Tim Kring says 'Heroes' ratings woes aren't his fault

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November 19th, 2008

Lisa de Moraes, the TV writer for the Washington Post has an interesting story up where one of the items referenced was that Heroes producer Tim Kring spent a lot of time deflecting flack about lower ratings at a recent conference:

Writing a serialized drama is "an absolute bear." It is also a "very flawed way of telling stories on network television," because of the advent of DVR and online streaming, for example, Kring said, according to the report.

Serialized dramas work only if people sit in front of their TV sets on the night and at the hour the network broadcasts each episode. But now, you can watch a serialized drama whenever and wherever you want and almost all of those other means of watching episodes "are superior to watching it on the air." Sooooo, the only people watching a show -- "Heroes" perhaps -- at the time it's being broadcast by a network -- say NBC -- are the "saps and [expletives] who can't figure out how to watch it in a superior way."

The key to convincing BS is to have at least a grain of truth to what you're saying. And there's way more than a grain or two of truth in what Kring says. It's so convincing I'm sure he believes it. The problem is, if you took Heroes total viewing from two years ago, and its total viewing from today (and include DVR, Internet streaming etc) the total viewing is still down. A lot.

There's a problem, and not one I'm sure can be fixed. I confess to mostly agreeing with him, though not as harshly about the "saps and [expletives]" who remain chained to the networks scheduling.

I'll concede that there are just many people who enjoy watching TV when they get home, but personally, If I wasn't doing this blog there's no way I'd ever watch any scripted TV on the network's schedule.  This blog is the only reason I do, and mostly that's to avoid spoilers. Otherwise, I'd be saving it up for a rainy day!

That's exactly how I watched about the first 20 episodes of Heroes season one. We had a period where it seemed like it rained every freaking day for two weeks. My viewing wouldn't have counted anywhere, even if I was a Nielsen family. I was able to catch up in less than two weeks, but it wasn't live+seven day viewing, it was more like live+90 to 180 days viewing. Nielsen doesn't measure that and never will. Advertisers aren't going to pay for ads viewed six months after the fact, and besides, I didn't view the ads anyway.

Still, for a show like Heroes, if you're of the mind and/or have the technology available, it's often easier to say, "screw it" and buy the DVD, download them or stack them up on the DVR. All of that impairs measurement and ratings, and it is a real issue, but I absolutely dispute the notion that Heroes hasn't lost viewers since season one and two (and three). It has, and those viewers will be difficult to ever recapture. These lost viewers aren't watching on the DVR, aren't streaming video or downloading the shows -- they just no longer watch. Sure, some might ultimately buy the DVDs but comparing season 3 DVD sales to season one's is something we won't be able to do for quite some time.

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The same story linked above also notes that Rosie O'Donnell's Thanksgiving eve variety show is really a backdoor pilot, that may get picked up for six more episodes depending on the ratings.

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