the biggest cancellation protest in history.
In fact, when you look at the events over the past few weeks, believe it or not, this entire movement happened very much by accident. Ingram’s original farewell post is a testament to this; it was meant as nothing more than a thank you to the actors, writers, and producers before CBS deleted 3,000+ of his posts and temporarily banned him from the message boards.
Since, they have transformed from an accidental gathering of viewers into a “can do” consumer movement with a very clear message to networks: television viewers do not have to tune into programs just because there is nothing better to watch (there are plenty of options). With hundreds of channels and dozens of recording and download options, we have become actively engaged consumers who expect more from the entertainment industry than copycat programming, sudden serial ends, and executives who lay blame on the viewers they need to entice advertisers to pony up multi-million dollar profit margins.
Who are these people?
You don’t even have to like Jericho to understand these fans or appreciate how they feel. If you’ve ever enjoyed any television program only to see it unjustly cancelled because someone didn’t look behind the Nielsen numbers, then you can empathize with this spontaneous uprising of support for Jericho. The only difference is that these viewers and others decided to do something about it.
And in the process, whether they win or lose (though I think they’ll win), they are changing the way networks think about their ever-increasing niche products. Maybe not CBS, but certainly NBC and Fox, both of which are placing less emphasis on the Nielsen numbers alone and more emphasis on listening to viewers. But isn’t that the lesson for every executive lately? Numbers are great, but without the demographics and psychographics behind them, numbers mean nothing. So who are these people? They are everybody.
“I've heard CBS is asking ‘where were these viewers during the regular season?’” noted Ingram. “We were right here, using online platforms that you provided … we were here, but not measured by Nielsen.”