Showing posts with label jericho. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jericho. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 18

Measuring Impact: Nielsen


In May 2008, fans of a cancelled television program, Jericho, dumped more than 4,000 pounds of peanuts on the doorstep of Nielsen Media Research. Shipping peanuts had become the statement of choice for the fans, who had secured a truncated second season after sending more than 20 tons to CBS.

But the nuts sent to Nielsen were different. The statement wasn't a call to action as much as it was a measure of their displeasure with the people who control what people watch based exclusively on the viewing habits of a shrinking few. They blame a flawed and antiquated rating system for the demise of the series. And they are not the only ones to feel that way.

This week, there was more talk about dumping. And this time, fans of television shows weren't talking. According to the New York Times, it is the owners of the four major broadcast networks; cable channel operators, including Viacom and Discovery; three of the country’s biggest-spending advertisers, Procter & Gamble, AT&T and Unilever; and two of the biggest advertising agency holding companies, GroupM and the Starcom MediaVest Group unit of the Publicis Groupe. And the conversation did not include dumping peanuts as much as it included dumping Nielsen.

Nielsen, which possesses a monopoly on the rating system for television, would not comment. It has been trying to prove its ability to catch up on the measurement curve for years, with plans that it once said would take five years or even a decade to execute.

But times have changed. It only took Facebook nine months to add 100 million members and Apple to celebrate 1 billion application downloads for the iPhone. In terms of communication, especially social media, we frequently talk in terms of what can be accomplished in 90 or 180 days. So it's no surprise that words from the CEO of Nielsen say old world to many of them.

"Innovation is a process," says Dave Calhoun. "And it has to be a well-defined process."

Translation: It will take a long time. And it may take long enough that the opening of his story in Fortune last year might not read as funny as it did then. Not much has changed. If anything, it has gotten worse outside and inside as indicated from this internal memo sent to employees after the Financial Times had broke the story (hat tip: James Hibberd's The Live Feed)...

"As you know, our Company is committed to measuring across all screens – known in the industry as “three screens”: television, computer and mobile – as part of our long-term strategy. Over the last three years, we’ve invested more than a billion dollars in research and development as part of this effort. As with all of our measurement science, we’re working closely with our clients, whose input and engagement has been consistent and constructive.

You may have read the Financial Times article published late last week, or the subsequent articles appearing in a number of publications over the weekend, about the potential formation of a new three-screen consortium. While our Company policy is not to respond to speculation or future announcements, we have been in direct contact with many of our clients, including some cited in the original article. Much of what was reported by the Financial Times remains unclear, and many of our clients are themselves looking for answers to questions raised by the story. What is clear, however, is that three-screen measurement is at the center of our strategy. Just as clear is the commitment of some of our largest clients who have recently renewed multi-year contracts with us for television, online, mobile and other measurement services.

We continue to move forward helping our clients understand and measure media consumption anytime, anywhere."


Of course, nobody would have understand media measurement if, you know, Nielsen could count everyone. You know, like Arbitron (no, not seriously).

Thursday, April 2

Leaking Wolverine: How Much Is Too Much?


"If it's a good movie, it won't f*cking matter. People will go see it. But if it's a bad movie, it could have consequences." — Geoff Ammer, recently departed worldwide head of marketing and distribution for Marvel Studios

At least that is the theory Ammer told AdAge about the an early print of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" being leaked via file-sharing technology such as BitTorrent. But is it true?

According to sources, News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox initially pointed out that the film had been leaked in an e-mail statement, drawing even more attention to the leak before it was removed by a site they did not identify. (It was BitTorrent). Along with the announcement, News Corp. rose 34 cents, or 5.1 percent, to $6.96 today in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

The buzz up more than quadrupled interest in the film yesterday as more than 75,000 downloads took place in a few hours. Prior, mentions of the film were steady but otherwise uneventful.

The studio also said the F.B.I. and the Motion Picture Association of America were both investigating the film’s premature distribution. The real concern, according to the studio, is that the leak was only 90 percent complete and has since received some negative buzz on blogs such as In Gob We Trust, which said "The entire film just felt cheesy, more in the vein of Batman Forever than anything else."

“We’ve never seen a high-profile film—a film of this budget, a tentpole movie with this box office potential—leak in any form this early,” said Eric Garland of file-sharing monitor BigChampagne told The New York Times.

In early 2008, a three-episode leak of Jericho Season Two (almost half of the truncated second season) quelled the excitement of the series return to television after a hard fought campaign by fans. CBS later told us it did not intentionally leak three episodes, but did release three episodes to reviewers.

That leak provided a interesting look at how fans view online leaks. Half were appalled by it; half speculated that the studio wanted the series leaked. Indeed, sometimes they do. The entertainment business is relying more and more on buzz to make major decisions. And a well-timed leak of information, clips, etc. can help drive it.

Both Jericho fans and Veronica Mars fans have kept a close eye on speculation that their series might find a new home on the silver screen. For Jericho fans, they've been receiving some mixed, although positive messages, about a Jericho movie. Veronica Mars fans have had a harder time hearing what many considered a green light only to have it turn red.

We disagree with the "leak to win" theories that seem to play on the emotions of fans or run too deep of a risk to derail momentum upon bad reviews by people predisposed to dislike them. In my opinion, fan groups, many of which are immersed in social media and vested in the creations, deserve authenticity from studios over roller coaster rides that only hope to measure prevailing interest. It's not that difficult to talk about the project over leaking the product, and provide movies a chance to thrive on their own merit.

All too often, leaks, intentional or not, are reviewed and commented on by the wrong people — people with little interest in the material — and then are panned. X-Men Origins: Wolverine could become a poster child example. In this case, the leak has resulted in a split decision among people who have seen the semi-complete film, thereby hindering early momentum that might have been driven by pockets of X-Men fans like those at X-Men Fan Site or groups within sites like Superherohype.com.

Tuesday, January 20

Doubling Features: Veronica Mars, Jericho


It took two years, but the entertainment industry is taking action. When audiences are engaged, ratings alone don't measure. Backed by two loyal and impassioned fan bases, two television shows are setting sights on the big screen.

Passive viewers are active consumers.

Rob Thomas, creator of Veronica Mars, recently confirmed rumors: there will be a Veronica Mars movie. He said it will pick up a few days before Veronica Mars' graduation from Hearst College. Kristen Bell is confirmed; Thomas says he has spoken with Jason Dohring and Enrico Colantoni. Why? Fans.

Jon Turteltaub, executive producer of Jericho, broke the news: there will be a big screen treatment for Jericho. While the movie will go beyond the small town setting in Kansas, Turteltaub said that the original cast is all in, including Skeet Ulrich and Ashley Scott. Why? Fans.

The Internet has changed entertainment. Expect surprises.

