ABC's Steve McPherson on renewing low-rated shows, Nielsen measurement

Categories: Broadcast TV

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May 17th, 2009

more kindling for the Nielsen conspiracy fires!  This time from the head of ABC Entertainment, Steve McPherson in an interview with TV Week:

TVWeek: There have been a lot of good shows on the networks in the past three years, but very few hits. This has always been a business where 80% of new shows fail. But now it seems that, unless you have a really compatible lead-in, it’s almost impossible to break through. Have the networks just not come up with the right shows? Or is something else going on?

Mr. McPherson: Well, I know I’ve taken some heat for my belief that part of the problem is how shows get measured—but now even Nielsen is admitting that they’re not accurate.

That part of the equation is more troubling than ever at this point. On the one hand, more people are watching television than ever before, so there’s something of a disconnect between what really seems to be happening and the Nielsen measurements. And on the other hand, monetizing various platforms has been challenging.

In any case, without a doubt the biggest factor is having the right show to break through with. We’ve had a really tough 18 months as an industry, but I firmly believe that a show that captures the imagination will still draw an audience.

TVWeek: Does the new environment suggest it might be better to stick with low-rated shows you believe in rather than making repeated attempts to launch a lot of new shows? Does part of you wish you had just kept “Dirty Sexy Money” or “Eli Stone” on all season long—despite their undeniably bad ratings—rather than try quite as many shows in the spring? Or would that have been throwing away good money after bad?

Mr. McPherson: The decision of when to have patience and when to cut your losses is the toughest one a programmer faces. Instant hits and clear failures are easy to program. With the rest, you just have to do the best job you can as a programmer in understanding potential and opportunity. There is something to be said for giving a show time to build, but there’s a point where, if it just isn’t happening, it doesn’t make economic sense to continue.

-read the whole interview on TV Week

 
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