Wednesday, January 16

Ending Rumors: CBS Clarifies Release


If some fans are still wondering, and some of them are, CBS did release episodes of Jericho Season 2 to the media. But it only released these episodes to the media, which is a common practice in the industry.

This isn't a guess. CBS was kind enough to follow up today after I requested clarification. Given this, any speculation that the network intentionally leaked three episodes for general consumption and Internet download appears to be untrue.

Personally, I want to offer my kudos to Jericho fans for their resolve in promoting the show on their own, without links to the full episodes. Instead, many of them have sent invitations to watch the new season on Feb. 12 or asked potential viewers to visit the CBS Jericho site for abbreviated sneak peeks and promos.

Assuming there isn't another source that could have distributed these episodes, it does leave me wondering. How much has new media changed all media, when full length screenings can no longer be entrusted to critics without being openly released on the Internet?

Digg!

29 comments:

Schumi said...

Thanks for helping clear things up Rich. Another voice - particularly yours - always helps.

-schumi

Jericho Returns on 1/16/08, 1:51 PM said...

Thanks Rich. I suspect this release came from one of those critics who complained so much about being bombarded with emails about Jericho.

My thanks to all my fellow Rangers who have stood firmly against downloading. Old media may have changed but ethics never has.

Ichthus said...

Thank you Rich. I hope your article will put this to bed.

Rich on 1/16/08, 2:03 PM said...

@Shumi Thank you. I know you and several others maintained and said this from start. Wish I would had a chance to clarify this sooner this week.

@Jericho Returns Anything is possible I imagine. If that is so, it's a real shame and breach of public trust, imo.

Rich on 1/16/08, 2:04 PM said...

My pleasure Ichthus. Me too.

Balceroregontr on 1/16/08, 2:04 PM said...

I hope CBS can track who leaked the video and expose them. Whoever did it deserves to have their press credentials revoked. Thanks for contacting CBS for clarification.

Cindy on 1/16/08, 5:10 PM said...

Hi again Rich; another interesting piece.

Re: Your question about trust and the new media.

Before anyone blames a critic/columnist for setting these and other episodes loose on the web (and there are others -- The Sopranos and Boston Legal are two that immediately leap to mind) remember that critics have spouses and teenage kids, they have neighbors and family to whom they lend the discs out "to be neighborly" (My daughter saw the latest Harry Potter film before release in just such a way). They also have nosy cubemates and then there's always the overnight staff.

It only takes one of them to understand the impact of filesharing exclusive content and the deed is done.

The phenomenon of "many hands" on promotional materials is nothing new. It has gone on since the day PR firms, companies and studios started sending out promotional advance materials to the media. The only new variable is the introduction of filesharing protocols on the web.

Knowing this, I have to ask the question: Why do companies continue to release these items without some sort of anti-piracy protection?

You have to wonder why the studios haven't made the connection. It makes me think that on some level these companies want the materials to be leaked -- because nobody could be that ill-informed.

One more thing: Although there are always some rotten apples in the barrel, 99% of journalists do indeed have very high ethical standards -- with many, many going out of their way not to "spoil" a viewer's pleasure when writing out a review or commentary.

Are journalists careless with these kinds of materials? Absolutely -- and the press should seriously rethink how it handles this stuff in the age of almost-instant information dissemination.

But I lay an equal share of the blame at the feet of the studios execs. who, if they truly wanted these items to be 100% secure, wouldn't be sending promo materials out like Tic Tacs--and with absolutely no protections.

Sorry this was so long but your column as usual, made me think through all the angles. :)

rubberpoultry on 1/16/08, 7:50 PM said...

Thanks Rich for always being the voice of reason.

We've attempted to put this issue to rest numerous times this week, but sometime it takes a prophet from another town to open the eyes of some. Of course, some will continue to refuse to do so, but your word carries much weight in the Jericho fandom. You're a class act!

-Rubberpoultry

Jericho247 on 1/16/08, 8:44 PM said...

Thanks as always, Rich. You are truly a voice of reason. I am one who will not download these episodes.

I am patient and will wait until they premiere on CBS to watch them. Feb 12th can't get here soon enough, however!!

It is a shame that some idiot had to leak these episodes. By doing that, it shows you that this person truly has no character.

Myles on 1/16/08, 9:07 PM said...

I want to echo Cindy's observations, particularly that starting some sort of journalist witch hunt is both counterproductive and assumptive. There are a lot of ways this screener could have gotten out into the public, so let's not quite signal the death knell of responsible journalism yet.

