Saturday, September 8

Challenging Reality: Jericho Jinx

The first to feel the sting was Mark Burnett’s failed reality series, Pirate Master. The show ended with a whimper on Aug. 28. The final episode aired online, more than a month after CBS had yanked the first program to be targeted by Jericho fans.

Now, Kid Nation, which is CBS’s second attempt to put up a new reality show, this time into the 8 p.m. Wednesday timeslot, is at risk of becoming an advertising ghost town, according to Advertising Age.

Procter & Gamble Co., General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Pepsi-Cola Co. and Anheuser-Busch all have taken a pass on the program that begins Sept. 19. P&G offered the most pointed comment: Kid Nation is just not in our brand strategy at this point. Several more advertisers would not comment.

While media buyers and advertising gurus expect the first episode will generate respectable ratings, companies are beginning to wonder if low cost reality shows have oversaturated the market. Critics are wondering too, with some mentioning that CBS already has a backup for the public relations marred Kid Nation, which has been plagued by questions of the legal, moral and ethical issues arising from its unconventional production.

Will the show prove its potential as a child star marker or simply cause more headaches than it is worth? Looking back, one can only imagine that CBS might feel drained by the decision to ever cancel Jericho, which, ironically, is its number one most talked about show despite an insecure start date and only seven episodes being produced.

Even though the show supposedly lost steam, it still managed to pull in better numbers than anything else CBS has since thrown up in its place. Not to mention, many Jericho fans are quick to point out that the midseason break, poor marketing, and the lack of a suitable rating system — not the show — all contributed to what now seems to have been an erroneous perception.

On CBS’s side at the moment is the simple fact that Jericho fans are becoming comfortable that one day, their show will return to a different time slot (while Pirate Master was unlikely to succeed, the premiere had also suffered from a Jericho fan boycott just prior to the decision to reverse the cancellation). CBS is also looking for more ways to market while creating unique revenue streams. Recently, it purchased SignStorey, a US company that broadcasts advertising-supported television in retail outlets. The price: $71.5 million.

The acquisition may make sense as a short-term investment. In many ways, the increasingly popular concept of in-store advertising that targets shoppers just before they make a purchase is an early predecessor to mobile advertising. Hmmm… maybe they could market shows when other advertisers aren’t buying up the time.

While sometimes preempted reruns on Friday nights haven’t necessarily convinced everyone that Jericho’s return will be able to outperform its initial run, there is no question that everybody, even critics, are hoping for a Cinderella story. So one question remains: if Kid Nation does flop (which we don’t know that it will), what will it take for CBS to end what might one day be called the Jericho jinx?



Myles on 9/8/07, 11:36 AM said...


After I ventured too far into your territory last week, I think you're stepping a tiny bit too far into mine this time around.

While this article is speculative by nature, I think that it's too dependent on hypotheticals to connect unrelated phenomenon to the Jericho situation.

For the record, Pirate Master never aired in Jericho's timeslot: it aired on Thursdays. This doesn't remove the core argument that reality television is long in the tooth, but I don't think we can so simply correlate Jericho and its boycott with the failure of that series.

I also think that calling Jericho CBS' most buzzed about show is both an unqualified statement (Although perhaps likely) and one that even if true wouldn't matter. CBS has proven time after time that it isn't a network about buzz: it's a network about being the most accessible network for casual viewers.

CSI and the network's plethora of crime shows are successful not due to hype, but rather because when there's nothing else on you can sit back and watch them. There's no "buzz" surrounding any of them at this point.

The network's problem right now is that the buzz around Kid Nation (Which they tried desperately to foster) is close to crossing that line between "All press is good press" and "Well...Except this press", and thus they're scrambling.

But I don't think that they've panicked just yet: if the show debuts to strong ratings, I doubt the ethical conscience of most corporations will be enough to keep them from crawling back to CBS. And if it doesn't, the network always has CSI reruns to fall back on.

And thus, as much as I think we'd all like to see Jericho's hype correlate into a successful run for the series, I don't think that CBS is the right network to be able to take that buzz and turn it into something meaningful. They're putting their effort behind their news shows (Kid Nation, Swingtown) and are hoping for the best. Somehow, I think Jericho might get left out of that loop.

If they prove me wrong, then we have a network renaissance on our hands thanks to the work of the Jericho rangers.

Sweet Tea on 9/8/07, 11:48 AM said...

I tend to agree with Myles about the loop. I won't rehash Fan Central, etc. CBS started the summer doing well at advertising Jericho then they quit and pre-emptions started. I'm hoping Dan Shotz was right last night about CBS loving this show & planning to advertise but I am sorely disappointed in CBS right now.
Thanks Rich. Good article.

