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Good News Jericho (and Big Brother) Fans: CBS Doesn't Care What I Think!

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March 5th, 2008

The Bad News Is CBS Will Punt on Jericho Anyway 

I'd suggested moving Jericho to the CW, and received  some anti-CW sentiment in the comments as well as e-mail and it's curious.  I have no problem with Jericho being on SciFi, USA, Bravo or some other network that isn't the CW.  SciFi and USA are two of my favorite channels (and I watch both more than CW, though I LOVE me some Supernatural!)

I singled out the CW in today's overnight ratings post only because most people have access to the CW for free, over the air.  There have been several people who've written they don't want to see the show move to SciFi because they don't have access to the SciFi channel and would have to pay for it. 

I was merely trying to keep your Jericho free. Plus, theoretically MORE people will watch it on the CW. On the SciFi channel my guess is it goes down well under 2.5 million viewers on a weekly basis for new episodes.

Not that it's a particular surprise, but Ed Harrison, the PR flackster at CBS who brought you the sunshine and blue skies of: JERICHO" AND "BIG BROTHER" ADD MILLIONS OF VIEWERS ACROSS MULTIPLE PLATFORMS doesn't care what I think at all. 

For the record, 520,000 streams over a one week period is a completely meaningless piece of data.  Why?  Because it doesn't account for how long they watched, either on average or at all.  They could've said something like 62% watched the whole show!  But they didn't say that.  It also said nothing about the demographics of people who watched.  Let me be clear, advertisers care about demographics.  Big time.  They care about where you live, they care about how much money you make, they care about lots of stuff that may seem kind of offensive but makes a great deal of sense when you think about targeting your advertisements.  Without engagement (time spent) or demographic info - the 520,000 streams is fairly worthless from a CBS scale point of view.

To put it in perspective, if we were able to stream 520,000 streams a week off of our web site, even without engagement and demographic info, it would be a huge deal to me and Bill G.  But to CBS?  Pssh. 520,000 additional Internet fans plus 8,768 people who bought a season pass on iTunes and another 38,000 TiVo users who have Jericho in their season's pass list?   It's not completely meaningless to CBS, but its only current usefulness is in the understanding that the new media is not yet lucrative for CBS.

CBS is about SCALE.  HUGE SCALE.  CSI  (20 million viewers) type scale.  520,000 partial streams of new episodes each  week without demographic info?  Eh.  Zzzzzzz.  It's not huge scale, sorry.  It's not a big deal to CBS, today.  Sure they put out a press release because frack man, that's The Job of people like Ed Harrison.  Before Ed issued the above press release I'd written him the following e-mail:

From: Robert Seidman
Sent: Monday, March 03, 2008 3:38 PM
To: Ed Harrison
Cc: 'Bill Gorman'
Subject: Jericho and Big Brother Ratings

Hi Ed,

My name is Robert Seidman and along with Bill Gorman, I run a website called TVbytheNumbers.com.    Please note that the viewpoints expressed here are mine, and mine alone and Bill may not in fact share most of them.  While you're issuing press releases about ratings increases for Big Brother and Jericho, clearly in the 18-49 demo and overall viewers Both Big Brother and Jericho pale in comparison to reruns of NCIS and Criminal Minds and bringing reruns of Two and a Half Men into the picture would not even be fair. 

That said, Nielsen is no longer providing us with the 18-34 demographic  info and if either Jericho or Big Brother are crushing repeats of NCIS and Criminal Minds in the 18-34 demo, please let me know because it will help quantify why CBS chooses to run shows that seemingly perform much worse than reruns.

We just focus on numbers.  The numbers as I understand them (unless there's some astronomical butt kicking by Jericho and BB in the 18-34 demo vs the reruns) don't seem to support airing those shows in the timeslots they are being aired.  I understand BB for example airs three times a week, and has good DVR usage, but none of the airings of BB seem to do much better than a rerun of Numb3rs on Friday night - which makes me wonder why isn't BB on Friday and Saturdays?

