Tuesday, March 11

Coming Soon: Broadcast-Broadband Convergence

While some people still look to the rating system, others already see the future: one in four Internet users have watched a full-length show online in the last three months. These aren’t just young people: 39 percent were ages 18-34 and 25 percent were 35-54.

Some people are surprised by these numbers, which are growing exponentially. All I can wonder is where have these ‘surprised’ folks been? There are reams of data that demonstrate everybody is online, with only those in the 65+ age group dropping off. Even then, half of those ages 65+ are online too.

What that means is a show like The Office on NBC last September drew a broadcast audience of 9.7 million, but also streamed 2.7 million views on the Web. Twelve million viewers is enough to break into the top 20 shows.

What that might mean for Jericho on CBS is third season survival.

Jericho fans are not taking any chances. They’ve already launched a preemptive campaign to save Jericho again. This campaign started shortly after CBS released numbers that confirm the show plays impressively online: adding 1.5 million views on some episodes, according to CBS Interactive Research. This does not count all other data like DirectTV, iTunes, etc. And, those numbers are still growing.

In fact, it is these kinds of numbers that are prompting networks to turn toward new media rather than away from it. Television and the Internet are closer than ever to total convergence.

“Oh come on, Rich, you don’t really believe that, do you?”

Yes, I do. You see, NBC Universal and Fox would not be testing their joint venture, Hulu.com, if it wasn’t true. Hulu opens to the public tomorrow with many live shows and limited commercial interruptions.

CBS did the same thing with vintage programming like Star Trek online. Except in this case, the network has been doing an especially good job with its presentation while retaining its brand advantage by not spinning off its programming to another site. That’s smart. Very smart.

Even better, convergence seems to have created solutions for its own monetization challenges. Smarter networks are seeing the natural development of a tiered system: You can pay for commercial-free programs via iTunes or watch the ad-embedded programs on a browser. It’s a win-win-win for everyone.

Equally important, there seems to be no shortage of advertisers willing to buy time on live streaming video — an idea that naysayers said would never happen six months ago. Yet, there it is in living color: a show developed in 1966 has suddenly discovered renewed advertising revenue.

“We would love to have more inventory,” Patrick Keane, chief marketing officer at CBS Interactive, told reporters last week. “The advertisers are raring to go.”

Perhaps there is some irony that the success of the original Star Trek is largely based on the same reason Jericho scored its truncated second season: fans that were not on the Nielsen radar. So it seems, once again, that we might be asking the same question.

Is the future of the television based solely on less than 2 percent of the viewing public? Or is there a better way?

“Forty years ago, new technology changed what people watched on TV as it migrated to color,” Seth MacFarlane, creator of another fan-saved show, Family Guy, told The New York Times. “Now new technology is changing where people watch TV, literally omitting the actual television set.”

With a better budget that takes the cast and new characters of Jericho: Season 3 to different locations across their alternate universe, the show could potentially grow into another dedicated fan franchise success story. But that all depends on CBS. It can play the numbers two ways and come up with different answers.

While I cannot speak for CBS, I know what my answer would be. Do what Star Trek did. Go boldly.



Schumi on 3/11/08, 11:26 AM said...

Absolute fantastic article today Rich. I really do hope the networks (and in particular CBS) take your advice to GO BOLDLY.

I'm one of those busy people without a magical Nielsen box. Most of my TV viewing occurs someplace other than the TV set at the time the network chooses to schedule the program. Saturday mornings - I'm all over the onDemand option on cable, and I watch a lot of shows on the networks web sites. And then there's iTunes.

I'm one of the millions of non-Nielsen viewers. Networks can either choose to count me where I do watch - or they can count me out.


Rich on 3/11/08, 11:45 AM said...


Thank you very much. You and I are on the same page. I watch a very, very few shows live (and fewer every day). Add to that my son's bedtime at 9 p.m.

He likes a show that comes on at 9 p.m. or later, like Jericho, we DVR them. My wife watches them again, if they are among her favorites. It beats some of the delinquent "kid" shows on Cartoon Network.

I'm also a huge iTunes fan. I like the flexibility of watching commercial free shows and am willing to pay $1.99 per episode. Add to that the flexibility of hooking my iPhone up to the TV. I've only seen two live Supernatural episodes, for example. I know many people watch shows on their computers too.

