Showing posts with label Black Donnellys. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Black Donnellys. Show all posts

Saturday, December 15

Campaigning Fans: From Jericho To Journeyman

Yesterday, Amy Vernon with Remote Access let Jericho fans know that Universal HD, a cable network owned by NBC Universal, is airing Jericho for two mini-marathons in high definition, starting tonight. One person commented.

A few days ago, CBS launched a viral YouTube video that is aimed at fans more than new viewers. To date, it has received less than 15,000 views, a fraction of what Jericho fans once mustered. Even the positive comments hint at frustration.

“Thank you, CBS, for finally letting us know what the freak is freaking happening.”

Despite still being the rally cry for consumers, with Charlie McCollum, The Mercury News, recently telling Journeyman fans “good luck with that although it certainly worked with ‘Jericho,’” Jericho prospects are tired of hearing about the campaign that saved the show and not the show. Meanwhile, even diehard fans are growing weary of carrying the rally banner for more than six months with the first real word from CBS arriving last week. Too little, too late? Maybe. We’ll know in February.

All fan campaigns have limits. For evidence, take a look back at the three we turned our attention to last June: The Black Donnellys, Veronica Mars, and, of course, Jericho.

The Black Donnellys (TBD), which was pulled from the air after the first five episodes (and even one of those was unaired), was the long shot. After placing their faith in sending 670 pounds of crackers to HBO (not NBC) to pick it up as a Sopranos replacement, TBD fans had nothing left to do when HBO politely said “no” just prior to the release of TBD DVD. The fans had the passion, but not the numbers nor a full season. Abandoned.

Veronica Mars fans surged in September prior to the launch of a Veronica Mars season three DVD. Since, sales have been admirable but not earth shattering and the fan base is somewhat hindered as people focus on the holidays. If there is any spark left that will carry the concept of a movie, it might be the abundance of DVD giveaways from places like Buddy TV. Not abandoned, but coming close to a closed case study.

Jericho has also seen its share of diminished fan interest despite the best hope for a full revival after CBS acquiesced. CBS will make good on its promise to air the truncated second season in February. However, the network not only missed an opportunity to engage fans, it may also be responsible for the discourse seen throughout the post-renewal campaign. The net sum of six months suggests the network’s half-action split fans into two groups: those who believed CBS will support the show, and those who did not. Alive and well, at least through April.

All three of these campaigns provide some great insights and case studies for fans rallying behind the newest show facing cancellation — Journeyman.

Immediately following the news that NBC allowed the deadline to pass for picking up the rest of Journeyman season one, fans began a campaign to save the show, which includes pooling funds to buy and send boxes of Rice-A-Roni to Jeff Zucker, president and CEO of NBC. Why Rice-A-Roni? Journeyman takes place in San Francisco.

While I’m still being brought up to speed on the viability of the Journeyman campaign, it seems clear that consumers are increasingly prepared to pummel networks for quick cancellation of good shows. Sooner or later, networks might get the message: the old rules are dead. Nowadays, it’s better to feed shows on the bubble than let them fade quietly into the night because there is nothing quiet about vested fans and brands can only take so much.


Saturday, August 25

Paint By Numbers: Network Ratings

It’s odd to read Susan Whiting, president and CEO of Nielsen Media Research, write about “Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement,” and not just because it closely mirrors the “Anytime, anywhere, from any device” positioning statement that we developed for the National Emergency Number Association’s Next Generation 911 System several years ago.

No, it’s mostly odd because the new Nielsen “everyone counts” concept doesn’t resonate with people who will watch Jericho Season 2, who once watched The Black Donnellys, or who once watched a half dozen other programs that have since been slashed for poor ratings.

“We’re not on the same channel. Isn’t that great! Well, maybe, if you’re particularly fond of revolutions. Remember when were all over the “dial?” Well, there is no dial. Digital took care of that. So we’re surfing with the remote. Not always. Sometimes we timeshift by watching what we want when we want.” — Susan Whiting

Sound familiar? The language reads like the scores of testimonials from Jericho fans ever since we noted Nielsen was feeling some fallout months ago (except the fans wrote better). Back then, it was these fans who learned for the first time that their show was going to be cancelled because the Nielsen system fails the most important criteria of a sample: it is not random in the statistical sense.

