Don't blame Defying Gravity's bad ratings on lack of promotion

Categories: Broadcast TV

Written By

September 4th, 2009

defying-gravity-02

Being two years into the TV blogging experience at this point, I completely accept that no matter what the show is, and no matter what the ratings, every scripted show finds its fans.

I also accept that there's no winning when it comes to trying to get anyone to agree on quality.  No matter the show, somebody will like it.

Defying Gravity appears to be floating around in limbo as to what ABC will do with it.  Though if it looks canceled, isn't on the schedule and ABC doesn't respond to requests...  In the post discussing DG's status, someone chimed in with comments they read on IMDB (they didn't like to the forum thread but if someone posts the link, I'll add it here):

“They’ve already filmed 13 episodes – it isn’t owned by ABC which is the reason they don’t promote it. You’ll notice, Shark Tank, Flash Forward, Modern Family & Cougartown are owned by ABC, which is why they promote them soooooo much that most people are sick of them before they even start.

I recorded 3 weeks worth of ABC prime time programming just for a little experiment:

Shark Tank -Avg 4-6 promos an evening
Modern Family – Avg 8 to 10 promos an evening
Flash Forward – Avg 8 to 10 promos an evening
Cougartown – Avg 4 promos an evening
Defying Gravity – 0 promos for the entire 3 weeks”

The anecdotal survey results might well be correct, but otherwise there is a whole lot wrong with that.  Starting with...

OF COURSE Networks DO promote shows they don't own

House isn't owned by FOX. It's owned by NBC Universal.  FOX promotes the hell out of it.  Fringe isn't owned by FOX, it's owned by Warner Brothers.  FOX promotes the hell out it.  Two and a Half Men isn't owned by CBS, it's owned by Warner Brothers.  CBS promotes the hell out of it.

Even on cable, networks promote shows they don't own.  Like Burn Notice which airs on the NBC Universal  owned USA Network but is made by Fox Television Studios.

Networks absolutely promote products they don't own.

And yes, even ABC will promote shows that perform well, or that they hope will perform well, that they don't own. Want proof?   ABC doesn't own Modern Family! That is produced by 20th Century Fox Television.  And according to the person above's anecdotal research, it was tied for the most-heavily promoted program by ABC.  Even though ABC doesn't own it!

Of COURSE networks promote the shows on their upcoming fall schedules!

Leaving aside the fact that ABC doesn't even own Modern Family, the sitcom it thinks has the best prospects for success in the new season, or for that matter, Shark Tank, of course ABC is promoting the shows on its fall schedule.  Just like every other network will promote their fall shows.

It's fair to second-guess network executives when it comes to having opinions about whether they picked the right shows.   But it's not fair to second-guess the notion that networks picked the shows they thought would perform the best.  It's idiotic to second-guess the networks for promoting those shows prior to the fall season.

ABC might not have had high hopes for Defying Gravity, but it did promote it!

I know for a fact ABC promoted DG , and on air, on the network, because that's how I found out about that.  Typically I'm a big fan of shows set in space so I was "Oooh, what's that!?" and went to log-in to ABC's media site to see if a screener of the pilot was available.  I watched it.  I thought it was OK. Not amazing, but not horrible either.  I watched the second episode and it was losing steam for me.  About 20 minutes into the third episode, I was like, "eh, I think I'll play some Tiger Woods Golf instead.

All that means is that it wasn't for me. No big deal.  But at least in the first few weeks, even after the premiere, ABC did promote the show.

Defying Gravity's Ratings Stunk

Even with some promotion in the early going, DG's numbers stunk.  They weren't borderline.  They weren't merely mediocre. They were frakking awful.  They just plain sucked.  That's really unfortunate for the relative few fans of the show, but the relative few fans don't change the fact that the ratings absolutely stunk.

Even factoring in the live+7 DVR viewing numbers for the weeks where it is available, DG's season-to-date adults 18-49 rating is a 1.0.  That's horrible.

For the first two or three weeks ABC even tried to find nice things to say about it in its press releases anyway.  But it quickly got to the point of if there isn't anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

With limited air time available to promote things, why promote something you've already given up on?

I can't fault ABC for not promoting Defying Gravity after the first few weeks.  The results stunk and it was obvious the show wasn't going to perform at even modest levels.  Why invest further in it?   It's perfectly reasonable if ABC didn't promote something it had no hope for based on results.  Even when ABC promoted the show, the numbers stunk and were getting worse.

The bigger wonder to me on that score is that ABC kept it on the schedule, at least  through September 13, but don't be too surprised if that winds up changing.

 
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