So, at the end of the day, it's a win-win-win. Advertisers will get engaged fans every time they watch the show when they want, over and over. Networks benefit from multiple revenue streams and literary endless advertising revenue. Consumers get what they want, when they want, how they want.

Really, I don't see what is so hard to figure out. The only hold up seems to be a few folks who insist that we don't need to question the system, which makes me wonder what planet they are on?

If we don't fix systems once in a while, we end up with doctors who reuse single use vials, drugs in our water supply, and television shows that consist of people picking suitcases (no offense to those who like that sort of thing). Change can be good. :)


Briarpatch on 3/11/08, 11:48 AM said...

The major networks seem to think the average American television viewer is an idiot. I refuse to watch inane reality TV or brainless game shows. And now with streaming video on the Internet and all the other options, I will choose to just say no.

KIC on 3/11/08, 11:48 AM said...

Absolutely. I work for a small, independent rural cable/telephone/internet company. Last week an excited rural customer who is now in a position to get DSL called and the first question asked was not pricing but "Then I can watch TV shows when I want, right?"

This MUST begun to be considered in renewing shows. Jericho in particular has a solid fanbase. Who shows up and with one more season I think we can also increase viewership because we can get people caught up (the main obstacle I have encountered). I know for me, Jericho has actually gone past Star Trek in "favorite show".

Networks absolutely have to find a way to quanitify how online viewing (of all sources) impact what they sell, who they sell to and how to get advertisers to take into account ALL viewers and eschew Nielsens.

Kim on 3/11/08, 11:57 AM said...

I've got to agree with the other comments here. Like Schumi, I like watching when it's convenient. For example, I love Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I never watch it when it airs. I use OnDemand later for that. Same goes for most of the other shows I watch — they're on the DVR or I get them from iTunes.

I still think quality shows like Journeyman would have fared much better if actual viewership across all media had been taken into account. Particularly because Journeyman was in a horrible time slot (Mondays at 10 pm).

Anonymous said...

Since the appearance of dvd and video tape libraries, old shows have continued to grow in popularity. Even if they has only a short run, there is somebody out there to enjoy it even if its a small desert.

With the growth of the internet and websites, this is even more true. You won't as likely pick up a 40 dollar dvd of an unknown show as you will stop and watch one free online. And it isn't only the busy working people who don't sit and watch most of tv live. Some simply have other things more interesting to do in the evening with friends. We'll watch the dvr or the online show later. And I'm buying the Jericho episodes from Itunes since it would be nice to watch with no interruptions.

I live in a retirement area, 55 plus, and a good many of my neighbors, even those up there, have internet connections and participate. This is a new world and I say to CBS and all the networks to look past the blinders and see the end of the rainbow.

And especially to CBS...

We who love Jericho will check out the classic tv and other shows online where we might not have turned them on the tv. For every show which draws viewers you'll have more viewing the others. So give Jericho that deserved third season and see just what the future can bring.

This is dugg and commented and comments dugg. Lets get it up on the top of the list.

NHAQUEES on 3/11/08, 12:05 PM said...

Great article as usual Rich. Lets just hope dear Les decides to go boldly, for he hasn't done much so far.
I'm also not one of those special people with the lovely Nielsen boxes in my home, but I'm in front of the tv every week like clockwork tuning into Jericho.

erika on 3/11/08, 12:23 PM said...

My friends and I sit squarely within the 35-40 year-olds, and most of us watch at least some shows on line or through iTunes. I see people on the subway everyday watching shows on their iPods, and even my parents, who are 65+, have started watching online. Every single one of us have a DVR, and feel the freedom of watching the shows we want, when OUR schedule allows. One of my friends told me her Mom made her come over to the house to help her get her wireless up and running so she could watch her shows online (they can't get cable where they live). This is a sea-change moment for television, and I don't see what the problem is. Anyone with a brain can see what is happening.

Now that the advertisers are apparently 'raring to go', there are no more excuses except for closed-minded, stinkin' thinkin'. Go boldly, indeed!

Mark Antony on 3/11/08, 1:10 PM said...

I feel it's a shame that so many programmes are consigned to the archives, many never to see the light of day again. Particulary when the quality of these old shows far exceeds the modern offerings! In UK Channel 4 and BBC are still experimenting with making their archives available on demand. It seems logical that the internet can help to make these more accessable in the near future.

Anonymous said...