Simply put, the ratings game is a crapshoot. The sliver of a difference between keeping a show on the air today or not is so statically insignificant, sliced all the more thinly by targeting select demographics, and completely negating any audience that might watch shows in a group setting (bars, college dorms, etc.). And yet, the rating system is why we watch the Super Bowl in February (during sweeps, when the most viewers are surveyed), dictates advertising rates, and is the fuel for most entertainment columns.

Not to worry, Nielsen says, it’ll have a whole new system by 2011. How well that will work is anybody’s guess. Sure, Nielsen has some good ideas, including its social network buzz network monitoring device “Hey! Nielsen,” which is currently being beta tested by employees.

But at some point, somebody still has to ask what do these numbers mean anyway? Some might live by them, but others are becoming less certain. For a long time, HBO completely ignored the numbers and produced award-winning heavily watched shows, and its message “It’s not TV, it’s HBO” really stuck.

Nowadays, it doesn't seem that way, which is why HBO might find its roots again. Increasingly, HBO is measuring its success both by how many viewers a show accumulates over multiple plays and by how well a show performs with its on-demand service, where viewers order specific episodes. We hope others follow suit with new measure methods, because while we maintain Nielsen does have some relevance, shifting the decision-making process might save us from more paint-by-number programming and nuttier Nielsen concepts.

For example, Nielsen recently released that local people readers (non-sweeps tracking) were employed in the top 10 television markets, which supposedly accounts for 30 percent of all television households. (What’s missed is the tiny number of households tracked in those markets). In other words, Atlanta,
Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. have a little more weight than the rest of the country.

This is especially significant to Jericho fans because looking back over our own analytics during the peak of the cancellation protest, Jericho fans seem grossly underrepresented in these markets when compared to the greater United States (to say nothing of Canada and other countries). When you think about the show, it almost makes sense. It doesn’t seem like an urban powerhouse as much as it captures the rest of the nation’s imagination.

But what does that mean? It means what it has always meant. Attempting to paint by numbers to give shows a leg up in the ratings (or even critical review) is fraught with peril. In the months and years ahead, especially as broadcast-Internet convergence moves forward, networks will be better served by creating and marketing the content that they believe in, which is how some cable players like HBO and even some network shows have succeeded.

If you create a great show and support it, the numbers will follow — with viewers, DVD sales, and Internet engagement. Anything else is just guesswork. Just to illustrate the point, someone looking at Southwest Airlines on Alexa might notice it is down 11 percent in reach over the last three months. Do those numbers mean anything? Not if I count $150 million in ticket sales attributed to the widget that is part of its social media marketing program. Go figure.


Saturday, August 18

Changing Television: The Jericho Effect

“Thank you for your article from the set of Jericho. I was disappointed when I heard the show had been canceled. With well-developed characters and a compelling plot, it is not to be missed. Kudos to those involved in the peanut campaign for helping bring this addictive series back for season 2. Note to CBS: If you want to maintain viewership, stop killing story-line momentum by placing shows on hiatus for three months in the middle of their run.” — Natalie Payne (Mississauga, Ontario).

If Payne’s comment in the feedback section of Entertainment Weekly (Aug. 24) is any indication of the growing number of fans beyond the Internet, CBS might take notice. Not only do they exist, but their messages match those promoted by Jericho Rangers during the campaign.

It happens right here as well. We received about two dozen entries in our fan fiction contest after seeding it on dozens of contest sites. (Winners to be announced Aug. 31; and published every Sunday after.) But even more telling is that there isn’t a day that goes by when more Jericho fans seem to surface and find their way here, searching for the Jericho Season 2 schedule. And from here, they can easily find dozens of worthwhile Jericho links that line our posts. We are not alone.

The Hollywood Reporter has taken to calling it “the Jericho’ effect.” They say “TV bloggers came into their own as a force to be reckoned with this summer when their campaign to save CBS' canceled post apocalyptic drama* ‘Jericho’ became a triumphant success.” (*post-apocalyptic drama is not an appropriate description, but we know what might be.)