When I was writing my own post on this subject, I recalled one critic who had jokingly questioned how much he could make by selling the Jericho Screener on eBay. I chose not to list the name because, ultimately, there's no evidence, and no need to start blaming anyone. What's done is done.

And, as my post tried to clarify, the impact of this will be extremely limited - the people who download shows early are the same people who would download them anyways, as opposed to watching them, so this should have a minimal effect on the ratings of the premiere.

Now, if people start spoiling the episodes for fans, that's a completely different problem: extremely inconsiderate people.

Rich on 1/16/08, 10:26 PM said...

@RubberPoultry and Jericho247. Thank you both so much. I'm glad I was able to help, thanks to the promptness of CBS.

@Cindy and Myles. I'm not really sure where the idea of a media witch hunt, death knell of responsible journalism, or speculative excuses for leaked information is coming from.

I think you're pushing the question much further away from the center than it was ever intended. To be clear, if a member of the media did release it intentionally, then that is unprofessional and an abuse of privilege. If we entertain the idea that it was unintentional, then it is still irresponsible.

As someone who has worked as a journalist, political consultant, and on highly confidential information, I can assure you that "nosy cubemates," etc. does not excuse one from responsibility.

But to consider all that, really is speculative. And this post is really meant to separate fact from speculation. Based on the other input, I think we did that.

All my best,
Rich

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Cindy, in something that she said. The people that run CBS's promotional department aren't stupid, they know that everything that gets sent out for media review gets illegally put online. But they also know that only a fraction of a fraction of the view population watch television episodes this way, and it isn't enough to affect ratings. So for them it's viral marketing, as they hope that this fraction of a fraction makes it known that the product is good. And this word travels from the bottom up to reach the masses.

judist63 said...

I am so glad to finally have this put to rest. I am one who is waiting patiently along with others for the official release on television on February 12th. Don't get me wrong, we all hunger for another episode of Jericho, but because we all fought so hard for so long, we want it in the right arena. On television!!! Thank you so much for the update Rich! I can finally let this thing rest!

Myles on 1/17/08, 7:13 AM said...

Rich, I understand where you're coming from - this article was designed to limit speculation about who was responsible.

But, in the process, its clarification placed the blame on irresponsible journalism. The point Cindy and I are trying to make is that in doing so you are insinuating that the responsibility falls on them...but is not CBS responsible for not placing better anti-piracy laws on the Screener?

If this is really going to be put behind us, then why end with a hypothetical question about the downfall of journalism in a new media environment? Why even raise the slippery slope if not to raise the issues involved?

These screeners were not highly confidential information - they were sent out to get critics hyped about Jericho, so I'm guessing they were sent out fairly wide. While CBS may talk the talk, you know that they were at least mildly pleased about the free press this gave them in certain circles.

I just think that the better reaction to this is to emphasize not who is or is not at fault, but rather that it isn't going to matter in the end.

But, again, this is my own perspective as someone who sees a lot of screeners leak. I can definitely see the value of clarification for concerned Jericho fans, and thank you for that.

Greg Cooper on 1/17/08, 8:03 AM said...

How strange it's all become....a rumor that there was an illegal release leading to a story by Rich leading to a clarification by the network leading to a follow up piece. All, to be certain, were sent coutless times through the viral chain across cyberspace and read by tens of thousands of Jericho fans. Those fans were brought into contact with new information about the show, the story and it's author and the people who sent it. Tell me this isn't the wild wild west of marketing.....

gregcooper2008.blogspot.com

Rich on 1/17/08, 11:24 AM said...

@Myles,

You're overreaching with the slippery slope argument, but I'll answer your question.

"If this is really going to be put behind us, then why end with a hypothetical question about the downfall of journalism in a new media environment?"

Because journalism has changed over the course of last two years as social media has gained traction. There are examples all over, including this blog.

Just one of many included a lawyer "reprimanding" a blogger for adding commentary about a story covered by a trade publication. After the attack, the lawyer told me that journalists sent him e-mails congratulating him on the "smack down."

If that isn't a change, then what is?

Sorry, I cannot agree with your argument. Releasing episodes to the media benefits both the media and network. For malice or carelessness to erode this mutually beneficial relationship is ridiculous.

I might also point out that CBS did not complain nor did they say the media leaked it. As you're arguing your point, you're also unintentionally blurring the facts in this case.