At a presentation held at the Sundance Film Festival, panelists — Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, YouTube CEO Chad Hurley, and Hulu CEO Jason Kilar — may have shared slightly different visions for the future of entertainment, but all of them agreed on one thing. Fans are in control.

It only makes sense. Ask the next generation when their favorite television shows air, and many of them don't know. The shows are available whenever and wherever they want. It doesn't even matter when they were produced.

New shows benefit from the acceleration of online content delivery and old shows are resurrected as if they were produced last week. Many of them benefit from consumer marketing efforts created by brand evangelists.

Not only do these fans want to see the story lines continue, but they want the depth of material expanded as well. Even if that means picking up where networks and film studios leave off, many of them are more than ready to do it.

Wednesday, December 31

Recognizing Reader Picks: Top Posts Of 2008


With the new year upon us tomorrow, we would like to say goodbye to 2008 with a recap of this blog's five most popular communication-related posts, based on the frequency and the immediacy of reader views after they were posted.

The 3-Deep Leak of Jericho, Season 2

What began as the early coverage of a consumer protest over the cancellation of the television series Jericho last year became the longest running living crisis communication and consumer-driven social media case study ever covered here. While the fans succeeded in reviving the show for a truncated second season after sending 20 tons of nuts to CBS, two of several factors kept the show from achieving a third season: The network never grasped that yesterday's passive viewers had become active participants. Some fans misplaced trust in the network to do the right thing (and they continue to stumble), which resulted in a fractured fan base.

Of those posts, most written earlier this year, speculation of the 3-deep leak of the show online and potential consequences led the pack. Three days later, CBS followed up with a clarification that the leak was unintentional. (The fact that Jericho leads this list is a testament to the fans' vigilance as well as the potential for groups to use social media to organize.)

Related Labels: Jericho, Consumer Marketing

The Nine Rules of Advertising, Inspired By Fred Manley

After referencing my instructional "nine rules" of advertising on more than one occasion, it seemed suitable to share a two-part post. The first post includes highlights from Fred Manley's classic “Nine Ways To Improve An Ad," which forced so-called advertising rules on the 1960 classic “Think Small” Volkswagen ad. The companion post revives advertising as a conversation as seen by Shirley Polykoff, who was the first woman copywriter for Foote Cone & Belding, before presenting Copywrite, Ink.'s The Real Nine Rules Of Advertising. The first rule? There are no rules.

Both posts can be easily applied to social media. And, if three posts make a better set, then consider Valeria Maltoni's bridge post on the topic, using Reader's Digest as the example.

Related Label: Advertising

Why News Releases Might Die From PR Confusion

With public relations seemingly confused with media relations and media relations seemingly confused with spamming journalists, it only made sense to write a somewhat satirical piece on today's most misunderstood profession. After sampling several random releases, we presented the seven deadly sins of the modern public relations professional as told to me by public relations professionals.

As well read as the post was, even being included on a tip sheet by Bad Pitch Blog, not many have learned anything. HWH PR was outed once again. Dennis Howlett banned pitches (except via Twitter). And I was reminded why being a journalist can sometimes suck.

Related Label: Public Relations

Endoscopy Center Demonstrates Crisis Communication Gone Wrong

Following the local crisis that surrounded the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, which was responsible for the largest hepatitis C scare in the history of the country, became an exercise in evaluating futility. After the initial story — and then the denial, lack of empathy in a newspaper ad apology, refusal to comment on evidence, and alleged plans of the primary owner to flee the country — the center's credibility eroded until there was nothing left to believe. Eventually, the center was closed permanently.

From the series, the most popular post broke down the ill-advised newspaper apology, which opened: "Recent events at the Endoscopy Center of Nevada of Southern Nevada are causing great concern to our patients and the community at large.” Ho hum. Enough said.

Related Label: Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, Crisis Communication

Applying Twitter And How It Works For Business

In November, after following up as a live speaker to Aaron Uhrmacher's webinar, we had an opportunity to evaluate Twitter as a tactic for business communication (depending on the company and whether or not the people it wants to reach exist there). While there are other ways to use it, including real time reporting, we categorized six prevailing external communication approaches. They are outlined here.

The popularity of the post might reveal the need for social media participants to communicate in a language business people can understand or, perhaps, just the enthusiasm of Twitter participants to read something about, well, Twitter. There is nothing wrong with that.

Related Label: Twitter, Social Media

Five additional topics that came close in 2008

• How Veronica Mars fans continue to demonstrate unity and sustainability.
• How social media almost derailed our Bloggers Unite segment on CNN.
• Why applications like SeenThis? add value and expose trends.
• Our continuing coverage of broadcast-broadband convergence.
• TheLadders and RiseSmart battle for niche placement.

Since starting this blog in 2005, I always hoped that best practice posts would eventually draw more readers than the biggest mishaps. Looking back, 2008 seems to have accomplished a healthy mix, making 2009 more promising than ever. A very special thanks to everyone who joined the conversation to help make these posts relevant. It made a difference and it's appreciated.

Happy New Year!

Monday, November 24

Cleaning Slates: CBS and The CW


"What would you do with 22,000 pounds of nuts?"

That was the opening question to what became the longest running living crisis communication and social media case study ever covered here. Nuts were the statement of choice for tens of thousands of fans who protested the cancellation of the television series Jericho and went on to win a truncated second season as a result. In the end, they didn't send 22,000 pounds. They send 20 tons, along with just as much mail, postcards, e-mails, etc.

The answer sounds simpler than it was: CBS sent them to the zoo; they sent out an announcement too. Done. Last week, CBS asked another question. What do you do with several million messages on the fan site of a cancelled show?

The answer sounds simpler than it is: CBS deleted them; no announcement needed. Done.

The decision, which was an expected side effect to some recent Website upgrades at CBS as much as the desire by many to reset the community boards, was an eventual reality. It also reinforces the smart decisions made by the fans who migrated to outside forums like Jericho Rally Point and Jericho Free Radio long ago (no tears were shed there for the loss). It also serves as a fine reminder for anyone fantasizing about immortality on the Web. In a blink, all those little bits of data — jokes, jabs, cheers, jeers, and tears — can be erased.

Jericho fans did receive some good news. Starting Nov. 30, Jericho reruns will return to television at 7 p.m. on The CW as part of a clean-slate strategy on Sunday night. According to CW Chief Operating Officer John Maatta, "Surviving Suburbia," "Valentine," and "Easy Money" weren't working. None of the shows was averaging more than 835,000 viewers. Suddenly, the 6 million viewers that Jericho managed to retain despite one of the worst restarts in the history of cancelled series reinstatement look pretty good.

Unfortunately, it won't be enough, not long term. Now that Jericho can be watched everywhere on the Web, from Hulu and iTunes to YouTube and UHD (and The CW), coordinating a campaign or even quantifying those fragments are futile. It just doesn't makes sense to ask the the most loyal fan to watch every episode wherever it happens to pop up. No one can yell forever.