Just how much impact are TV bloggers and fans who have become disenchanted with the Nielsen rating system having? According to the article, they are influential enough that some television critics fear for their status if not their lives.

Seemingly overnight, networks now realize that fan engagement means better results than catering exclusively to the mixed reviews of entertainment writers. On this I can only offer that having been a reviewer for years, the industry needs to retool anyway. Sometimes, the remarks made are a bit sloppy, overly skewed toward personal preference, and often lifted right from the releases.

The Hollywood Reporter also notes that fans are attempting to lobby critics for favored comment (this is the price of semi-celebrity). And some fear fanatical fans and their ability to track them down (I hope that is not the case). Jericho is not the only show to see growing movements.

Teev Blogger reported last year that fans of Joss Whedon’s Firefly have been clamoring for more. Part of their wish is coming true. Multiverse Network has the rights to create a “massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG)” based on the TV show. Here is the latest news. Will it be enough? I don’t know.

Veronica Mars fans have a brand new site that says they want what Firefly got in lieu of a continued series — a full-length movie. Add to that a confirmation on the comic expected to be released by DC Comics in the late fall. Overall, the new movie campaign site seems be well thought out (though still under construction) with a nice summary of places to go for news.

Even Masi Oka (Hiro from Heroes) got into the act, reviving The Black Donnellys name when he made a quip about the show while giving critics a tour of an Irish pub: “This is where I go back in time and save The Black Donnellys.” While he meant to be playful, it does strike a chord. Although most people had never seen the show, everyone suddenly seems to know exactly what he is talking about.


Saturday, July 14

Rating Jericho Reruns: E! Online & Buddy TV

Despite having the disadvantage of returning for a summer rerun schedule during a long holiday weekend when many people were traveling, Jericho won its July 6 time slot. This leaves everyone, including E! Online and Buddy TV wondering whether Jericho succeeded in capturing new viewers or those responsible for the cancellation protest.

Given all the curiosity that non-viewers have, wondering what they missed before the controversial cancellation; the enthusiasm of existing fans; and several creative though inconsistent fan-generated campaigns; I'm more convinced than either entertainment media outlet: the bulk of the Nielsen families watching the show were primarily new viewers and the most diehard of Rangers (those fans who could watch a rerun front-to-back and back again).

However, I'm less convinced that the recap show did much to secure new viewers as this spliced together story line was just as jarring as it was when Jericho returned from that ill-fated mid-season hiatus last time. But, the only indication we will have whether the strategy to air the recap (and not another regular show) worked will be the number of viewers who stayed on for the full episode at 10 p.m.

It seems to me that recap shows appear to work better for reality TV than serial dramas, and even then those are painful to watch. That said, perhaps a better indication of Jericho's future success will be if items like the May 29 edition of Daily Variety that is up for auction on eBay will actually sell.

With a starting bid of $2.99 and s/h cost of $5.30, I can only imagine what that might one day mean for those who purchased fan-generated items prior to the return of the show (or the six people who won Copywrite, Ink. "Covering Nuts" T-shirts after I spoke at yesterday's IABC/Las Vegas luncheon).

Will Jericho memorabilia eventually match Veronica Mars or The Black Donnelley? I suspect we really won't know until more episodes are ordered for Season 2 or CBS commits to a Jericho Season 3.

In the interim, there are several interesting online consumer marketing approaches out there and today I'll mention two. First is Remote Access's weekly Jericho guest blogger feature. Second is the art for Jerichon 2007 produced by "rubberpoutry" for Guardians of Jericho as it appeared in the Jericho Times.

Jerichon is a convention being held by fans in the least likely convention hotspot of Oakley, Kansas. While some fans were concerned about the lack of accommodations in Oakley (despite Oakley having some Jericho-like characteristics), the Hays Daily News is all abuzz about the prospect of welcoming 300-500 attendees in a somewhat off the beaten path location. Then again, you never know. No one expected thousands of wayward rockers at Woodstock either.

In sum, although CBS, E! Online, and Buddy TV are sure to be watching the summer rerun ratings (that’s what they do), it might be everything but ratings that indicate the true temperature of this famous fan base. Hot or cold may ultimately be the indicator that attracts new viewers or not. It certainly won’t be CBS marketing efforts.