Best,
Rich

Rich on 1/17/08, 11:38 AM said...

Hey Greg,

I sought out the clarification because I wanted to follow up piece, just to correct your observation. If you read the comments in my first piece, you'll see when and why I decided to do that.

Best,
Rich

Greg Cooper on 1/17/08, 12:25 PM said...

Thank you Rich...wasn't trying to imply anything nefarious going on. Just was commenting more in a remarkable sense to how, once again, Jericho gets spread all over like wildfire but the possibility that there were eps leaked out.

Rich on 1/17/08, 1:32 PM said...

Hey Greg,

I appreciate that. I just didn't want to create the impression CBS contacted me unsolicited.

There is no doubt that the CBS leak seems to have generated a buzz around Jericho; and I think the stance of the vast majority of fans seem to have ensured it remains positive. You too. :)

Addressing some of other comments, what I am less certain about is whether uncontrolled communication is good enough when considering risk and reward. Even if it creates a boon, does this really make a case for deep leaks to be a best practice. Probably not.

In terms of individual episode releases for first time shows, I think it's proven to be healthy for network promotion. iTunes has convinced me of that.

Best,
Rich

Cindy on 1/17/08, 7:37 PM said...

Hi Rich,

Chiming in again (briefly I hope) about your comments to Myles.

While I agree that journalism has changed radically in the past two years journalists have not. An arts beat reporter is not handling advance screeners of Jericho like Bob Woodward handles his George Bush interview notes. She has never had to because any "leakage" was usually restricted to a small subset, a tolerable byproduct of the promotions business.

As I said in my first post, things have to change in the way reporters handle this stuff. I did not intend to imply that because sloppy handling of these kinds of materials has gone on forever makes it right.

But I am saying (and I think Myles is saying much the same) that there is more than enough blame to pass around.

Pressrooms need to create standards for the handling of these materials—and make the standards stick.

And studios and production companies need to at least attempt to issue materials that can be digitally reproduced as bulletproof as possible.

That is, if they are truly interested in preserving the materials they are promoting—which I continue to question.

As you note this is a mutually beneficial relationship. If they want the relationship to continue, both groups have to come together to find ways to ensure this doesn’t happen as often as it has.

Thanks again. I always look forward to reading your posts even when I disagree.

Rich on 1/18/08, 8:08 AM said...

Cindy,

There is nothing wrong with disagreement. As I often advise others, relationships are measured not by often people agree, but rather how they handle disagreements.

This disagreement, if we define it as such, amounts to attempting to discuss a sliver out of it's entire context of the relationship between companies and the media.

Your argument, if I understand it right, is CBS is partly to blame for the media leaking the screenings (if they leaked it), because they gave out screenings.

If you are right on any level, it is that anything given to the media is fair game, which touches on why going off the record is almost always a bad idea. However, reviewers and critics generally observe different unwritten understanding.

For example, when David Maister sent me an advanced copy of his book Strategy And The Fat Smoker, he anticipated that I would review it, perhaps cite portions of it, good or bad, etc.

What he would rightfully not anticipate is that I would copy and upload his entire book for mass consumption, or send photocopies to 100 friends, negating the need for the people to purchase it prior to its release.

Your thinking on this seems to suggest that if that happened, he would be at fault, unless he developed a technology that ensured I wouldn't do this. And, or, what everybody really needs to do, is develop standards and rules to ensure this doesn't happen. Okay, I got it.

I guess all I am asking is what's wrong with people just doing the right thing? It seems much simpler, especially in a era when journalist are struggling to preserve professionalism to distinguish themselves from bloggers. (Most of them do.)

I've already written that there is always a risk of release on screenings and that CBS probably did not need to release three episodes to the media. So really our disagreement, as you've called it, seems to be inflated, imo.

Myles argument, on the other hand, is a bit different. I like Myles all right, but the simple truth is prides himself on being a cynic (his description, not mine). Cynics, unlike critics, have a tendency to argue in circles because they have a need to be perceived as right.

Me, I don't have to be right. If you want to believe that it is all right to make copies and distribute them at your leisure simply because they happened to land in your hands, then there is absolutely nothing I can do to change your mind. That works for me.

Thanks so much for your input.

All my best,
Rich

Myles on 1/18/08, 4:00 PM said...

Rich,

While I will admit to being cynical, and that perhaps this occasional creates conflict between us, I think you aren't quite understanding my argument.

