Monday, March 10, 2008

Jericho: A Boondoggie Recollection

This is an article written last May by Boondoggie at Find-the-boots. I thought it deserves another read.

"But the most interesting part of this story isn't that some fans got left high and dry, it's that the business model failed everyone. The Nielson Ratings system, which hasn't changed much since their introduction in the 1940s and violates every possible rule on randomness of sample (can you say "self selected"?), has only recently started tracking time shifted viewing. And the networks don't take that into account in their advertising rates. So take a show that will appeal to well-off, intelligent people with disposable income and put it up against a pop pablum spree like American Idol, and you'll conclude that no one is watching. I'll posit that Jericho viewers are much more likely to have a DVR and less likely to be Nielson families. And they're far more likely to have a broadband internet connection to view the shows off services such as Itunes. The concept of watching two shows at once, which is now quite commonplace, just isn't built into the ratings system.

Which leads me to a conclusion: Old media really is dead. The idea of selling advertising in exchange for eyeballs just isn't going to make it. The "science" for measuring performance hasn't kept up. Anything you do to try to measure viewership will be self selected, by definition. It takes a certain kind of person to put up with a monitoring box in their house or to keep a diary. And those aren't the same people that are spending money on high tech gadgets like DVRs and Slingboxes. Or burning episodes to DVD from their Tivo so they can watch them on a plane.

Eventually "free" TV is going to be useless. The quality of shows will continue their downward trend as the intelligent and well-off move into other forms of entertainment. The old media will just keep producing more reality shows or mean comedies because they're the least expensive to produce. When your market is dwindling, the urge to cut costs is overwhelming. Look at the difference between the programming on paid channels (SciFi, HBO, Showtime) vs the old media. This trend has been going on a long time."

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