"This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper." — T.S. Eliot

Of course, that's not to say the book is closed on Jericho. If Jericho has any chance to score a movie, because a second resurrection seems impossibly unlikely despite the existence of the original set, only DVD sales will do (until the day that networks end their denial about paid download counts or enough time passes to start fresh). Otherwise, Jericho fans are simply best served by enjoying each other's company. The show might have brought them together, but only camaraderie will keep them together.

image hat tip: C., Radio Free Jericho

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Tuesday, May 20

Taking Aim: Nuts To Nielsen


It’s not a great year to be Nielsen. Every time the company attempts to move forward with Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement — A2/M2 — someone is ready to stop them: clients, competition, consumers.

For Project Apollo, a three-year joint project with Arbitron to monitor buying and radio-television habits of 5,000 households, it was clients. They did not want to pay for the results. Consumers weren’t thrilled with the number of tasks they were asked to perform either. It’s not as cool to be a Nielsen family anymore.

It might not be that cool to work at the company either. Jericho fans dumped 4,000 pounds of peanuts on the company’s property last week. It’s a statement to Nielsen that its small sampling sizes are costing consumers their favorite shows, even when they have enough fans to support a convention.

"It's an antiquated rating system that does not count 99.999 percent of actual TV viewers," Jonathan Whitesell, a Jericho fan and organizer of "Nuts To Nielsen!", told Tampa Tribune on May 10.

"We respect the passion of the 'Jericho' fans, but the decision to cancel the show was made by the network, not by Nielsen," spokesperson Gary Holmes said in a statement after receiving the nuts. "We measure programming that is viewed live, on a video recorder and on a PC, and we are confident that our ratings provide a fair measure of what people are viewing."

But fewer and fewer agree. Diane Mermigas, editor-at-large at MediaPost, recently called Nielsen the “about as inane an advertising value as can ever be justified” in her article about other initiatives to find effective measures. She’s not alone.

The differences between Nielsen ratings and other measures continue to grow, more and more shows are seeing 20 percent to 25 percent ratings gains when DVR viewing is calculated and some other are shows doubling their viewership online. It’s easier to get the numbers from TiVo or local cable companies that can count everyone.

A recent Universal McCann study supports how much the Internet has changed. More than 80 percent of the online population watches video clips online and their choice of viewing options goes well beyond YouTube. If you forget to set the DVR, there is always Hulu, CBS, or Apple iTunes.

It’s also one of the reasons CNN’s Veronica Del La Cruz asked how many people watch live news last Friday night. “Fifty percent? Maybe?”

We’re paying attention, she said, before outlining CNN’s iReport, which allows anyone to submit live reports and videos online. More than 900 of these videos have also been featured on CNN. The idea, which originally grew out of citizen submitted coverage of Hurricane Katrina, represents an opportunity for anyone to decide what might be newsworthy.

“Use the tools you find here to share and talk about the news of your world, whether that's video and photos of the events of your life, or your own take on what's making international headlines. Or, even better, a little bit of both.” — iReport.

What makes this significant for Nielsen is that if the company hopes to survive the long-term, it might consider that it has customers on two sides of the aisle. As consumers continue to lose faith in Nielsen, the more likely consumers will pass on being a Nielsen family. Not to mention, no one wants one company to collect all the data.

In fact, from what Whitesell and Jericho fans tell me, Nielsen is not to be trusted. And these fans are not alone.

Anyone who has a show facing cancellation (most recently, the show Moonlight) is continuing to send Nielsen a message — Nielsen might be confident in the rating system, but they are not. It’s a mounting public relations problem that Nielsen has yet to successfully address. For many consumers, Nielsen’s truncated research, not actual viewers, is the only reason their show was cancelled.

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Monday, March 24

Closing A Case Study: Jericho Ends Tomorrow


"Without question, there are passionate viewers watching this program; we simply wish there were more," said Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment. "We have no regrets bringing the show back for a second try."

The statement, which is now circulating throughout the media, demonstrates that CBS has learned something since the first time it issued a cancellation announcement for Jericho last May. Engaged fans expect polished public relations. Her original statement last year demonstrates the difference.

“ … that show would still be on the air if the audience was there. No programmer wants to p.i.s.s. off their audience. When that happens, it's unfortunate. Part of what we try to do is create viewer loyalty, and then build on that ... but we're running a business," she said then.

Along with the original statement, Tassler and CBS are making a sellable case. Given that last fall, Jericho averaged 10.5 million viewers. After an elongated Spring break, which CBS admits was a mistake, it fell to 8.1 million. One year later, the ratings place at 6 million.

The numbers, void of any mention of online viewership that CBS touts in other quarters, creates the illusion that maybe the fans didn’t pony up. “You’ve got to recruit more viewers,” Tassler had said, immediately following the decision that seven episodes were a small price to pay to stop the public relations hemorrhaging.

In fact, low broadcast ratings have prompted more than one publication to place the blame squarely on fans. The most condescending of the which seems to belong to the article penned by Lisa de Moraes of The Washington Post.

“In fact, while the Jericho Rangers are extremely good at buying peanuts, they proved completely inept at recruiting new Rangers,” she said.

She can make the case, but is that accurate? Are fans to blame? Did consumer marketing and social media prove to be a bust? Partly, for circumstances that exist within the Jericho fan base (but not within the fan base of all cancelled shows), but not in the way de Moraes makes her case.

If Jericho the fan base was inept, it was only because their indecision was nurtured by the network with mixed messages and a few fans who grossly misinterpreted them.

Isolated Fandom. Some fans insisted (and still insist) that all efforts needed to stay close to the CBS site. Ask anyone engaged in social media and they will tell you: social media cannot exist in a vaccum. Ho hum. The “build it and they will come” concept only seems to work for ballparks in cornfields.

It was offsite Jericho blogs, fan forums, Web sites, a few limited fan efforts within the quietest pockets on the CBS site, and face-to-face recruitment efforts that captured new viewers. Despite many of these offsite locales being under supported, discouraged, and targeted for banishment, they still managed to expand the network’s limited net presence. Before turning over the CBS Jericho blog to a fan, one employee did drop a hint, pointing fans here.

Braveheart Revisited. Several times, a few willing and highly qualified fans seemed poised to take a leadership role. Unfortunately, they quickly found the same fate as William Wallace. Their own “countrymen” would periodically draw and quarter them for any criticism aimed at the network. Yes, in public.

"If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking," the real Gen. George S. Patton once said. The same holds true here. Had the original campaign leaders been left in place, fans would have the direction they need today. Instead, some of the most active supporters are already saying goodbye. Instead, fans got fillers.

