Gossip Girl is Loved From Soho to Singapore; Does it Matter?

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April 27th, 2008

Gossip Girl on CWLike beloved "internet buzz" shows like Battlestar Galactica and Stargate: SG1 before it, Gossip Girl has a ton of buzz on the Internet. Buzz doesn't translate into viewers, at least not viewers as measured by Nielsen, and for now, that's still the only currency that seems to matter when it comes to television shows.Do I think that Gossip Girl has tens and millions of people who are watching the show who can't be measured? Nope. Not even 10 million. Not even 5 million for that matter.

But based on comments and direct e-mails I've received from readers, this show certainly has more than a few people who are watching via unsanctioned means, be it torrent downloads or sites streaming the show against the CW's wishes. And clearly none of this viewing is measured by Nielsen.

While I don't think it's probable, based on the anecdotal data I do think it's possible that as many people watch this show via unsanctioned means as watch it on television. We're talking about an audience of roughly 2.5 million in the US via traditional television, and the unsanctioned means have a global audience, so I definitely think it's possible.

I'm not here to comment on the quality of the show. It's not targeted at me as I'm a middle aged male, and this is a show targeted at young women roughly 12-34 years old. And I'm guessing the sweet-spot is in the 12-25 year old range.

I did try to watch the pilot via the CW's web site months ago, but after the fifth or sixth time I had to content with Tom Brady's girlfriend running around in her Victoria's Secret underwear, I decided I didn't need to be constantly reminded of how much better Tom Brady's life is than mine, especially at a volume that seemed three times as loud as the show.

My guess is that CW chief Dawn Ostroff is going to start getting vocal about how Nielsen can't track all of Gossip Girl's viewers. And not just because a lot of it may come via questionable means. I got several letters from college students indicating that when the show is on, there is usually 10-20 girls crowded around any available lounge television, but these same students advised that they didn't think even 50% of the people who they knew who watched the show, watched it live when it aired on television. They also didn't seem to think that most people were watching the show via iTunes or CW's web site (when it was available).

It seems the general consensus is that although they want to watch the show on their own terms and not when it's broadcast, they want to watch it pretty much the same night so they can discuss it with their friends the next day and not wait a couple of days for it to show up on iTunes or what seemed like a week when it was available via the CW's site.

I'm not actually writing about this show for the traffic to our site - it won't amount to much. Especially as Gossip Girl has been renewed and the show is NOT "on the bubble", there's not nearly as much interest in its ratings as there were for Jericho, or for that matter, CW's own show, Reaper.

I'm interested in it primarily because if the anecdotal data I have is indicative of the broader Gossip Girl audience (however broad that may be), it has something going for it - and it's conscious among its viewers rather than subconscious. The young women watching the show may not want to be like the characters in Gossip Girl, but they certainly want to dress like them.

From Columbia University to UCLA I have gotten messages from young women who are most definitely inspired by the fashion of this show. That's much, much more powerful than any 30 second commercial spot, and if it's true, it's something that Jericho didn't have and Reaper doesn't have going for it - at least not at a conscious level.

I'm floored by the "Oh yeah, I want to buy those clothes," and "For sure, I think about it when I'm in the department store," comments and e-mails I have received. Because if it's indicative of the broader audience, that's just a marketer's wet dream. You can't hope for a better result.

The question is, can the CW monetize it? I see this as both a reasonable question to ask, and an important question to answer. Especially if it actually may be the case that some significant percentage of its viewership is occurring outside of normal tracking methods. I'm not sure that anyone else really cares, but personally I find it extremely interesting and that's why I'm writing about it.

You can see my recommendations to the CW's Dawn Ostroff here.

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