Rich on 9/8/07, 1:19 PM said...

Hey Jane!

Thanks so much. I missed Dan Shotz last night because of civic duties ... thanks for mentioning what he said. I am hopeful too that CBS has decided to fall in love with the show all over again.

All my best,

Rich on 9/8/07, 1:24 PM said...

Thanks Myles,

I forgot that Pirates aired on Thurs. However, please allow me to correct your correction. It did not just have a Thurs. timeslot. Anyway, I appreciate you letting me know and corrected it because the timeslot issue had less to do with my point anyway.

So, other than proving I am human and forgetting a show I didn't care for in my haste to finish casting radio commercials today, the rest of the story stands.

This is largely an advertising story that begs the question: CBS had the viewers, had the advertisers, was doing well with the time slot when it had Jericho. But for want of more ... it seems to have lost more than it gained.

So you remember why Pirates was targeted by fans to begin with? ... It was with the knowledge that CBS was putting a reality show in place of Jericho, which prompted fans to send CBS a message about reality shows. It's the very reason I love the discussion function of blogs; sometimes it helps clarify points.

As to your other points:
1. The Jericho buzz has been researched and sourced. So I stand by it.
2. CBS is a network that wants to be about Buzz, which is why they are billing themselves as being bold this season so your explanation is old CBS. This is about new CBS.
3. You wrote about the Pirates failure, in part, to Jericho fans. So I assume you are retracting that?
4. Not all publicity is good publicity, which is why CBS has been guarded about who is advertising on Kid Nation.
5. I never said CBS was panicked; please don't project that on me.

No Myles, most of this story is about what others are saying. My views are very clear: "if Kid Nation does flop (which we don’t know that it will), what will it take for CBS to end what might one day be called the Jericho jinx?"

To be more clear, I assume even you have noticed that when things go south for anything about CBS... many start drawing correlations to Jericho. Whether their arguments are grounded in reality or not, which is certainly debatable, the communication impact remains the same.

Jericho is often mentioned by critics, even if CBS has not been promoting the show in favor of new shows. So again, the correlation remains, fair or not fair.

Speaking of fair, I don't think it's fair that you claim I am stepping in your area. I really don't know what you mean by that. I work in advertising and have direct network experience. I also have ample production experience and have scripted everything from little :15 second spots to full length documentaries. I've also been a paid entertainment reporter.

But despite all that, I do not write much about the quality of shows as a critic might because I choose not to. I am reporting on what others are saying, especially those that work in my field because of the communication surrounding this show and others, which is very much what I write about.

Beyond all that, I think the biggest thing that needs to be clarified here is that you and your brother were the one who first wrote that you stepped beyond your scope when you talk about communication, advertising, and marketing. So please, I don't mind you coming over and questioning me or offering a correction, but don't blame me for echoing your own words.

In closing, no hard feelings, please let me add for everyone else that Myles' Jericho fan fiction story will be published here tomorrow. Congrats again!

All my best,

Myles on 9/8/07, 1:48 PM said...

Whoa, let's step back a bit here.

For the record, what I meant with the first comment was not that you were incapable of making this argument. If that was the intention you derived from that, I sincerely apologize.

Rather, other than attempting to be a little bit tongue in cheek (Apparently failing, should have used a smiley), my only purpose was to say that I think that this won't be an issue of dollars and cents: I think that it's a sad reality of the way CBS and its viewers interact. And the reality is that, other than Jericho, they don't interact with fans. And CBS still doesn't know how to properly interact with the rangers on these issues.

So while CBS might "talk" buzz, and attempt to remain relevant in those areas, I would actually argue that they have not yet reached that point. Desire does not equal reality, and I still don't think CBS knows what to do with itself. I don't believe they've actually changed, and more important will be utterly hopeless at managing that change (As we've seen this summer).

I did write about the Jericho boycott as part of Pirate Master's original failure, but I think it is important to note for the sake of clarity that there's no way we can possibly measure it. My concern is of a simple correlation of "Jericho fans killed Pirate Master", which I think ignores the show's other host of problems.

If you go back and read what I wrote while perhaps removing the misinterpreted first section, I think you'll find that I never directly link you with the blog post's thoughts. I speak about the general situation, and I apologize for not directly stating whose views I am discussing at that point in time.

And thanks for the plug, and seriously, no hard feelings. Comments can be great, but also so easily twisted around within our minds before they reach the screen.


Rich on 9/8/07, 2:07 PM said...


I am not someone to take comments too personally; I've been in the communication industry long enough to be able to measure the difference between fair comment and erroneous statement and ample retraction.