Internal Sabotage. Whether it was intentional or unintentional doesn’t matter, but several fans had taken to periodically attack dissenters using a number of anonymous names to further their agenda. Worse, forum board dramas drove hundreds of old and new fans from CBS.

The cause? Without any clear direction, unbelievable arguments over who came up with the idea to send nuts, who had more inroads with the network and production team, and whether the “who” of an idea meant it had had more merit than whether it was a good idea. You know, the kind of stuff that new viewers would take one look at and turn tail. Alas, for want of a crown, these misguided few lost a kingdom.

But the misguided actions of a few still do not support the case presented by The Washington Post. The vast majority of fans sounded more like those I profiled on Feb. 9.

While fans might have misplaced their faith in CBS, it was the lack of network communication that ensured the cancellation of the show a second time.

• The timeslot was contrary to the demographics of the show, which included families. The 10 p.m. timeslot was just too lat for this show.

• The network promoted Jericho on CBS, but that was the extent. While some promos had peak time slots, there simply are not many CBS shows that provide a clear crossover audience. The CW would have been different.

• The second season public relations party brought the show back with a whisper. It was so quiet, even the media was amazed. Fans were left scratching their heads.

• The network never considered that the public might not tune into a show with an insecure future. So, when it made a big deal about two endings being shot, the announcement hurt more than helped.

• While they did not intend to leak the first three episodes, those episodes did leak. The significance? No one knows how many Nielsen families didn’t turn in after that.

• An entire year went by before Jericho returned. For a long time, the fans had no idea when it might come back. If an extended mid-season break hurt viewership the first time, what could anyone expect a year later.

• At one point there was some limited digital media stories as originally promised, but they never progressed in any tangible way. Any thought of CBS merchandising items, like Bailey’s Tavern glasses, was nonexistent.

• The network’s half-action several times split the fans into two groups: those who believed CBS would support the show, and those who did not. Those who placed their faith in CBS won the argument, but those who lost were right.

• The network did virtually nothing substantial to market the DVD. The little it did do, did nothing to attract new viewers.

• The network had rebroadcast Jericho in an odd order over the summer, until pre-empting it with football. Football wasn’t the issue; the issue was it had thousands of Jericho fans asking people to tune into bumped programming.

• The network provided online episodes and clips online, but without much marketing support for the varied platforms where it could be found. It got better, but in the end, those numbers didn’t count anyway except to market future online endeavors.

• The network talked about a partnership that we warned would never exist. Several times they hinted at promotion, causing the fans to hold their breath, and then pulled back with nothing.

And the list goes on, with many posts on this blog and elsewhere pointing out the hits and misses. Sure, CBS did some things right too. The fans even more so.

So who is to blame? The network? The fans? Nielsen? The media? Everyone. No one. It doesn’t matter. Tuesday, March 25 is the last episode. It starts at 10 p.m. Case closed, sort of.

While I’m not sure many of the fractured ideas being discussed by fans today will work, I am sure that some of these fans will develop a standalone fandom. Others will find new shows to fight for. And yet others are already moving on to focus on the bigger picture of ensuring the ratings system captures a better sampling (ideally, everyone). But there is something more important than that.

I made a lot of great friends, both Jericho fans and even a couple folks on the network side. Perhaps not all of them, but many of these friendships will transcend tomorrow night.

You see, Jericho Rangers are pretty great people when you get to know them. And I know for a fact that many of them don’t need one show to be great. They are great regardless. And much like no one can take away that these fans are responsible for the fastest cancellation reversal history or played a role in pushing television in a new direction, no one can take that away from them either. Good night and good luck.

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Friday, March 21

Ending A Series: CBS Cancels Jericho


Mostly because network executives had taken to touting the online success of Jericho for several months, fans still seemed uncertain as the Nielsen-owned Hollywood Reporter broke the news today. CBS is canceling Jericho. The story was confirmed by E! Online.

The ending chosen by CBS next Tuesday will wrap up the season's story line, closing what has been a yearlong challenge with plenty of trials and triumphs for the fan base that convinced CBS to give its show another chance. The outcome, as mentioned on Wednesday, seems to line up lock step with the five reasons being considered to let the show go.

"'Jericho' is unique because the fans saved it — watching it on the Internet and streaming and iTunes downloads, all those things that are not being counted," The Hollywood Reporter cited executive producer Carol Barbee saying in a recent interview. "That's what 'Jericho' will be known for."

She's right. Jericho fans have plenty to be proud of, especially their efforts in doing what most said could not be done — winning a short second season after it was cancelled the first time. While some rumors persist that Jericho may move elsewhere, it seems unlikely that a move would produce a show that resembles the original.

Still, Jericho fans are not ready to give up. They are currently assessing what to do next. One thing they need to avoid, in my opinion, is campaigning other networks like fans of the The Black Donnellys (TBD) did last year.

While the hearts of TBD fans were in the right place, campaigning to move a show from one network to another is a more daunting task, even more unlikely, and further fragments any campaign. If Jericho fans campaign for a move, any campaign needs to be aimed at CBS.

I will give credit to CBS for not waiting until next Thursday to confirm the cancellation, though it might have been better to share the news with fans first. Doing so would have demonstrated that it is starting to understand social media. There is still more work to be done there. Obviously.

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Wednesday, March 19

Waiting Games: Jericho Season 3?


With no official word from CBS, fans of the cancelled, resuscitated, and now on the bubble show, Jericho, are taking no chances. For several weeks, they have been writing letters and hoisting up banners of the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag that appears in one of the episodes of the second season. No more nuts yet.

Many critics have warmed to the show, but maintain it’s unlikely to see a third season. Some are even campaigning for faith in the rating system and against renewal, despite saying they like it.

The latter criticism came after Patrick Keane, vice president and chief marketing officer for CBS Interactive, speaking Monday at MediaPost's OMMA Global conference in Hollywood, used Jericho as an example of how online audiences can have a positive impact on a show, especially because online viewership doesn’t cannibalize the broadcast audience.

The online video audience for one episode of Jericho boosted the show's TV ratings by almost a full point: from 4.2 to 5.1.

Even for those who have never seen the show, the significance is in that it represents the transition for television. As cross-convergence seems eminent, Jericho provides a glimpse into just how forward-thinking networks can be, if they want to be.

With two different episodes — one that offers closure and another that provides a cliffhanger — CBS can justify a Jericho renewal as easily as a cancellation. Enough so that I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess. See for yourself…

Five Reasons To Keep Jericho

• Fans are engaged, watching episodes and embedded ads over and over.
• The online audience continues to grow, with ample consumer evangelists.
• Even with less-than-stellar ratings, the rating are better than many other shows.
• It’s a leading program among the network’s growing online inventory.
• There were notable flaws in engaging the fan base that saved the show while CBS continues to get up to speed on how to best engage online fans. There is an opportunity to do it right with a third season.

