Monday, March 24, 2008

Jericho: The Numbers Game


The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle.

Eight years after its release, this film is funnier, smarter, and more timely than ever.

In the movie, Rocky & Bullwinkle work with new FBI agent, Karen Sympathy (Piper Perabo) to prevent Rocky & Bullwinkle's arch enemies, Fearless Leader (Robert De Niro), Natasha (Rene Ruso) and Boris (Jason Alexander), from accomplishing their dastardly plan to hypnotize America using RBTV (Really Bad Television), thus creating mindless human beings, which will allow Fearless Leader to go on TV and get everyone to vote for him as President of the United States of America.

I'll focus on Fearless Leader's tactics to get everyone to vote for him as President in another blog, but for this blog, my subject is RBTV (Really Bad Television or in today's terms, Reality Bad Television) turning America into mindless human beings.
For some people, it wouldn't matter what the programming was -- simply because it airs on TV it is really bad television.

For me, I am not of that belief. Through the years I have enjoyed, laughed at or with, shed tears, and waited on the edge of my seat to find out who did what and to whom. Good storytellers have always made my life better. A good storyteller can teach me, entertain me, and/or take me out of my own life's challenges for a short period of time so that I may either feel a reprieve or gain a new perspective.

I appreciate good storytellers.

That's one of the reasons why I supported the writer's strike.

That's one of the reasons I am disappointed in CBS's decision to cancel Jericho.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, during the writer's strike I dove into the murky waters of Reality TV to see what could possibly be worth watching.

WOW.

RBTV is a reality.

The majority of these reality shows left me numb, dumb, and with a bigger bum. My energy level dropped with each viewing. I actually began to feel depressed and a sense of lost hope in the American public.

Out of the large numbers -- and I was surprised by how many are actually being aired -- I did find a few that were worth watching, but only one in which the contestants/real people were truly inspiring and the show was/is educational (The Biggest Loser).

That said, what none of the reality shows do -- even the ones I enjoy -- is take me out of my own life and into a story the way a good book or a movie can. I never leave the viewing of a reality show feeling like I do when the credits of a good movie roll or when I close the back cover after having read the last page of a good book or when I watch the last scene of a weekly serial drama and am left on the edge of my seat wondering what will happen next week.

Close your eyes and remember the first time you saw the Wizard of Oz or the first time you watched it with your children.

Close your eyes and remember the feeling of the first time you saw a movie in a theater on a big screen.

Close your eyes and remember your favorite childhood cartoons.

Close your eyes and remember your favorite television shows when you were growing up.

There's just something about the creativity of the arts that brings people together, that inspires them to new heights, that builds a community, and that can strengthen the collective spirit of a generation.

Reality TV does not hold any of these qualities or abilities.

And the long term numbers show that more people enjoy the creativity of the arts than they do reality TV.

According to Nielsen ratings...

...from 1950 to the present, only 3 reality shows are listed as the top rated TV series during a specific year: Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (1951), Survivor (2000) and American Idol (2004 - 2007).

...from 1964 to the present, the top 45 primetime telecasts do not include one episode of Reality TV.

...from 1964 to the present, the top 3 network primetime telecasts of all time are MASH (the final episode), Dallas (Who Shot JR?) and Roots (finale).

...Superbowl's 1982 and 1983 round out the top 5 network primetime telecasts of all time since 1964.

...during a 38 year period, the American public has demonstrated its preference for storyline driven television.

Being a part the entertainment industry, I have always been amazed by how an industry that produces creativity on a daily basis functions on many levels with extraordinarily little creativity.

Maybe that's because the most creative thinkers are rarely the top decision makers.

It's not often that directors, creative producers, or actors become heads of studios or television networks. Tom Cruise is an exception to the rule.

Most often the people in the top positions are finance people or excellent deal making people. Most often the top people are numbers people.

And that's what makes all of the numbers on Jericho so interesting.

According to the New York Daily News...

...as of March 8, 2008 the most downloaded television show on iTunes was Jericho.

...and absolutely none of the top 10 downloaded television shows were reality shows.

According to TiVo...

...for the week ending 3/23/08, Jericho is listed in the top 25 most recorded television shows.

...for the week ending 3/23/08, out of 25 television shows only 3 reality shows made it on the most downloaded list.

...for the week ending 3/23/08, America proved again that they prefer storyline driven television over reality TV.

...and America proved again that Jericho is one of their most favorite programs currently on air.

As an MBA, I believe with iTunes and TiVo being much more up to date systems for counting the accuracy of viewers, their numbers should hold, at least, equal value to those gathered by the standard methodology used by Nielsen.

According to The Conference Board...

...more consumers are watching broadcast TV online.

...as of October 15, 2007, more than 16% of American households were watching TV online.

...as of October 15, 2007, the number of American households watching entire episodes/shows online doubled from the previous year.

...as of October 15, 2007, Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Research Center, the number of online television viewers is likely to increase.

...as of October 15, 2007, nearly 73 percent of online households use the Internet for entertainment purposes on a daily basis.

With all of these numbers in mind, I am confused by CBS's cancelation of Jericho.
With the networks just having learned a HUGE lesson in the importance of downloaded material and television shows watched online, I am truly stumped by the "numbers" people at CBS.

During the very short period of time Jericho has had to find its land legs, the show has done remarkably well...

...after its first season (ONE SEASON), a rally cry like none other from all television viewers combined came about.

...after a long writer's strike that disappointed and frustrated much of the television audience, Jericho came in as the #1 downloaded television show on iTunes.

...after a long writer's strike that disappointed and frustrated much of the television audience, Jericho made it into the top 25 television shows recorded on TiVo.

Sometimes in business decisions need to be made based upon quality and long term.

Sometimes in business decisions need to be based upon long-term faith in people rather than short-term numbers in a book.

Sometimes in business decisions need to be made with courage and belief in a good product.

Sometimes in business decisions need to be made with the knowledge that all good things build with time.

Sometimes in business decisions need to be made by going back and reviewing the market over a long period of time.

Sometimes in business decisions need to be made based upon the value of the product offered to the consumer.

Sometimes in business this consumer needs for network television decisions to be made based upon the value of RGTV.

Really Good Television.

Jericho is really good television.

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