Monday morning, perhaps early afternoon on the east coast I did a post on Video On Demand usage lagging behind DVR and online video viewing. Ultimately, I think Video On Demand is one of the single most important riddles, at least in the shorter term (next 5-10 years) for the television industry to solve.
Almost nobody read the post. Relatively speaking, that is. Did I ask myself whether I promoted the story enough? I certainly didn’t give it top billing, but I promoted it prominently on the home page and due to a dearth of posting in general, it was very high on the list of new stories the remainder of the day.
Did I ask myself if I published the post at the right time? If I had published the post two hours earlier or two hours later might the post have done better?
I didn’t ask myself any of those things. Had I positioned the post more prominently or posted at a different time it might have done a bit better, but I can tell from the numbers it did generate that none of those machinations would’ve made very much of a difference. A small difference perhaps, but not a big enough difference to change the truth.
The truth is, no matter how important I think the story is, the people who visit the site voted with their eyes and their clicks. Generally speaking, people just weren’t that interested. It’s not the first time that’s happened and it won’t be the last. I just accept it. The numbers paint a very clear picture. I might not like the picture the numbers paint, but I can’t deny the story they tell.
It was the same for Kings
Kings was a very similar situation for NBC. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of stuff to rag on NBC about. Plenty. But its treatment of Kings isn’t one of them. Definitely. isn’t. one. of. them. Just because you might think Kings is the greatest show ever, there’s not really a rational argument for saying NBC treated the show unfairly. If you want to blame the viewing public for not being that interested, that’s fine. They just weren’t that interested.
NBC promoted Kings a lot on its own network. It also promoted it during the Super Bowl (edit: or at least the pregame show!). Granted, that was around six weeks before it would actually air, but still, as promotion goes, that was good promotion. Few (relatively speaking) tuned in for its two hour premiere on Sunday, March 15. Fewer people tuned in the following week, and still fewer the week after, and the week after. By then, what had started as 6.1 million viewers and anemic adults 18-49 ratings wound up as 3.6 million viewers and anemic adults 18-49 ratings.
NBC DID give Kings a chance
For starters, it aired it to begin with! That’s about the best chance you can get, really. It aired it on Sundays at 8pm, not the best slot perhaps, but God forbid had NBC aired it on Mondays at 8pm! For all kinds of reasons, I am thankful that didn’t happen. That would’ve caused an apocalypse.
Kings aired five episodes on four consecutive Sundays. By the fourth Sunday, it was pulling under four million viewers. No more chances. NBC bounced it to Saturday for one week in April, before pulling the plug and banishing Kings to summer burn-off theater.
But NBC did give it a chance. What it saw was that even of the viewers who gave the show a chance, over 40% bailed out after a month.
NBC should’ve aired the show on Thursday!
Would the show have done better on Thursdays? Perhaps. But there’s absolutely no reasonable case to be made that it would’ve done that much better, and certainly not so much better that it would’ve had any hopes for renewal.
I’ll grant that it’s not like Southland pulled fabulous numbers, but I agree with NBC’s decision to favor Southland over Kings if for no other reason that the basic premise of Southland is much easier to relate to and embrace than the premise of Kings.
And sure, NBC didn’t absolutely have to pull the plug and banish it to Saturdays and then to the summer. But I can’t fault NBC for doing just that. Sure, if it would’ve kept the show on Sundays it would’ve done better than it did last Saturday when it got 1.6 million, but it wouldn’t have done well enough to justiify keeping it on Sundays in the spring. That’s why they moved it in the first place.
Still, I liked Kings
I kind of like Kings. So I can understand people wishing that the show would’ve done better. But that’s like me wishing more people were interested in the plight of Video On Demand over the next few years. I wish more people were interested, but they are not.
But you can definitely mark me down as an Ian McShane fan. Visually, the cinematography of Kings is quite often stunning in HD, and I imagine Allison Miller looks good even in standard definition. Also, when I started viewing Kings last March, I hadn’t gone on my “catch up on NCIS” jag yet. So by the time the show started airing again in June, it was sort of cool to have that “wait, Lt. Col. Hollis Mann is the queen!?” moment. Speaking of queens, Susana Thompson had played queen at least once before — starring as the Borg Queen on several episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.
I spent about four episodes trying to decide whether I liked Kings or not. Ultimately I concluded I really liked parts of it, though I didn’t love it overall, but liked it enough to stick with it. And at least through the first four weeks it aired last March and April, about 60% of the people stuck with it. But, unfortunately when you start out with numbers as low as Kings started out with, you can’t afford any erosion at all. Kings would not have likely been renewed even if it kept the ratings of its premiere.
Conclusion: Don’t Blame NBC
If you want to blame NBC for being a crap broadcast network in prime-time, there’s definitely plenty of data to back you up. But if you want to blame NBC for not giving Kings a fair shake, not only isn’t that fair, it also seems plain wrong. NBC might have done a few things differently with Kings, but none of them would’ve made any difference in terms of the show’s renewal.
I completely understand fans of the show being upset the show never took off and it’s sad for the cast and crew involved with the show. It’s even sad for NBC because they allegedly paid a ton of money to make Kings. But blaming NBC for not giving the show a chance? NBC was the network that did give the show a chance!
In the end, the only reason any of us got to see Kings at all, even the few diehards among us who will watch the final episodes over the next couple of weeks, is because of NBC. Even more so than the fans perhaps, NBC would’ve liked the show to have been more popular, too.
And I wish more people cared about Video On Demand. But they don’t. Sometimes, that’s just how it is. The good news for me is that there is not really any cost in producing a post that relatively speaking, nobody will read, so I will continue doing posts about VOD simply because it suits me.
Unfortunately for fans of TV shows, that’s just not a luxury NBC or any other network has when it comes to producing scripted shows.