Five Reasons To Let Jericho Go

• The ratings are just not there; no matter how flawed the system.
• The fan base did not meet Nina Tassler’s condition of more live viewers.
• The fans were never able to develop solidarity or sustained buzz.
• The network met its commitment to deliver a wrap-up with seven episodes.
• There are too many financial limitations to give the show the budget it needs.

Of course, there is also the possibility that network executives at CBS have secretly acquired a taste for nuts. But that is purely speculative.

The real questions CBS might ask is what kind of network does it want to be. Is there an opportunity to take the lead position as an online content provider? Is Jericho the right show to help usher in a new era? And can it preserve this fan base to help lift up new original content in the future?

Everything tells me that the network is split on the decision. Rumors suggest that CBS may be answering these questions as early as today. The clock is ticking and the worst thing the network could do is keep its decision a cliffhanger. Maybe part of the answer lies in non-traditional thinking: Jericho has helped boost other CBS and CW programs online and provided more brand recognition for the network than broadcast ever did on its own.

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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.

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Sunday, February 24

Counting Beans: Journeyman vs. Friday Night Lights


With E! Online giving hope to Friday Night Lights, a show given every advantage to build an audience over two seasons, and Michael Hinman reinforcing the decision to axe Journeyman, a show given a half season in what has become NBC’s dead zone timeslot (as fans of The Black Donnellys know), some people are wondering if Nielsen ratings really mean anything.

After all, these two shows, on the same network, rack up about the same ratings. Unless, of course, you only count select beans.

The decision to cancel Journeyman had less to do with ratings and whether or not people watched the show and more to do with the financials of a hurting network, according to an unexpected source close to the show.

Unfortunately for the fans, this means all the Rice-A-Roni on the planet is unlikely to change any minds at the network. In fact, the only reason ratings have been factored into the conversation is because that is how critics guess at network decisions. And sometimes, networks use these numbers to justify their decisions.

Why are Nielsen numbers only sometimes important? According to Nielsen: There are 5,000 households in the national People Meter sample, approximately 20,000 households in the local metered market samples, approximately 1,000 metered homes for our national and local Hispanic measurement, and nearly 1.6 million diaries are edited each year.

In other words, on Nielsen’s best day, we can expect less than 2 percent of all television households to be sampled, which doesn’t even consider how many people lie (if you were a Jericho fan, chances are you would say you watched it, even if you did not). Or, in yet other words, Nielsen only sounds good when someone like Hinman writes it up like this. Ho hum.

Don’t get me wrong, Hinman is a great guy and he presents a sound argument for the validity of Nielsen as critics want you to believe because they use these numbers to predict the fate of television. However, as someone with a foot in advertising, I do make media buy recommendations from time to time. There are a number of factors well beyond audience reach to consider.

Sometimes these other factors are simple. It makes sense to buy news for political candidates because people who watch the news tend to vote. Sometimes these other factors are about who else buys it. That’s why I recommended a water purifier company NOT buy 20 some radio spots on a station dominated by his competitor, complete with host endorsements. And sometimes these other factors might be about product placement, which is why Ford bought Knight Rider sight unseen.

And sometimes, it has to do with experience. Experience is why, years ago, I heavily recommended a local Ham Supreme retailer to place a good portion of its media buy on an unproven pilot program. The agency I was working for balked at the idea, insisting we buy a high frequency cable rotate instead. The result: Ham Supreme ran heavily at 3 a.m. in the morning instead of on a show that eventually climbed to number one. Why did I want the pilot? Psychographics suggested Home Improvement viewers might like big ham sandwiches.

My point is that the rating system has become little more than a tool to push perception instead of reality. How far from reality? Far enough from reality that when a show like Jericho, for example, is placed in a setting where every viewer is tracked, like TiVo viewers or iTunes downloads, it comes close to the top and looks more viable.

I could have made the same iTunes comparison for Journeyman or Friday Night Lights, but for all of NBC’s smart moves toward digital media, it nixed selling shows on iTunes last Sept. in favor of a platform that doesn’t work on the market's dominant smart phone. When Journeyman was there; it did okay.

No matter, the networks and studios know all this, which is why Warner Bros. is testing emerging technology; advertisers are looking to the net; and networks have any number of initiatives that are not connected to the rating system. (Hat tip: Jane Sweat.) Add all this up and ...

Nielsen isn’t nearly as relevant today as it once was and everybody knows it, but few will admit it. While that doesn’t mean it won’t be relevant in the future, it certainly means its primary relevance is a matter of convenience. It’s easy to blame the ratings or bypass them on any given Sunday, like today.

So why was Journeyman cancelled? Look at the ratings and it seems to make sense, but the truth seems to be about budget. Why might Friday Night Lights be saved? The lower-budget show has critics who love to write about it and advertisers who like the psychographics.

Ho hum. Ratings smateings. Let's shoot for the truth.

As more entertainment becomes available on the net, more people will be turning to the net more often. Advertisers tend to want to be where people might learn about and buy their products. And networks tend to want to be where the advertisers want to be. Businesses that already have a Web presence in, um, social media, will be able to engage more people as opposed to simply slicing up their budgets across multiple media streams.

Networks and publishers will eventually win in this world too. For example, more people read The New York Times today than ever before. They made their decision after counting all the beans, not just the red ones. Advertising hasn't caught up, but it will. Bank on it.

So maybe what needs to be asked is this: in a world where analytics are pure, where's the need for Nielsen? Hinman says they'll measure everything in about five years. Five years? That's too late, considering I know how many people visit this blog without them.

Yeah, I know, media convergence seems so silly to so many people. But then again, these folks used the same arguments before: companies do not need Web sites; people will never use electronic mail; and Apple will never break into the phone market, let alone allow someone like me to connect my phone to my television and watch Supernatural. Right, none of those things will happen either.

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Thursday, February 21

Taking Leaps: NBC Blinks, Sees The Future

The Bionic Woman will not be rebuilt, but NBC Universal wants to rebuild television. On Tuesday, the network announced it would move to a year-round schedule of staggered program introduction.

According to The New York Times, NBC will be committing to a new lineup of shows earlier than any of its competitors, while also inviting advertisers to build marketing plans around specific shows and perhaps to integrate brands and products into the plots of the shows themselves.

“We absolutely think this is going to change the industry,” said Michael Pilot, head of sales for NBC.

The departure places a real question mark on the viability and importance of the Nielsen rating system. Nielsen is not prepared to measure a 52-week season; the bulk of its measure is based on traditional sweeps. Tradition, it seems, is dead.

“The ultimate decision is going to be made by program executives who believe in the shows,” Marc Graboff, the co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, who said that they are looking to have a two-way conversation with advertisers.

That makes sense, given more advertisers want a two-way conversations with customers. And customers want to be heard.