Sunday, July 1

Covering Hot Topics: Second Quarter 2007

Every quarter, we publish a recap of our five most popular communication-related posts, based on the frequency and the immediacy of hits after they were posted. While we base this on individual posts, some are related to larger case studies.

Jericho Fans Make Television History

When CBS executives cancelled Jericho over Nielsen ratings, fans of this post- nuclear terrorist attack/small town survival drama went nuts, literally. Using the Internet and social media as their point of organization, they launched the largest cancellation protest in history: sending 40,000 pounds of nuts (from just one store); rallied almost 120,000 petition signers; cancelled CBS related-cable subscriptions; boycotted network premieres; sold network stock; sent in countless letters, postcards, and e-mails; captured media attention in every major newspaper and tabloid; and flooded the network with phone calls. Within a few weeks, CBS reversed its decision in record time, heading off what was quickly becoming an exercise in crisis communication. Of all the posts, pointing out the error in CBS’ marketing of Jericho took top honors with over 10,000 hits.

Link: Jericho

Wal-Mart Strikes Back Against Julie Roehm

If networks are looking for a new made-for-television docudrama, the ongoing Julie Roehm story continues to turn heads (and maybe stomachs). Filled with twists, turns, sex, back room deals, character defamation, lawsuits, countersuits, media bias, allegories, and more spin than the planet Jupiter (which rotates once every 10 hours), this story demonstrates the pitfalls of second-tier executives becoming public figures and the companies that keep them. In the end, if she has any credibility left, Roehm’s personal brand will always be linked to the short-lived, um, alleged Wal-Mart funded affair with a subordinate, her master-class ability to spin herself into another lawsuit and, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, being more indestructible than a cockroach.

Links: Julie Roehm, Wal-Mart

Digital Media Will Change Everything

While some might say it was the very loose Jericho link, we like to think it is related to the increasing interest in the future of digital media, specifically how old media is becoming new media. When we gave some attention to how News Corporation and NBC Universal are speeding ahead with the addition of FUEL TV, Oxygen, SPEED, Sundance Channel, and TV Guide as content partners committed to bringing programming to Web video consumers, people wanted to know what it might mean. To us, it means that one day very soon, broadcast news and entertainment will be forever fused with the Internet, people will access it all via versatile technologies like the iPhone, independents will have the potential to break into the big leagues overnight, and businesses will fully develop what we sometimes call income marketing.

Links: Digital Media, NBC Universal, FOX

Paris Hilton Splits Public Interest

We don’t know about you, but Mika Brzezinski of MNSBC perfectly captured the public’s sentiment over Paris Hilton. In a YouTube clip, Brzezinski refuses to lead the news with Hilton, but then goes on and on about how she refuses to cover it, making her refusal to cover Hilton carry on probably three times longer than if she would have just read the script. Love her, hate her, love to hate her, or hate to love her, we’re not buying that you’re not interested because if we post about her, we always see spikes even though we generally only cover communication side items like blaming publicists, marketing humor, and overly long media statements from jail. Hmmm… maybe that’s why Hilton took second against Roehm in terms of most read public figure.

Link: Paris Hilton

The Office Parodies A Public Relations Nightmare

Although some follow-up stories to JetBlue and Jobster came close, NBC Universal's 2006 Emmy Award-winning show, The Office, proved fictional crisis communication is sometimes more fun than real life. For our part, we wrote up how The Office episode "Product Recall” mirrors how executives sometimes allow a crisis to run away from them by applying “tried and true” communication strategies. In the show, Michael Scott (Steve Carell), regional manager of Dunder-Mifflin, applies the practice of “always running to the crisis and never away from it” after a disgruntled employee at the paper mill put an obscene watermark on one of their most popular paper products. The operative word in this case is “always.” Crisis communication rules are only guidelines, silly.

Link: The Office

It’s very promising to see non-bad news posts starting to give bad news posts a run for their money. We're still hoping good news and educational posts might one day dominate the top five (admittedly doubtful). For example, when it comes to social media, we’d love to see more attention given to our underpinning concept that strategic communication is best suited to drive social media despite the fact that most companies seems to be trying to do it the other way around.