My point is that if CBS was really worried about this relationship being dangerous, they need to place copy protection on those DVDs. It's the same argument for Oscar Screeners that are sent out: every single award contender is currently floating around the internet right now because the copy protection is inadequate.

Why don't they use better copy protection? It could be because they want them to leak, desperate for any hype they can get that could get to important voters. In the case of television, more potential viewers are at stake.

While I agree that there is a mild erosion of the media/network relationship at play here, I think that there were measures not taken which could have prevented this on the network side. Their decision not to do so demonstrates that while final responsibility certainly falls on the individual involved, there are problems on both sides of the fence if this behaviour is going to stop.

As far as the three-episode thing goes, I would have to disagree. Critics were never overly kind to Jericho, in the sense that most had written it off when it returned from hiatus and took a few weeks to get into a groove. Critics, much like myself, are cynical - they would chew up and spit out the premiere in two seconds flat.

To have three episodes shows momentum, development, and a glimpse of what's to come. It gives them a wrapup to the first season, a nice setup for the remainder of the second, and plenty of content with which to write a fair review. One episode? We're be getting a lot of articles focused a lot on the renewal but not on the show itself.

Well, okay, maybe I do talk in circles - from cynicism to cynicism in this case.

Myles

Rich on 1/18/08, 4:42 PM said...

Myles,

It's okay. I respect you because you don't hide being a cynic. I only don't have respect for those who pretend not to be cynics when they really are.

To your point, I don't think CBS is really worried about it because this is a bit uncommon (not for one but all three screeners) being released. But that seems well separated from from the idea it was intentional.

As you said a few days ago, "Personally, I'm of the opinion that it is the screener leaking on its own accord rather than through CBS. There is no real benefit to leaking them internally - there is no need to build up hype amongst the internet for a show that will already get it, and the fact that all three episodes leaked (As opposed to only the premiere) coincides with the screener sent to critics is telling."

I see you have reversed yourself, pointing out that maybe there were benefits in hyping the show. And there is nothing wrong with that provided people know that you are debating me and not the issue. ;)

You know, what might be fun for you and me to discuss sometime is the idea that cynics and critics are one and the same. I don't believe cynics are critics. However, it's apparent that some cynics make their living as critics.

I'm not always sure that is a good thing. If someone is predisposed that something will be bad, then it's all to easy to simply prove oneself right. Whereas someone who is not predisposed is much more apt to see things as they are. Just a thought.

Hey, I also appreciate you coming back to comment. I wouldn't want anyone think I was being mean-spirited when that was not the case. Whereas you and I have written back and forth enough to know that is not case on either of our parts.

Best,
Rich

Myles on 1/18/08, 9:06 PM said...

Rich,

As always, never mean spirited on either side is quite right.

I think that what you view as a contradiction is in fact more of an initial broad statement being given further nuance. What I mean is that CBS has no reason to leak all three episodes themselves, but that doesn't stop there from being some positive spinoff of any sort of leak. It might not be as effective for them on a leak level as compared to simply the premiere, but it's got benefits.

So, in other words: CBS enjoys the disadvantage of having three episodes out there, and thus wouldn't have done it themselves, but the benefits of a single episode also still apply and aren't eliminated in the process.

As for the cynics/critics debate, I think that it would be an extremely interesting question to analyze - personally, I know that when you begin to take on the role of a critic you start to look more closely at what is wrong. You start picking things apart, often times for no reason, and you always have to be willing to step back. I'd say that pretty much sums up my initial commentary on the campaign to Save Jericho.

Since that point, I've always been a more cynical voice than an optimistic one, but I think that I've struck a much better balance in terms of critical analysis. Is it perfect? No - unlike real critics, the blog format gives me no editor, no deadlines, and no agenda other than my own, and at times I am too free with that privilege.

Regardless, I do think that a majority of television critics at this point in time are cynical about a great deal of things, and it results in a hostile environment for a series like Jericho (And I'm not defending that, but just making a case for it). Hopefully, the three episode opening can change some minds.

Anonymous said...

I know a little bit about these download sites and I do not believe for one minute that the early release of the episodes will affect the success of Jericho. Although while I do query any Jericho fan who would write about the episodes as spoilers, it also doesnt pay to drive away fans who might otherwise help in the campaign for Season 3, social media works both ways.