Whether this decision plays well for the fans of recently cancelled shows, or those on the bubble, has yet to be seen. For NBC, the show is Journeyman. So far, despite the inventive Rice-A-Roni campaign, the best outcome for fans seems to be based on a rumor that a few more episodes of season one might see the light of day.

For CBS, everyone knows the show is Jericho. With season 2, episode 2 ratings being called a virtual disaster, even sympathetic critics seem to think there is little hope left.

It’s not because fans don’t watch the show (on TiVo, Jericho ranks as the 11th most recorded show on television). It was also the network's second most downloaded show after CSI. And leaked episodes were downloaded in droves. One hold up: Nielsen families don’t watch Jericho live.

And that might be enough. Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, warned fans early on that she wanted more live viewers before committing to a third season. It’s something I kept drawing attention to when some fans insisted CBS wanted them to hang out in the CBS forum instead of out and about recruiting new fans. No matter, it wasn’t the only mistake made by fans or CBS.

The best hope for fans is that this "live viewers" condition was made on a network-decision model that doesn’t exist anymore. Every show is being considered on a case-by-case basis. It’s a new era of network decision-making; the kind that shocks the system as cable shows like Dexter make the jump from cable to mainstream despite growing protest.

At the end of the day, the decision will all depend on how CBS decides to crunch the numbers. If the old model is applied to Jericho, it will die. If the new model is applied, there might be a chance.

The same can be said for other shows too. The future model will allow shows like Journeyman or even Veronica Mars to avoid current ratings system and time slot traps. But that does not mean the networks have to apply this thinking today.

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Saturday, February 9

Counting Down Jericho: Tick, Tick, Boom


There are only three full days left before many of the questions surrounding Jericho, the television series given a reprieve last year, begin to shift from speculations and to undeniable facts. Starting Feb. 12 and for the weeks that follow, CBS executives will be considering which of two second season episodes shot will air on week seven.

Will that episode wrap the fan-inspired story forever or usher in a complete unabridged third season?

It’s not the only question, but it is the one that is weighing heavily on the minds of several thousand fans who spent the last nine months talking up the show that they helped save with about 125,000 signatures, 40,000 pounds of nuts, and countless e-mails, postcards, letters, phone calls, blog posts, articles, interviews, forum discussions, YouTube videos, etc. No one really knows the answer, but there are plenty of people hoping for much more than seven installments.

“I was just thinking about those shiny new episodes that everyone has worked SO hard for. There seems to be a buzz about them, but my greatest fear is that this is the beginning of the end. We got CBS to reconsider their decision, but will the public follow?” — Jessielynne73 (fan screen name)

“The one thing that stands out the most to me is how Schumi made sure to stress that everyone’s efforts counted, and how much her daily ‘command orders’ inspired us all." — Maybei (fan screen name)

“What stood out to me were the awesome videos made by the fans to encourage and inspire us in the fight to get Jericho back. I am so glad that CBS is acknowledging them on the Jericho homepage with the fan video of the day." — DBalcer1 (fan screen name)

“I’m in Romania so the show aired here [much later]. I’ve gotten hooked on the show since … and I’ll be hooked for the rest of my life.” — Twister22 (fan screen name)

"What stood out in my mind was the commitment everyone made to make sure Jericho was not forgotten. I love that the actors have said how much they appreciate and love the show (and their fans). That's rare in TV series."— Idyoutlw (fan screen name)

“What stands out to me is what hard work it's been, but it has ultimately been worth it. I've talked to people I would probably never gotten to know otherwise, learned a lot, and made some good friends. Even if (heaven forbid) we don't get any more than these seven episodes, it was all worth it, and I'd do it again." — LisiBee (fan screen name)

For the fans, it must seem like another lifetime when the only question people asked was what would CBS executives do with 22,000 pounds of nuts?, an early estimate that was quickly eclipsed with 18,000 more.

That question was answered: the peanuts were sent to the zoo; the “Jericho nuts” were sent the promise of seven shows.

Jericho "nuts" doesn’t have as much charm as “Jericho Rangers,” as I know them, but Ken Tucker with Entertainment Weekly seems to have some doubts whether season two will have mass appeal. Although temperate in his review, he did see some promise in two performers, who he says bring “some cracked intensity into this grim fantasy.”

We shall see. Much like we’ll see the answers to many other questions even though I suspect some will never really be answered.

“Will CBS, which cancelled 20 projects during the writer’s strike, reconsider how it counts Nielsen ratings?”

“Did the three episode leak help, hurt, or have no bearing on the premiere of the second season?”

“Did the writer’s strike (which just reached a tentative agreement) help attract viewers who are starved for new non-reality show content on television?”

“Would fans have fared even better without the just-below-the-surface in-fighting among the most visible?”

“Did the fans meet those conditions uttered by CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler that they had to 'recruit more fans?'”

“Will CBS ever learn how lightly guided consumer marketing and social media really works?”

“Does Jake fit better with Heather or Emily?”

Doubtful. Almost. Not like it could have. Probably. Maybe. Its online viewing platform certainly looks better. And last but not least, there are some fan debates you learn to stay far away from.

Personally, I just hope the fans are able to punctuate the impossible show cancellation reversal and capture enough ratings to see their efforts stick. Objectively, the ratings of season two episode one will matter less than season two episode three or four.

I also won’t be surprised if NBC or FOX pays some attention to the outcome. With more then 2,600 boxes of Rice-A-Roni (not counting individual shipments) being mailed to Jeff Zucker, NBC might find going back in time and undoing a decision is sometimes better than starting from scratch.

Wouldn’t that be something? I know a girl detective who would think so too. But for now, it’s all about the little town in Kansas that thought it could. Given that I believe consumers matter, I hope it can.

For a behind-the-scenes look at season two and some surprisingly crisp full episodes of season one, visit CBS here.

Special thanks to Jane Sweat who contributed fan comments to this piece.

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Friday, February 1

Defining Convergence: Advertising - Entertainment Crossover


"The reality of it is that the future does not fit into the containers of the past.” — Rishad Tobaccowala, CEO of Denuo Group, a Publicis Groupe

According to Ad Age, Tobaccowala said it’s time for marketers to drop the idea that they can authoritatively distribute promotional messages by traditional means and get their heads around the notion that they must create content where audiences can migrate. As an example, he points to Nestle’s Purina, which has moved well beyond the static content that was once associated with a Web site. It includes user-generated content too.

Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that traditional advertising is dead, social media, interactivity, and consumer participation is becoming part of what will become a very changed communication landscape. And it’s not just about what marketers can do, it’s also about how the entire media landscape is changing.

Broadcast industry growth is mostly flat, enough so that local stations are looking elsewhere for content distribution. (I’ve mentioned several times: local station viewership of truncated segments online is outpacing the broadcast news product.) The New York Times noted today that some stations are not only creating original programming, but also purchasing the online rights to syndicated shows.