Anyway, while those were the top five posts (and related case studies) for the second quarter, several others came close (and almost all of them beat out last quarter). Runners up (no order): Fans of the The Black Donnellys lobby for HBO to save the canceled NBC show; PR bloggers made a non-issue into an issue over Nikon; JetBlue proved you really can overapologize in a crisis; Jason Goldberg of Jobster goes a whole week or so before behaving badly again; and our sum-up of Harris Interactive mobile advertising research despite my initial skepticism, mostly fueled by a not-so-great Webinar release.

So there you have it, except for one very, very important ingredient: thank you all for dropping by, adding comments, promoting several stories, and continuing to bring communication issues to our attention so we may offer up our sometimes serious, sometimes silly take on them. Whether you agree or disagree, all of it lends well to the discussion and I appreciate those who remember to target the topic and not each other in providing input.


Saturday, June 30

Embracing Jericho Fans: CBS

Watching the CBS-produced fan video featuring BlogTalkRadio radio host Shaun O Mac, it's almost hard to imagine any ill words spoken during the show cancellation protest a few weeks ago. CBS seems to have embraced the fans.

"Seems" might be the operative word. Jericho fans are learning that passion-infused protests are much easier to orchestrate (if they catch fire) than an organized fan base for reruns. It's also one of the reasons I advocated for the creation of an association of sorts, back on June 10, to keep people engaged.

Some Jericho fans have hinted that the fan club is something they would love to do, but aren't sure how to do it (some insist anything beyond an individual "uncollective" is unwelcome). Others hope CBS will take the lead, but I'm unconvinced this will happen until the network officially goes beyond seven new episodes. Regardless, the longer it takes to create an engaging organization, the more difficult it will be to retain active participation and capture media interest, which has long tapered off (no surprise; there is no new "big" news).

As a somewhat related side note, I want to highlight that the three different fan bases I've covered, all have very different structures. Veronica Mars fans are interconnected groups of individuals that come together not unlike Tinker Toys, with hubs and spokes that branch out forever; fans of The Black Donnellys are generally centralized as a single body with a few offshoots; and Jericho fans operate like a donut, with various equal bodies but no clear center. Each structure has its advantages and disadvantages.

Specific to Jericho fans, however, is the need to add a centralized body in the center of their donut, which might provide CBS the direction it needs to endorse, if not support, some representative body. How can this be done?

Organize A Delegation. Last week, Jericho fans clearly demonstrated that unless they become sidetracked, they are people with principles (not just passion). Given this, it seems to make sense that a fan club might be created by having each group nominate an equal number of individuals (1-3) to represent their various forums and collectives. (These individuals may or many not serve on the board once the club is ratified. I recommend picking those who have consensus-building skills, not necessarily leadership skills, at this stage.)

Create A Name And By-Laws. Having written and revised several organizationd' bylaws, I know finding the right example is not difficult. Although unrelated, The Winnepeg Goldeyes have excellent bylaws that could serve as a starting point. Here are a few other points to consider:

• Keep the focus large and fill in details (like member dues) later.
• Draft bylaws within the delegation, outside input is not needed.
• Create an executive body that is elected by the populous.
• Allow the board to consist of representatives from each group.
• Keep it simple. Four traditional executive roles could be enough.

Upon completion (again, without some details in place), give each group an opportunity to ratify the document (so to speak). Send along a courtesy copy to CBS so they are aware of your intent, but don't be overly concerned with an endorsement at this stage.

Elect Interim Officers/Board. Officers could be elected by the entire populous (all groups) and other board members elected from their representative groups (I appreciate there is crossover; but you have to start somewhere ... ask people to vote in only one group). This interim body will be charged wih taking care of the details.

Consolidate Resources. Most fan clubs have to determine overhead and cost of operation at startup. Jericho fans will also, to some degree, but they seem to have more flexibility in being able to adopt/endorse existing projects that have already seen some success (merchandise, newsletters, blogs, etc.). This will help defray any initial costs and communicate ongoing progress.