My questions/comments to you Rich and Myles are:
1) last year CBS released episodes to the media ahead of screening times, and the episodes were not able to be found online till after they aired in the USA, why was this instance different? Have they given the copies to someone new in the media that didnt get them last year?
2) fans who have previously loaded the episodes up on the internet from the original TV screenings, have done it after the airing and on a weekly basis for each new episode. I can only therefore conclude that it is not a fan, but someone who has a connection within the industry. (I agree with Myles comments on 3 epis giving a media critic a bigger picture than simply the first episode)
3) it never once occurred to me that CBS had deliberately leaked the episodes, as I am sure they would only have leaked the first episode - not three at one time. If they did, they are after positive fan responses to the content to fire up the passions of the other fans.

I think ignorance of the reality of the downloading world, has allowed the wildfire of rumour to spread. These downloads will not affect the ratings as the large majority are non-Americans

The music industry has had to come to terms with the internet, and television is still lagging behind. One easy solution is change the contracts of overseas sales to allow legal fee based downloading by non-Americans. (Although this would not have avoided this situation which is something different again.)

I know my comments will upset some people, but a head in the sand approach will also not help. CBS could easily get these files removed but so far have apparently made no attempt. 1) they will pop back up, 2) it does help in a small way to bring in new viewers - albeit overseas ones 3) it wont affect ratings one bit, 4) it has galvansied the Jericho fans!!

I will make no comment on legality, ethics etc as that has been discussed before.

But Jericho fans please note, comparative downloads are down on Season 2 compared to Season 1, so there is much work to be done. Do not lose focus

Apoligies for long post, havent written in months!
Roishana
(Rich your site woudlnt let me log in, Ive obviously forgotten my password - im very out of touch!)

Myles on 1/20/08, 3:44 PM said...

Roishana, I'll try to answer your specific questions as best I can.

1) The thing is, last year's pilots and this years WERE leaked online before the season started. Jericho's pilot was amongst those last season, and this season Cane was amongst them - Carol Barbee's next show, Swingtown, is also already online as of before Christmas. This is not an isolate incident, and it is not just Jericho that has to deal with this.

As for the further inquiries, the uploading of torrents to the internet is done by a select group of people, and it is incredibly hard to locate or narrow down the search. Once the episodes leak, there is no way for CBS to stop them: as you note, people will just keep reposting them, so the damage is already done.

The question is, of course, whether it is actually damage or not. My opinion is no, but I've got a fairly good handle on the torrent community and thus might not understand some of the external concerns.

Rich on 1/21/08, 12:35 PM said...

Hey Roishana,

My take on this differs from Myles a bit. Usually, if there is a leak, it is confined to pilots, not half a season.

The risk to Jericho was based on diverting fan attention from promoting the countdown of the show (which has been diminished, thanks to the resolve of the fans) and people discussing the leaked episodes, spoiling the show for others (which has also been diminished, thanks to the resolve of the fans). In addition, the news of the leak could have potentially become the news as opposed to the return of the show or the quality of the episodes that will begin airing on Feb. 12.

I followed up the original post with this one because there was ample discussion that CBS leaked the shows, thereby making some people feel justified in watching what is pirated content. So this post merely dispelled that myth.

As I mentioned in the original post, there is no evidence to support that leaking three of seven shows will have a positive or negative outcome. Many shows are leaked and fail. Some shows are leaked and benefit from word-of-mouth. It's a dice roll.

Or, in other words, if leaking episodes always resulted in positive buzz, one might expect the networks to leak all episodes, all the time. But they don't. Likewise, the media does not generally take it upon themselves, intentional or not, to release screenings on their own accord.

Best,
Rich

JForever on 1/23/08, 11:32 PM said...

Thank you for this comment. I would hate to see the series fail just because some idiot feels the need to release the episodes on the net! If i was in the US I would watch the show on February 12th, as it is now I will have to wait til it starts on swedish television later this spring, will just have to remember to not read the spoilers on cbs :D

Rich on 1/24/08, 10:42 AM said...

You're welcome.

Here is another take on promotional releases for some who sometimes forget it's just about network:

"In my opinion, promotional use should have a limit of 3-5 minutes of program content, just enough to get the viewer to sample the show. However, if an entire episode is going to be made available, it should not contain any ads and should be limited to a window of no more than 48 hours. If they are being paid for promotional use, so should we." — Longtime Simpsons writer Mike Scully

Kind of reminds me that writers and producers do not get compensated for their work when people download episodes for free.

Best,
Rich

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