I completely accept the fact that may have absolutely no idea at all what I am talking about.  But short of a better explanation than given in the press releases, the appearance is that CBS is making some curious at best, and very poor at worst programming decisions and doesn't adjust to data in real-time very well. I don't see how that can be great for shareholders of CBS

I can fully accept that I'm somehow looking at this the wrong way and rather than continue to speculate based on the available numbers, if there are indeed economic reasons why Big Brother and Jericho merit their current timeslots, I'd appreciate it very much if you or someone else at CBS could explain it to me.  

Jericho's online success/downloads on iTunes/etc -  anything along those lines  are meaningless to us  unless specific numbers that can support those claims can also be cited.

I want to understand these decisions, but they don't make any sense to me.  Can you help?

Thanks,

Robert Seidman

-

It's not a particular surprise to me that I didn't hear back from Ed.   Someday soon though, I expect that we will.  PR folks like Ed don't have any obligation to make it their objective to dismantle things down to the basic truth of things.  Half-truths like 520,000 streams of the new episode in a week are good enough for the PR flack, but not the advertiser, or, in this case CBS, who operates on a scale much, much, much larger than that.

Think of it this way, would CBS pay what they are currently paying for the rights to Jericho if it could only air it online?  Even if it could attract say, 3 million streams a week.  The answer is no.  They might be willing to pay something to do that, but it's a something that's so much smaller than what it's currently paying that the people who actually produce Jericho wouldn't want to do it. 

What if it were 8 million?  Today, my answer is the same: NO, they wouldn't do it. But here the "no" is more a function that CBS doesn't (yet) have the same capabilities to measure engagement and demographics on the Internet as it does on TV, so the advertisers won't pay as much to advertise as they do on broadcast television.

That will change someday.  Just not soon enough for Jericho, and its fans.

I personally really like dismantling things to the point of getting to the truth.  Perhaps even love it.  This will not make me a particular friend to CBS or even Nielsen because for both, obfuscation of the truth sometimes serves both far better than it serves me.  I understand that and don't hold it against them.

These are still very, very early days for internet video, and from that perspective it's both exciting and very interesting.   There's a lot of opportunity, and I believe I understand that opportunity way better than average.  I went through this once with "hits" on the web.  Number of streams is as worthless as "web hits" were. 

Now, the web measurement services (even FREE services like Google Analytics) can measure engagement very effectively, and tacking in a FREE service like Quantcast.com, you can get demographic information.  Sooner or later this will happen for video too, and the advertisers will get comfy.   But the bottom line is, at 520,000 streams (partial or otherwise) a week, the EYE network isn't going to be very interested. 

 
  • Karen

    Well, I *think* this was interesting. I'm not *sure* of your point in the letter to Ed. It wasn't clear to me if you were upset Jericho and BB were being aired at all, or just in their timeslots. But I can be kind of dim, so that may not mean anything.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    I'm not upset about Jericho and Big Brother airing at all,though I do question whether either (especially Jericho) should be shows that are on CBS.

    I think they both make sense as shows, and there's an audience for both – just not a big enough audience to take advantage of the opportunity that exists on a major broadcast net. Given that they are on CBS, the timeslots they air in don't make much sense to me either.

    P.S. I said “especially Jericho” above because BB is dirt cheap to produce, Jericho isn't.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    I'm not upset about Jericho and Big Brother airing at all,though I do question whether either (especially Jericho) should be shows that are on CBS.

    I think they both make sense as shows, and there's an audience for both – just not a big enough audience to take advantage of the opportunity that exists on a major broadcast net. Given that they are on CBS, the timeslots they air in don't make much sense to me either.

    P.S. I said “especially Jericho” above because BB is dirt cheap to produce, Jericho isn't.

  • Cher

    Good article. The fact that it has all this online attention shows the interest for Jericho is high and has grown.

    Jericho's audience is growing, everywhere but in the Nielsen households. Everyweek I hear from more and more people that just started watching it and everyone that does seems to be very passionate about the show.