Legal Requirements. One of the responsibilities for this central body will be to take care of the details: establishing membership dues (even token dues), sponsorship/donation opportunities, filing bylaws, opening an account, setting up an Amazon affiliate program to sell DVDs, etc. Keep CBS apprised of all activities; encouraging them to eventually endorse the group by demonstrating solidarity.

Create A Community. While the last thing Jericho fans seem to need is another forum, there is the possibility of creating a social network on a platform like Ning, linking to and/or adding RSS feeds to the various represented bodies. Promote the launch of the community, keeping in mind that the goal is not so much to create a new group as much as it would be to provide a neutral community to conduct business, etc. (Various groups/forums are free to pursue their own efforts as they currently do, with the only added task of enrolling members in the fan club.)

The benefits of a central organization for the promotion of the show, various represented group activities, and eventually its own endeavors, would provide a long-term strategy that will help ensure the success of Jericho. And, even in a worse case scenario, provide a mechanism to expand the Jericho Universe in the event CBS abandons the show.

However, the real benefits will be made apparent when the fans succeed. It could become a centralized body that works closely with CBS in developing fan-generated marketing and promotional items while drawing attention to each represented group's best practices.

At least, that's the way I see it from a conceptual standpoint (if you need more guidance or I'm not clear, just ask in the comments). But then again, I'm a big fan of the republic.

In closing, here's an update on last week's DVD tracking via Amazon for anyone interested (alpha order)*:

The Black Donnellys
(Reviews: 24; Sales Rank 1,576; Peak Rank: 356)

(Reviews: 58; Sales Rank: TBA; Peak Rank: TBA)

Veronica Mars #3
(Reviews: 32; Sales Rank: 15; Peak Rank: 8)

*represents what we saw; not necessarily an official number. We'll be watching Entertainment Weekly once all three are released.


Sunday, June 24

Selling DVDs: NBC, CBS, and The CW

In Nov. 2003, after seven months of strong DVD sales, The Family Guy became the first canceled series to be revived based on DVD demand and syndication ratings. More than one million DVDs made it the top-selling TV show on DVD and fourth most bought television title ever (in 2003).

Often overlooked, strong DVD sales and impressive fan support campaigns also revived Firefly (Fox 2002) for a movie spin-off, “Serenity," in 2005. In 2006, fans then released a documentary called Done The Impossible. It features interviews with various cast members, making the words "Firefly and Browncoat symbolize a sense of community, family, and believing that the impossible can be accomplished."

Currently, there seems to be three standout TV series that were cancelled (with one already resurrected) that networks will be watching closely. Maybe one of these will be the next big DVD sales surprise.

The Black Donnellys. Due to be released Sept. 4, DVD sales seem to be the most important aspect of this fan effort if there is any hope of pulling off the impossible on any level.

Working for the fans. There seems to be a well-executed effort by Universal to deliver a 3-disc product that promises to do justice for Paul Haggis' smart, well-written crime drama. It may have been too powerful for prime time, but it might be perfect for DVD. They also have the benefit of a Sept. release and still active NBC page.

Working against the fans. TBD has a smaller fan base (but no less passionate) given the series did not have a full season. There are almost no Amazon reviews and online HDNet sydication did not help these fans as much as reruns on another network would have. (Amazon pre-order sales rank, pre-order: 2,441)

Veronica Mars. The third season is due to be released with a 6-DVD set on Oct. 23 (not available for preorder on Amazon). Although fans pulled together a campaign that sent Mars Bars (Snickers and marshmallows too) to The CW, creator Rob Thomas confirmed a dead end on June 12.

Working for the fans. They have two seasons under their belt, both with very strong sales. They've earned Thomas' appreciation as fans, and he promised to do something with the Veronica Mars character if not in comic books, then perhaps in a new series based on the character or even a film (if you believe some rumors).

Working against the fans. There is the simple fact that many of the stars (Kristen Bell, Chris Lowell, Enrico Colantoni, and Tina Majorino) have already moved on to new TV and movie projects. So even if a character revival rumor beyond comics became true, it's likely not to be Bell. (Amazon season one sales rank, 634; season two, 573)

Jericho. The DVD, recently bumped from Sept. to Oct. 2, is not yet available on Amazon. However, it has managed to earn 47 5-star reviews.