“I have seen local broadcasters move from looking at their Web sites as cost centers to looking at them as profit centers,” said Adam Gordon, the chief revenue officer of WorldNow. “It has taken time to get ad agencies to shift their attitudes and habits.”

The article speculates that if it works, local affiliates may play the same role online that they do on television, in which they buy the rights to programming from producers. But what the article does not say is what seems to be — both sides are playing to the middle. Convergence.

Convergence means producers having an equal opportunity to have their shows picked up by a company or distribution channel that may or may not be advertising supported. In some cases, companies might even produce some original content, with the option to syndicate it and/or sell downloads.

Sure, we all know that was along the lines of the lackluster debut of Bud.tv. It was too much too soon and without a clear focus or real understanding of their consumers (um, shows about beer might have worked) with additional damage caused by placing the entire concept in a lock box.

On the contrary, while Bud.tv traffic continues to drop, one of its debut shows, the sci-fi computer generated “Afterworld,” continues to gain a larger audience on its own. Whether you like it or not, a show like this is an asset with the potential to move beyond Google ads — sponsorship, syndication, product placement, pay-per-download, etc.

With such a variety of options available, shows like Journeyman and Jericho will be less likely to face cancellation as much as distribution shifts, provided they have a viable audience. Based on the Jericho’s Feb. 12 download buzz alone, there is obviously an audience. Anywhere there is an audience, there are advertisers.

The only thing missing from the mix is the realization that the past containers don’t work anymore for marketers, for advertisers, for producers, or networks.

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Thursday, January 17

Catching Buzz: Richard Becker


On Jan. 4, Geoff Livingston tagged me with the popular “eight random things about you” meme, but with all the great questions recently posed by Livingston and Larissa Fair in my interview at The Buzz Bin today, the last thing I want to do is talk about me.

So this time around, I’m going to cheat the meme by directing my response to the first time I was tagged with it. You can find it over at RecruitingBlogs. Yes, that meme is the same “random eight things about me” meme that forced me to defend one of my many stranger than fiction stories.

So what I would like to do instead is to add some additional insight into something I mentioned in the interview.

Welcome, Sweat

Popular Jericho blogger Barbara Sweat (aka Jane Sweat) will be interning with us as an online research assistant, effective Feb. 1. Having watched her skills evolve over the last eight months has been very rewarding, punctuated by her interview with writer Matt Federman today.

We offered the internship to Sweat so she could start getting her feet wet in professional communication beyond social media, which she already has a strong grasp of from the perspective of an independent blogger. (Enough to win Best TV Blogger on the Hey!Nielsen site. She has received ample recognition for her blogs elsewhere too.)

While her blogs remain independent of the work we do, it’s my hope her work with us will turn into some amazing opportunities. In some ways, she herself is becoming an example of parlaying a personal blog into a professional opportunity.

On the surface, this might seem avant garde to a few, but not so much to me. We managed 40 writers around the world for a hospitality trade publication several years ago (and still work with several), much the same way: we sourced their resumes, asked for work samples, and gave them assignments via e-mail. Before that, I would pitch and write articles for magazines by contacting editors through the mail. What’s the difference?

I appreciate that some people will never adopt social media, but I do think the time has come for some to let go of the notion that new technology and tools somehow changes everything.

On the contrary, they don’t change what is done, just the way it is done. That said, I’d like to tag some other people for the “eight random things about you” meme, starting with Jane Sweat.

I’ll also tag three more bloggers who deserve some long overdue recognition for helping me with the >BlogStraightTalk group at BlogCatalog: Alan Jobe, Dane Morgan, and Mark Stoneman. I couldn’t do it without them.

Likewise, I'd like to extend an additional thanks to Livingston and Fair. It’s an honor to have been included. I truly appreciate the hospitality.

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?

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Sunday, January 13

Leaking Jericho, Season 2: Three Full Episodes


In 2006, Jericho Season One was one of many new shows with its first episode or so leaked to the media and across the Internet for early viewing. The same now seems to hold true for Jericho Season Two. At least three episodes can be found on the Internet. Maybe more.

Post spoiler: if you are looking for a download link, you won’t find one here. I have verified their existence, but do not support the proliferation of what may be bootlegged content.

One of the earliest mentions of the leak popped up on TorrentFreak and then again by a fan from the United Kingdom on the CBS Jericho message boards, leaving others to wonder when, where, who, how, and why, but most importantly, will it help or hurt ratings come Feb. 12?

They are all good questions. And there are no easy answers, especially when it is uncertain who was the source of the leak and whether or not it was intentional. Regardless, releasing three episodes from a truncated seven-episode season seems to be severe by any measure.

Unintentional Leak

Reviewers and critics are privy to advanced screenings in order to give them a leg up on their publication deadlines. Sometimes, spoilers and advanced screenings are, er, accidentally leaked to the public. This can help a show, or hurt it. It’s a craps shoot.

Given Jericho is one of the few non-reality shows to have any unaired content while the writers strike continues, releasing three of seven episodes to anyone seems excessive. I’ll wait to be enlightened.

Intentional Leak

Sometimes, networks, studios and producers do leak information and complete episodes to generate additional buzz and excitement for a show, especially if they lack confidence in the product and/or promotion. (Then again, BitTorrent continues to see an increase in intentionally leaked network shows, regardless of merit.)

For me, there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason for CBS to intentionally leak Jericho, which has survived almost a year as the most-talked about show without a schedule in the last decade, maybe history. But that's not to say CBS doesn’t make mistakes now and again, especially when it treads the unfamiliar territory that surrounds this crazy town in Kansas.

If anything, an intentional and 3-deep leak for this show would have risked much more than it could ever hope to gain, potentially derailing all efforts that have been mounting buzz around the countdown. Worse, it could be a disaster if non-fans circumvent fan efforts by harshly critiquing these shows simply because they can.

As I’ve said throughout this campaign, there are some people who would like Jericho to fail, especially those who despise popular movements and, well, social media in general.

What To Do About It

From the fan perspective, pretend it doesn’t matter. Focusing on the leak is nothing more than a buzz kill for the countdown excitement, which is where it will matter most to capture Nielsen families.

If the leak becomes the only news, and it might, then it could trump consumer marketing efforts much like child labor law news damaged Kid Nation. In other words, staying the course seems smart for fans, even if it is only out of feelings for solidarity.

Besides, many fans have been working hard to drum up some interest on their own with some worthwhile ideas slowly taking hold as their first prize is only weeks away. I suggest people let them do it their way. It’s their show as much as anybody else.

Disclaimer: This is Monday’s post, leaked Sunday night. Darn.