    As for Big Brother, I am getting sick of all the reality shows. Seems more are being added every season. Finding good dramas are getting harder and harder to find on the broadcast networks. I guess people are tired of thinking.

  • Cher

    Good article. The fact that it has all this online attention shows the interest for Jericho is high and has grown.

    Jericho's audience is growing, everywhere but in the Nielsen households. Everyweek I hear from more and more people that just started watching it and everyone that does seems to be very passionate about the show.

    As for Big Brother, I am getting sick of all the reality shows. Seems more are being added every season. Finding good dramas are getting harder and harder to find on the broadcast networks. I guess people are tired of thinking.

  • Karen

    Well, I *think* this was interesting. I’m not *sure* of your point in the letter to Ed. It wasn’t clear to me if you were upset Jericho and BB were being aired at all, or just in their timeslots. But I can be kind of dim, so that may not mean anything.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Cher, “Jericho’s audience is growing, everywhere but in the Nielsen households” is a typical refrain from fans who's shows aren't doing well in the ratings and it is simply fantasy. The ratings system is far from perfect, but it measures all shows in the same way.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Cher, “Jericho’s audience is growing, everywhere but in the Nielsen households” is a typical refrain from fans who's shows aren't doing well in the ratings and it is simply fantasy. The ratings system is far from perfect, but it measures all shows in the same way.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    I’m not upset about Jericho and Big Brother airing at all,though I do question whether either (especially Jericho) should be shows that are on CBS.

    I think they both make sense as shows, and there’s an audience for both – just not a big enough audience to take advantage of the opportunity that exists on a major broadcast net. Given that they are on CBS, the timeslots they air in don’t make much sense to me either.

    P.S. I said “especially Jericho” above because BB is dirt cheap to produce, Jericho isn’t.

  • Karen

    OK, I do need to comment here that there is going to have to be a push from somewhere to begin to either *find* a way to use new media measurements or somehow motivate it to be part of the overall picture more simply because, small as the numbers may be now, it is going to be a factor.

    I work for a small independant telephone/cable/internet company in a rural state. Very small towns, lots of ranchers farmers. My company worked assiduously to make 95% of our customers DSL capable. Just as an example I had a customer, one of our last 5% that we are getting DSL to call very excited that she would soon have DSL. Her *very first* question to me was “Can I watch tv show online then whenever I want?” Her very first question. So, the change is coming. Someone needs to be the pioneer even if it means spending some money. My company did this with fiber before anyone believed the internet would be big. We were prepared and now when other small independents are having to sell, we are secure. It's a thought.

  • Karen

    OK, I do need to comment here that there is going to have to be a push from somewhere to begin to either *find* a way to use new media measurements or somehow motivate it to be part of the overall picture more simply because, small as the numbers may be now, it is going to be a factor.

    I work for a small independant telephone/cable/internet company in a rural state. Very small towns, lots of ranchers farmers. My company worked assiduously to make 95% of our customers DSL capable. Just as an example I had a customer, one of our last 5% that we are getting DSL to call very excited that she would soon have DSL. Her *very first* question to me was “Can I watch tv show online then whenever I want?” Her very first question. So, the change is coming. Someone needs to be the pioneer even if it means spending some money. My company did this with fiber before anyone believed the internet would be big. We were prepared and now when other small independents are having to sell, we are secure. It's a thought.

  • Cher

    Good article. The fact that it has all this online attention shows the interest for Jericho is high and has grown.

    Jericho’s audience is growing, everywhere but in the Nielsen households. Everyweek I hear from more and more people that just started watching it and everyone that does seems to be very passionate about the show.

    As for Big Brother, I am getting sick of all the reality shows. Seems more are being added every season. Finding good dramas are getting harder and harder to find on the broadcast networks. I guess people are tired of thinking.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Cher, “Jericho’s audience is growing, everywhere but in the Nielsen households” is a typical refrain from fans who’s shows aren’t doing well in the ratings and it is simply fantasy. The ratings system is far from perfect, but it measures all shows in the same way.