The intelligent viewer chooses when to watch television these days. Why rely on the Neilsens when you know that so many people are viewing when they choose on DVR, online, from iTunes, and by renting DVDs of the show?

If I was an advertiser I'd want to advertise on a show with dedicated, loyal and intelligent viewers, which Jericho has been proven to attract. I hope that CBS and their advertisers do not lose sight of the quality of the Jericho audience, rather than just the quantity of viewers in the antiquated Neilsen ratings.

Teresa Rothaar on 3/11/08, 1:56 PM said...

A few months ago, the BBC announced that it was selling its famous Television Centre as part of a "radical reform" focused on, among other things, "offer[ing] audiences programmes wherever and whenever they want them – from iPlayer to My BBC Radio."

BBC Director-General Mark Thompson went on to say, "Media is transforming. Audiences are transforming. It would be easy to say that the sheer pace of this revolution is too fast for the BBC. That for us to do what other media players are doing – integrating newsrooms, mixing media, exploiting the same content aggressively across different platforms – is just too radical ... but I think we can see both here and around the world the price you pay for taking what looks like the safe option."

For entire article:

If the Brits end up taking the lead on this and leaving Hollywood in the dust, it will be solely the American Nets' fault.

I found the last part of that quote rather interesting, about how BBC management can see "around the world" what price is paid when an entertainment company doesn't keep up with the times. I can't help but wonder if that was aimed primarily at American TV and its refusal to admit that it's no longer 1964.

Donna on 3/11/08, 2:21 PM said...

Well spoken once again, Rich. As an involved parent, I rarely get to watch primetime TV anymore. It's usually DVR or nothing. But it is getting easier for me to watch online every day. I'll cop to having watched two episodes of Star Trek and one of The Twilight Zone already. If I had more time, I would watch more--but I have to make room to re-watch Jericho with the commentary too!

Have we poked the sleeping dog enough to make it get up and check things out? I don't know. But I hope so, and I hope it's enough to bring Jericho back for Season 3.

Unknown on 3/11/08, 2:40 PM said...

I really wish we had the option we do now when I was growing up. Back then, if my bedtime was before a show I wanted to watch - I missed it completely!

To make it worse - my bedtime was on the half hour. I would get to watch half a show - then wonder all night what the rest was about. At least now, when my niece wants to watch something - she can! We DVR it or she goes online to catch it.

Anonymous said...

While I perfer to watch television live, it is nice to know that I have other options when I can't. I have yet to watch a show online but figure it will be a matter of time before I do. I'll probably say to myself "Why did you wait for so long?" Once people taste the freedom of watching when and where they want, there will be no turning back. The networks can lead or play "wait and see" and be left far behind. It's their choice. They need to make the right one.

Rich on 3/11/08, 8:20 PM said...

Wow, these are great comments. Thanks so much.

This comment stream has a lot of valuable information. I hope CBS takes note. It really adds qualitative data to what the numbers reveal as well as the Digg and BlogCatalog discussions related to this.

It's funny. In my industry (much like broadcast), everyone wants you to prove everything, even if you have quantitative numbers. Well, I think you're proving it.

As an aside, I have nothing against television as it exists today, but certainly feel we have enough technology to allow people to watch the way they want. I have steep reservations about the rating system, mostly because the company entrusted to do it is falling so very far behind.


Anonymous said...


I get it! I understand! I'm not part of the movement because I far prefer my flat screen TV to my computer monitor or my cell phone. However, if broadcast goes bold, they will offer me content I can't get on TV, and then they will capture my interest.

Rich on 3/12/08, 5:16 PM said...


Eventually, it will. Though I have to say, I was very surprised how easily the mind adapts to the small screen. I never had any desire to watch a iPod until one day when the plane ride seemed especially long.

I was hooked ever since.

But the real beauty, as I mentioned, is the ability to hook my iPhone up to my big screen. The picture is a clear as a DVD. I'm still amazed by that.


Anonymous said...

One more thing to add:

Star Trek was canceled the year BEFORE the ratings system changed.

The change to the ratings was switching from number of viewers to the demographic information of what type of viewer.

Story goes that NBC (the original network Star Trek aired on) was told they had a perfect show for the new system, but they had canceled it the year before.

Let's not let history repeat itself.


Rich on 3/13/08, 8:23 AM said...


That is a great point. I think you are right too. There are several shows that would likely thrive with a more comprehensive system.

All my best,


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