Showing posts with label Sopranos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sopranos. Show all posts

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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Wednesday, June 13

Hitting Networks: From Jericho To The Sopranos

Passive viewers are now active consumers. For networks, it is the only conclusion that can come out of the recent Jericho cancellation reversal. But what I wonder sometimes is how far fans will take their debate. For HBO, Sopranos fans took it to the extreme, protesting not over the end of their favorite show, but the way it ended.

As if they were participating in a hit, fans flocked to HBO’s Web site in such volume, the entire site crashed immediately following the end of the finale. The cause for the traffic—an estimated 368,000 page views per second according to eWeek—was largely attributed to the blank screen that appeared preceding the credits. Creator David Chase intended this ending in order to leave the Sopranos family future wide open, but the fans are not biting.

"Every critic says this is one of the greatest works of art ever made for the small screen," said Robert Thompson, of Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, told Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press. "You can't second-guess the artist."

But fans think otherwise, enough so HBO is considering an alternative ending for the DVD. Whether that comes to fruition or not, it won’t stop fans from screaming “finish the story already!” or, taking a page from the Jericho playbook, “has someone mentioned we need a petition to ask Chase and HBO to continue the series or make a movie?” on fansites like The Sopranos.com.

That depends, I imagine. The primary difference between Jericho and The Sopranos was that The Sopranos came to an end from the inside out. Most people involved in the project were ready to move on after a long run. On the other hand, fans do seem to be leveraging the network to reconsider as they cancel HBO subscriptions.

One question in this case begins with: where does creative license end and fan input begin? No one knows, because, to date, only Heroes on NBC has made an official commitment to involve fans in the creative process. Fans will be able to vote in one of six new characters after their standalone mid-season stories are told.

Given the consumer climate today, especially in regard to entertainment, it’s a smart move, especially after Jericho fans proved they can influence change. Even the Veronica Mars fans reinforce this idea. The CW might not have picked up the series for a fourth season despite fans sending in about 7,000 candy bars and 438 pounds of marshmallows, but fans might win in another way.

"I think the best odds for seeing the continuation of the Veronica Mars story is in comic-book form,” Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas recently told E! Online. “I had a meeting with DC Comics last week. They want to do the series. I want to do the series. It's just a matter of making a deal and figuring out when I have the time to write it. And perhaps a feature screenplay will follow."

So even with a late-breaking campaign to save the show (and they’re still working at it), fans still managed to demonstrate there is more mileage left in this character. That’s great news for consumers, not so great news for Nielsen Media Research, which continues to come under fire from, well, everybody who watches television.

Some people even blame the rating system for advertising spending on television being down .6 percent because Nielsen, they say, continues to report ratings that do not reflect fan passion or even an accurate accounting of viewers. Instead, advertising money is being increasingly funneled to the Internet, which is up almost 32 percent in the first three months of 2007, according to, well, Nielsen.

As CBS is working on new ways to measure fans beyond Nielsen, which is a direct result of Jericho fans lobbying to be counted, the venerable research company is working to improve its television measure and diversifying its research capabilities. On June 6, the company said it is moving ahead with its Nielsen Wireless service, which will measure usage on all television and video platforms, including personal video devices such as mobile phones.

"The value of an entertainment medium is directly proportional to how well it is measured," said Jeff Herrmann, vice president of Nielsen. "Reliable and accurate measurement of mobile consumers will enable advertisers to properly evaluate the mobile marketing opportunity.”

They are right, of course. Network measurement needs to expand rapidly to become more inclusive in order to keep pace with the comprehensive analytics of the Internet, regardless of the device.

Jericho fans proved this without question and are starting to demonstrate that these new rules apply well beyond entertainment. It’s only a matter of time before consumers chime in on everything, en masse, enough so to take down a Web site.

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