Working for the fans. Momentum is clearly on their side, given they already scored the largest show cancellaton protest in history, fastest network cancellation reversal, and the knowledge that CBS is already considering moving beyond seven shows. They also have a very large fan base that can turn on a dime (it took fans less than three hours after yesterday's post for them to become upbeat like they used to be). Jericho DVD sales will also be pre-supported by reruns starting July 6 and new episodes this fall.

Working against the fans. Not too much as long as they stay focused. CBS might do more to target new viewers as opposed to simply pleasing the fan base with Internet ads. And one wonders whether the availability of Jericho on iTunes, CBS Innertube, and now the new Amazon download feature will dampen DVD sales. But then again, some fans have pledged to buy five sets and send them to friends so who really knows. (Amazon sales rank, not yet available)

Of the three, Jericho seems to be the easy favorite to lead the pack, which could make all the difference in securing season three despite what numbers Nielsen offers up. While Veronica Mars seems likely to have comparable sales, The Black Donnellys may find DVD sales are their one real shot to be publicly counted.


Saturday, June 23

Casting Shadows Of Doubt: Jericho Season 3

As much credit as I have given to deserving Jericho fans for convincing CBS to reinstate their program, I'm equally inclined to write how they could unintentionally be responsible for destroying any chance for a season three. Right now it seems, the only shadows being cast by their cause are shadows of doubt.

You only have to look at history to find some similarities between the town and its historic namesake to appreciate that if the walls of Jericho are going to fall, it's likely to be from the inside out. Sure, it hasn't happened yet, but the writing is all over the CBS boards. Without a common enemy any longer, fans now fight from within.

It's disappointing, but not surprising. Throughout history, and even today in faraway places like Iraq, humankind has an uncanny ability to put differences aside in order to rise up for a common cause. But then, they are equally inclined, after winning the day, to quickly descend back into tribal rivalries, jealousy, and petty bickering.

Ergo, I like Jericho fans (you've all been good to me), but after reading an "Open Letter to Jericho Fans or CBS and other boards," I think it's time someone reminded them where the focus should be.

If the fans continue to single out people who helped move the protest forward, guess at their motivations, and levy charges against them that smack of character assassination, then all your efforts will be for naught. As I cautioned back on June 10, only focus will ensure continued success and see this show capture a third season.

Worse, what new fans will want to participate on boards ripe with infighting as opposed to the finer points of programming that appear front and center on the CBS message boards? This is precisely why I suggested you move such discussions off those boards.

Alas, the egos (not the eagles) have landed in the fan base and my second case study on Jericho is coming dangerously close to crashing down as fans pit themselves against one another. Why is it happening? History repeats. A lack of organization, not all that dissimilar to several Jericho episodes, demonstrates how internal politics is always the greatest threat for any loosely formed government, organization, company, and, well, fan base.

Never mind the details of the arguments as they are always the same, regardless of the group. Never mind them because none of them does anything to further where the focus should be: in establishing a fan club, promoting the reruns, and creating a friendly environment for new fans who are interested to see if season two is warranted.

No, some would rather argue the finer points of things like whose name might appear on the Guinness application or how much effort needs to be devoted to taking down Nielsen. Ha! Since the fans are not privy to everything we know, please allow me to spell it out.

You don't have to change Nielsen because Nielsen already knows it needs to change. In fact, just yesterday, it already did. The Nielsen Company (formerly VNU) and NetRatings, Inc. completed the previously announced merger of NetRatings with a wholly owned subsidiary of The Nielsen Company.

They know they need to change because advertisers are not as enamored by them as some people have suggested. Just yesterday, one of my clients (whom I won't name), a mid-sized agency in my market, declared they were tossing out all their Nielsen and Arbitron books because the rating system is broken after being sliced too thin in an effort to retrieve more ethically diverse demographics.

"We don't need to look at ratings to pinpoint where our clients' consumers are coming from because we already know what they watch and listen to based on our own independent research," said the agency principal. "So, the only time we need to know the numbers, which are provided by local stations on demand anyway, is a matter of price point negotiations and nothing more."

