Saturday, August 11

Mixing Messages: CBS To Jericho Fans

On one hand, CBS is doing everything right with Jericho (although seeing a corporation encourage what started as a hip fan-based “Jericho Digg-a-thon” is a bit out of the ordinary). On the other hand, CBS went with an exhibition game featuring the Bills vs. Saints last night.

While there is nothing wrong with that (football is big bucks, even in preseason), it rightfully raised the dander of some fans. The reason? Miscommunication or a lack of communication all together.

When you have several thousand fans promoting a show at a set time every Friday night, they feel kind of silly when their friends call them, e-mail them, or twit them back to ask “What show?” It’s not the first time this week someone noted CBS seems to have two messages…

“We want them to watch at 8 o'clock," Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, told The New York Times. “And we need them to recruit viewers who are going to watch the broadcast."

“So at the end of the day, as long as I'm getting paid for it, I don't care whether you are watching CSI on CBS at 9 p.m. on Thursday night, on your DVR, if you are getting it on Amazon.com, or CBS.com,” said Les Moonves, CEO of CBS, Inc. to The New Yorker's Ken Auletta three days later. “So once again, the distinction, you are still watching CSI.”

Wow. If that’s true, then Jericho fans have a lot more leverage than I imagined. If that’s true, then Jericho fans are almost certain to have a third season. If that’s true, then “if” seems to be the operative word when it comes to Jericho.

Sometimes people seem unsure about my suggestion to develop consistent messages from a core message system that resonates throughout a company and then outward through various audiences, regardless of the company’s size. But the quotes above provide the reason. CBS cannot be dependent on the Nielsen ratings and free from it at the same time. Can they? And here I thought quantum physics was more likely to be found in Eureka.

There are six days left to enter Copywrite, Ink.'s contribution to consumer-generated Jericho buzz:. The free “Expanded Universe Short Story Competition” entry deadline is Aug. 17.

Digg!

8 comments:

Jericho Saved on 8/11/07, 7:59 AM said...

CBS deliver a consistent message? Interesting concept. Moonves can't get his story straight and we're working our behind's off only to be hit with a pre-emption last night and on the 24th. On top of that CBS is skipping an episode. If I was a new viewer I'd be lost and wondering why I should bother with this show.
Maybe Nina Tassler needs to remember that Rangers are not going to let CBS destroy our show.
Great article. Thanks.

azlady on 8/11/07, 9:30 AM said...

Thank you once again, Rich, for a great article. Most of all thank you for pointing out the inconsistent messages from CBS and the contradictory statements made by Moonves and Tassler. They need to come forward and make it clear exactly what they want.

jackie on 8/11/07, 9:44 AM said...

Rich, Sometimes, I start feeling like CBS is in the twilight zone or something! Do they even communicate with each other, let alone the fans. I'm beginning to think our only hope is to have tremendous DVD sales in October and hope we have enough time before the new season starts to let our friends and family have the opportunity to catch up before the new season starts up. Not everyone has access to innertube! It just gets so frustrating when you have worked as hard as we have.
Thanks again for your great article,could you send your article and all comments to Nina?

PlatPat on 8/11/07, 11:22 AM said...

Rich,

Once again, thank you for having your finger on the pulse of Jericho!

I have decided to take the high road and choose to believe that something happened between the time Nina issued her edict and the time that Les said he didn't care how you watched. I've decided that for the first time, the CBS honchos had an inkling of what Quincy Smith was talking about.
They learned from Jericho that the tide is changing NOW, and CBS wants to be the first wave to the beach.

I have noticed something in the past several weeks while watching other CBS and TNT shows. I have noticed, e.g. on the Insider, how they give a teaser and then tell you if you want to know more go to the website. The Closer directs you to go to the website to "catch up." Maybe I was tuned out before, or maybe the directions to "go to the website" are more blatant now. But I choose to believe that CBS is singing the Jericho tune and pushing more strongly for the inevitable change to happen NOW.

This is what I choose to believe. Am I NUTS? Or am I just paying more attention?

Yes, it could be just wishful thinking, but it also could just be true.

Skeeterbit on 8/11/07, 7:03 PM said...

I have to keep the faith that CBS did, does, and is working towards the success of JERICHO as diligently as I am. It's just that every now and then someone's head ends up shoved up their butt and a really bad decision is made, i.e., paid programming is ran during primetime hours during the week - what's up with that? That is what the 200+ cable channels are for. Or Big Brother is aired three times a week - and hours and hours on a cable channel in the evening. I don't want to watch my own family that much.

Basically, I have to keep the faith that CBS still wants JERICHO to succeed or all my efforts are for naught; and that it something that I can't face at this time. I've worked too hard for this show, this cast, this crew, and the wonderful people, including press, that I've become acquainted with through this campaign.

Rich on 8/12/07, 7:41 AM said...

Thank you all for your comments while I was working hard not spend another night in an airport (US Airways story on Monday).

Plapat, great observations. I think you are right. I'm not sure CBS has a conspiracy against Jericho as much as it has a communication gap about the size Grand Canyon, across the board.

In terms of football, the remedy was simple enough. Communicate to your consumers, especially if they are strong allies like Jericho fans are to CBS. After all, CBS had the means ... an entire Web site dedicated to the show.

More an more, I wonder if they have not simply adopted the behavior to make decisions with emotion and then justify with logic. That works fine enough when you are buying something fun, like a camera. But it's really not the best way to run a business. I hope they can fix it up.

All my best,
Rich

Sam Ford on 8/13/07, 7:27 AM said...

Hey Rich, thanks for linking to my post. I was just curious if you have followed any parallel fan movements along the way. Seems like these fan-driven television series campaigns would be worth studying as a whole in some point, both in how fans organize and prepare these types of organized efforts, and how networks have dealt with them in a variety of examples. I know I have followed fan input in pro wrestling and soaps, but Jericho seems particularly fascinating so far becuase of the attempts to work with the fans from CBS.

The problem is that the only real way to help is to find fans with Nielsen boxes...

Rich on 8/13/07, 11:48 AM said...

Hey Sam,

Your very welcome. It was a good observation and JS tipped me off about it. I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

To answer your question ... originally, we picked up the Jericho story as a crisis communication study. The fans overwhelmed us with gratitude for covering what very few did on the front end. Enough so, that although the crisis communication portion played out, they have created what I believe could be the a model for consumer marketing or viral marketing done right.

I agree with you that consumer marketing is likely to become a critical role in communication planning across the board. As for Nielsen being the only measure for Jericho, I fear you're are correct but remain hopeful the fans will capture interest of new viewers (assuming CBS doesn't undermine their efforts). Thanks for dropping by!

All my best,
Rich

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