  • Karen

    OK, I do need to comment here that there is going to have to be a push from somewhere to begin to either *find* a way to use new media measurements or somehow motivate it to be part of the overall picture more simply because, small as the numbers may be now, it is going to be a factor.

    I work for a small independant telephone/cable/internet company in a rural state. Very small towns, lots of ranchers farmers. My company worked assiduously to make 95% of our customers DSL capable. Just as an example I had a customer, one of our last 5% that we are getting DSL to call very excited that she would soon have DSL. Her *very first* question to me was “Can I watch tv show online then whenever I want?” Her very first question. So, the change is coming. Someone needs to be the pioneer even if it means spending some money. My company did this with fiber before anyone believed the internet would be big. We were prepared and now when other small independents are having to sell, we are secure. It’s a thought.

  • Dave Mueller

    Bill Gorman,
    I'm not so sure. It's possible that some types of shows are poorly reflected in the types of viewers making up the Nielsen sample.

    For example, Direct TV has a feature where you can see which show has the most viewers in a real-time fashion. Tuesday night, Jericho finished a strong #2 on the East Coast and #1 in the Central time zone. In Nielsen, it was a distant #3. Direct TV obviously has a LOT larger sample size than Nielsen.

    More data needs to be gathered, but clearly there is a discrepancy between what Direct TV is showing and what Nielsen is showing… Jericho fans are going to attempt to quantify this further next week.

  • Dave Mueller

    Bill Gorman,
    I'm not so sure. It's possible that some types of shows are poorly reflected in the types of viewers making up the Nielsen sample.

    For example, Direct TV has a feature where you can see which show has the most viewers in a real-time fashion. Tuesday night, Jericho finished a strong #2 on the East Coast and #1 in the Central time zone. In Nielsen, it was a distant #3. Direct TV obviously has a LOT larger sample size than Nielsen.

    More data needs to be gathered, but clearly there is a discrepancy between what Direct TV is showing and what Nielsen is showing… Jericho fans are going to attempt to quantify this further next week.

  • Dave Mueller

    Bill Gorman,
    I’m not so sure. It’s possible that some types of shows are poorly reflected in the types of viewers making up the Nielsen sample.

    For example, Direct TV has a feature where you can see which show has the most viewers in a real-time fashion. Tuesday night, Jericho finished a strong #2 on the East Coast and #1 in the Central time zone. In Nielsen, it was a distant #3. Direct TV obviously has a LOT larger sample size than Nielsen.

    More data needs to be gathered, but clearly there is a discrepancy between what Direct TV is showing and what Nielsen is showing… Jericho fans are going to attempt to quantify this further next week.

  • http://www.vml.com Rusty

    As the research director for one of the largest interactice agencies in the US, I simply must disagree with your assertion that 500K+ streams a week is insignificant to CBS.

    We are in the midst of a huge shift in media consumption. And raw eyeballs on TV just aren't as important as they used to be…..particularly in a recessionary economic environment. Major advertisers are now beginning to place their bets on the engagement that comes online. It is simply much father into the marketing funnel. So 500k+ stream is worth much more than 500k+ pairs of eyeballs in front of the TV.

    Whether or not CBS acts on this is another matter.

  • http://www.vml.com Rusty

    As the research director for one of the largest interactice agencies in the US, I simply must disagree with your assertion that 500K+ streams a week is insignificant to CBS.

    We are in the midst of a huge shift in media consumption. And raw eyeballs on TV just aren't as important as they used to be…..particularly in a recessionary economic environment. Major advertisers are now beginning to place their bets on the engagement that comes online. It is simply much father into the marketing funnel. So 500k+ stream is worth much more than 500k+ pairs of eyeballs in front of the TV.

    Whether or not CBS acts on this is another matter.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Rusty, I might (or might not) agree that 500K on the Internet is worth as much or more than 500K on tv.

    But 20 million on tv blows 500K on the internet away. Every hour CBS broadcasts in primetime is an opportunity to reach 20M people.

    500K is bupkes to CBS. That it isn't bupkes to your firm is quite understandable though.

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