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Monday, December 31

Ending 2007: Old Media Is Dead

If any year will ever stand out as the most dramatic change of direction for network television, it will likely be 2007. And if there is any credit is to be given, it doesn’t belong to a single network or broadcast executive, but rather the collective efforts of fans from several television shows, with Jericho Rangers leading the charge in the form of 20 tons of nuts and constant coverage from personal blogs to The Wall Street Journal.

Sure, while some networks and corporations like AT&T were quietly looking at broadcast-digital convergence long before Jericho was cast, Jericho fans helped set the agenda this year and hastened the pace. They did much more than save a television show by convincing CBS to offer up an olive branch in the form of a truncated second season premiering Feb. 12.

They demonstrated the power of organizing consumers via social media. They set a precedent of tracking signatures, e-mails, postcards, phone calls, and protest purchases. They pushed for sweeping reforms at Nielsen Media Research, enough so that Nielsen began to listen to them more than the networks it serves. They established alliances with other fan bases like Veronica Mars fans to expand their campaign five-fold. They made contact with writers, producers, cast members, and crew, giving everyone something to think about, including advertisers.

Passive viewers became active consumers

The writer’s strike is precisely what I’ve been writing about for almost two years: the transition between the era of old to the era of new media. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) even cited it as the primary explanation for the most recent stall in contract negotiations.

"The media conglomerates know that the core issue in these negotiations is new media. Their current proposals would cause writers even more economic harm in the future than they claim this strike has caused.” — Writers Guild of America

While the networks seem unwilling to make an agreement, the WGA and David Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company have reached a contract agreement that includes the proposal put forth by the WGA on Dec. 7.

In other words, production companies and writers are starting to make the deals that the networks are unwilling to make. And if that happens across the board, then network television will be reduced to a distribution channel at a time when content creation is the only tangible commodity. Distribution is easy.

Change happens in small, unseen ways

Cox Communications is one of a handful of multi-service broadband cable service providers that is beginning to offer OnDemand commercial programming, which would allow companies to produce and distribute their own television programs. This means that a company has the potential reach of 6 million residential and commercial consumers.

Once produced, segments of these shows could easily be repackaged for distribution across other platforms like YouTube, Revver, Apple iTunes, and countless others. The possibilities of programming are seemingly endless, well beyond OnDemand infomercials. It also opens the doors for enterprising producers to create their own programs, saving six to eight minutes per half hour for sponsors, much like local market home shows used to do.

The networks are hastening the need for change

As ratings continued to fall this last year, advertising rates continued to rise. The reason was that advertisers were less willing to experiment and attempted to simply purchase more spots to reach the same viewing audience that they once captured by buying fewer shows.

It’s only a matter of time before the burden of building reach shifts away from advertisers and onto the networks again. After all, the concept of last minute scatter market buys will likely die this year as marketers begin to realize they spent 18 percent more for primetime "scatter" than they ever hoped to save.

Even the classic measure of cpm (cost to reach 1,000 viewers) is being questioned. It doesn’t seem to hold as much weight as a measure as it used to. A lower cpm, augmented by Internet presence, can have a greater impact and make more sense as fans are eager to spend an hour or two talking about their favorite show on the net rather than watching the programs that follow.

Old media will become an abandoned term this year

It’s not so much that old media is dead as much as it is that old media has been challenged to become indistinguishable and better than new media. It’s the kind of challenge that will lead to bright possibilities in journalism and broadcast. The new year will be the year to decide. Will a company adapt or die?

Reality programming is not the answer. With rare exceptions like Survivor and American Idol, the net has taken over the reality programming niche. Not only can we watch real-life realty clips on YouTube, but also entire lives put up for consumption with live streaming. The networks need better niche programs.

It’s the very reason networks have to end the writer’s strike soon. It’s only a matter of time before some people begin to realize that the networks are not the only way to reach an audience. Big names in every facet of the entertainment industry are learning that the old model of distribution is dead.

Don’t believe it? Heck, even this blog, which might be considered in the minor leagues compared to what we would like to do on our own or with partners, reached 100,000 people this year. Not bad for an experimental platform.

Thank you all again for making this year a success. We look forward to seeing you in 2008! Happy New Year. Please be safe.

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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.

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Saturday, December 8

Getting Wishes: Jericho Rangers


Fans of the resurrected television show Jericho have finally gotten their wish, but sometimes getting a wish leaves room for mixed interpretation. The television show Jericho will return to CBS at 10 p.m. on Tues. nights, starting Feb. 12, following Big Brother.

Buddy TV has been running an online poll that reveals the fan base fractures over the decision. Only 10 percent of Jericho fans like the new time slot, 67 percent don’t care (they’ll watch anytime), and 23 percent think it is a mistake.

A mere 145 people voted, which is indicative of CBS giving up its engagement with the thousands of fans that convinced them to bring it back. Equally telling is that the Jericho Season One DVD sales did not measure up, hindered by the network’s lack of the commitment to the cause. We cautioned fans to promote the DVD heavily, as if CBS would not market it.

For pointing out the obvious, we received mixed reactions to our mixed reaction. While some did promote DVD sales, many chose to wait on faith that CBS would bring the cavalry.

No cavalry came. And CBS did virtually nothing substantial to market the DVD (surprising even me). The little they did do included a “save the show a second time” message that targeted existing fans, but nothing to attract new viewers.

Marketing, once again, proved to be the blind spot for CBS, placing Jericho in peril because it seems painfully clear that this show is being left in the hands of diminished fan base of active consumers. But perhaps that is what was planned all along, as Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, pointed out last July …

"We've really said to the fans, who have been incredibly loyal and incredibly devoted. You have got to be our 'Jericho' Rangers. You've got to recruit more viewers."

The bottom line: the timeslot hardly demonstrates network support for the seven-episode season of Jericho, even with the writers strike. It also demonstrates a lack of sensitivity to the hundreds of viewers who enjoyed Jericho as a family.

It’s not the only miss either. CBS primarily made four promises to Jericho fans when they reinstated the series in June:

• Re-broadcast “Jericho” on CBS, which they did with an odd order, until the series was pre-empted by football.
• Stream online episodes and clips online, but without much marketing support for the varied platforms where you can find it.
• Release the first season to DVD on Sept. 25, which was postponed and lacked any substantial marketing support.
• Continue the story of Jericho in digital media, which they almost did but not in any real tangible sort of way.

Form a broader social media perspective, it also demonstrates that corporate think will not necessarily translate into consumer engagement. For example, while the new Blog Council says they struggle with having 2,000 employees who blog, they’re already forgetting that finding answers is not as important as asking the right questions.

For the Blog Council, the right question isn’t what to do when you have 2,000 blogging employees. It's how do you effectively communicate your message internally so it resonates out through those 2,000 employee bloggers. For CBS, the right question was not how to end a protest. It was how to retain engaged consumers so you can turn Jericho into next year’s big hit.

Ho hum. That could have been the easy part. I can only hope the fans find a way to do it for them.

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