But never mind, go ahead and beat the dead horse anyway. That makes much more sense than organizing show promotions and being the front line of communication in a viral consumer-based marketing effort that welcomes new fans with enthusiasm. That makes much more sense than flushing out the expanded Jericho Universe since CBS is too slow to do it for you. That makes much more sense than allowing Jericho Monster to host the Nielsen debate because she does a better job at it than the fan boards.

Ho hum. I would have much rather written about solutions today than a potential fan base meltdown, but I'm not the one who distracts the focal point of the story as much as fans do. Some fans seem to have made this the most visible priority, not me. And frankly, if there is any lesson to be learned here, unless Jericho fans reverse course today, than let it be for fans of The Black Donnellys. Whatever TBD fans do, don't do this.

With luck, maybe next week will bring happier news for Jericho fans as the countdown to bringing the show back continues. Today, however, it seems to me that the Jericho fans are on the wrong side of the mountains in the picture that accompanies this post.


Sunday, June 17

Rolling Clovers: The Black Donnellys

When I first wrote about Jericho being cancelled (at the urging of my wife and company team members), it was because they proved to me with pre-post research that CBS had a crisis in the making. (One of the things we do here is help people facing a crisis communication situation.)

The Black Donnellys doesn't really seem to have that element for NBC. It's not very clear the fans can bring the show back (though someone spiked Wikipedia with a rumored return). And it's not even clear that the fan base is a mile deep in clover as Jericho was with nuts (but they are good people). So why write about it?

Well, I've been turning it over for a few days and decided it provides an interesting contrast to the Jericho story while links to the fan dissatisfaction over the The Sopranos ending. I'll get to that in a minute, but need to drop in a quick backgrounder for those who have no idea what I'm talking about.

The Black Donnellys only aired on NBC from Feb. 26 to April 2 before it was "demoted" to an Internet series (one day, very soon, such a move will not be a demotion) over poor ratings. It was replaced by the Real Wedding Crashers, which convinced me why I needed a DVR (so I don't have to rely on network lineups). The net result was that Donnellys was officially cancelled.

There seems to be little doubt that the Donnellys failed because of its marketing. Thinking back, I never really got that it was about an Irish crime family pitted up against Italian mobsters in Hell's Kitchen.

Unlike Jericho fans, Donnellys fans seem most interested in lobbying HBO to pick up the show than convincing NBC to reconsider. Sure, they have a petition for NBC, but HBO is the target of shamrocks, quarters, and crackers.

What makes this interesting is because while Jericho fans did make an appeal to TNT, they mostly focused on CBS (and only picked one primary item to send beyond postcards and letters). So while anything is possible, I think moving a show from one network to another seems very daunting, perhaps even more so than resurrection.

Why it would work for HBO. HBO is better suited for a crime family story than a prime time network because there are fewer restrictions on the grit. HBO also just wrapped The Sopranos, whose viewers could potentially be converted from Italian to Irish family fans (and maybe even quell fan anger over The Sopranos ending, especially if they found a way to link the shows for some crossover). And then, of course, there is an existing loyal Donnellys fan base, which isn't bad considering the show didn't have a full season.

Why it wouldn't work for HBO. HBO is all about original programming. Of all the networks, it seems the least likely to pick up someone else's marketing miss. The idea that The Sopranos fans could be converted might backfire, making it even worse for the network (not to mention, the Donnellys would forever be compared to the predecessor). And, most importantly, one has to wonder how long a show can be wrapped before a revival is impossible beyond a made-for-television reunion movie.

To me, the best bet for the fan base is to keep doing what they are doing. Promote the series at NBC online, which has a great streaming setup with limited commercials. And, drive the numbers up on the HDNet reruns. While I’m a big fan of intermixing qualified research with quantified research, most networks are still about numbers (and playcating critics). Go Irish!

In closing, let me remind everyone that it won’t be long before there is nothing to distinguish digital media from traditional television. When that happens, and it will, there will be more changes than anyone imagined. I’m confident programming and the measure of it will only get better while giving independents a leg up.


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