You certainly do not have to apologize for me, which is what a qualified apology "If that was the intention you derived from that, I sincerely apologize" really means. It would have been better had you not offered an apology at all.

So, no, I didn't misinterpret anything. I merely corrected what you wrote so that it could not be misinterpreted by others. Also, I said, in terms of Pirate Master failing, I believe I said "in part," which means exactly that.

No hard feelings here. No misinterpretations on my part. My only regret is that you missed the most obvious point of all: this was an opportunity for Jericho fans to consider lobbying for Jericho to return if Kid Nation does fail, which we will know as early as Sept 19 and the following week. (Not just Kid Nation, but perhaps any show). The idea, btw, originated with critics as far back as the original announcement of Kid Nation, not me.

And, since it seems this point may have been stolen away, my apologies to the fans for allowing it to happen.


Myles on 9/8/07, 2:53 PM said...

On the note of Jericho as a last-minute replacement, I would actually strongly suggest against it (And not to signal any further disagreement between us, but rather citing precedent).

CBS yanked Smith from the air last season, replacing it with Stanley Tucci's 3 Lbs about four weeks later...which promptly fell to exactly the same fate as the show that preceded it.

The best scenario would be for CBS to have time to market it in the right timeslot, at the right time, as opposed to it simply being used to fill a programming hole. Schedule a break for an existing series (Such as Cane, which is perhaps as close a comparison the network has) and put Jericho into place for the series at a certain point in the season.

I just don't trust CBS not to just catapult in the seven episodes to fill a hole in the schedule without proper care.

Plus, I worry that it isn't in the campaign's best interest to send the message to CBS that "We really want your new shows to fail so that Jericho can come back sooner" (Not that you're saying that Rich, but I fear it would become common).

Rich on 9/8/07, 3:05 PM said...


Before I consider most of what you said, I have to once again clarify ... I said "if" Kid Nation fails. I did not suggest Jericho fans should lobby for the failure of any show. "If" CBS is considering replacement shows in the even the worst happens, then Jeircho "might" be a good first up replacement and this is why...

It seems to me that the original idea to produce seven episodes was so it could be brought back in during a mid-season break for some other show. I could be wrong, but that seems to have been the idea. In fact, I think this also came from other television critics some time ago.

Coming back as a mid-season show seems to be a less desirable position than overtaking another show "if" is should fail. In an overtake position, Jericho could go back into production as soon as possible. In such an event, the public relations exposure would overshadow any lack of marketing preparedness, which to date is largely consumer generated anyway.

So on this one, we might simply agree to disagree.


Rich on 9/9/07, 10:52 AM said...

More Words:

Sometimes the most interesting comments take place off site. The dicussion of this post on CBS certainly qualifies. Beyond Jericho, it provides a snapshot of today's television viewers ...

Unknown on 9/9/07, 8:54 PM said...

i hope to have given the fans some focus now..

The DVR plays of jericho are crucial as Nielsen will count DVR plays if they are played within three days of the recording but only if the commercials are NOT skipped.

Also urging those without a Nielsen box nor a DVR to send in postcards each week to CBS even in these final two episodes coming next week..

Tell CBS your name, age, sexes and where your from.

The networks like to see the fans take the extra effort to write and send a letter or postcard over than just pressing the enter key on a computer.

Also I have made an appeal for international viewers to let their voices be heard by CBS as well..
The international audience could be key to a third season of Jericho !!!

Rich on 9/10/07, 12:17 PM said...

Hey Shaun,

I caught that post and thought it was an excellent short term solution for Jericho fans. Long term, meaning once they save the show, fans of all television shows need to work together to change the tracking protocols.

Not counting someone who watches a DVR program on the fourth day is ridiculous. Threatening them to watch all ads in a program or not be counted is presumptuous. Considering DVR viewers now represent 20 percent of the public, networks and advertisers risk loosing that entire market share, not that they are accurately measured anyway. In other words, eventually, networks will need to learn they have to market to viewers and viewers should not be expected to market to them. When you add up the potential earnings generated by advertising, cable subscribers, syndication, DVDs, downloads, etc. it becomes pretty clear even flops make money.

Please do not mistake what I'm saying. Shaun, everything you are telling them is SPOT ON and your efforts are appreciated by many.

BTW, for anyone who has forgotten, we made Jericho postcards with proceeds that will go to charity.


Rich on 9/29/07, 1:23 PM said...

Famous Words:

"We all know that Jericho is supposed to be the first mid-season replacement on CBS, and makes a good argument as to why the time is now."

As much as I hate to say it because it make me sound smug. Told you so. Sorry. :)


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