An example of a vicious circle

  1. Network airs a show. “New! Catch it!”
  2. Some viewers watch, but not a lot.
  3. Network doesn’t really give the show a chance to build an audience, and cancels the show.
  4. Viewers complain a bit, but show remains canceled. “But you never resolved the story!”
  5. Network airs a new show.
  6. Remembering the network is prone to canceling shows, viewers don’t watch (perhaps saving them up on their DVRs unwatched). “Why should I watch this? The network’s just going to cancel it before they reveal anything.”
  7. Repeat ad infinitum at step 3.

New shows these days have very little chance. (I’d follow up with some actual data, but no time.) My sense is that networks are far more prone now to cancel a show if the early ratings aren’t ginormous — but I think that has some unanticipated consequences.

My father always used to point out that a good show is not really much more expensive than a bad show. Quality remains elusive for most new shows, and good ratings even more elusive.

For this season: I liked “Journeyman,” and have been following “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” but I don’t think anyone can argue there’s a hit this year on the order of “Lost” or “Desperate Housewives” or “Heroes.”

10 Responses to “An example of a vicious circle”

  1. slacy Says:

    I figured you’d mention quarterlife. I missed the network premiere, did you catch it? Too bad its already canceled.

    I think its really funny when I hear reports like “Show X was canceled because only 6.8 million people watched it, and the network was expecting more”. Do shows today have to appeal to the lowest-common-denominator so much? Is there no room for a niche market hit?

    Oh, and by the way, I still find it hysterical that they prefer to cancel “bad” shows rather than just move them to off-prime times. If its not popular, then move it to some time where DVR users can still record it. I guess they’re still stuck in their “live TV + Neilsen + Ad money” ways.

  2. Kevin Fox Says:

    I refer to this as “The circle of Joss.”

  3. Barbara Says:

    I like Journeyman too.

  4. Kimberly Says:

    That Quarterlife show that was on Tuesday? I’d never heard of it until Wednesday when I watched a show that was Tivo’d on Monday. It was a little late, and I’ve heard dismal news about the show’s future.

  5. Stephen Says:

    I think TiVo Inc. could do more to promote new shows (like we used to oh so long ago with TiVo Takes), that would certainly help with the scenario Kimberly describes.

    Joss should just stop working with Fox.

    Slacy — I would have mentioned Quarterlife, but (like Kimberly) I never heard about it…

    The math of broadcast TV (as it exists today) does require the lowest-common-denominator appeal. A typical show is more than $1 million to produce, then double that to promote and distribute and account for. Advertising revenue is only going to cover those costs if a sizable audience watches.

    A great example of a strange decision is last summer’s “Pirate Master” reality TV show. This was another Mark Burnett creation. Its ratings were not terrible for summer, but the network (CBS) decided to cancel the run mid-season, move it to instead, and then show reruns of an even-lower-rated show in its place. Huh?

  6. Lacy Tree Says:

    I know one of my favorite shows in on the verge of being cancelled. The network gives it no promotion and wonders why people aren’t watching it.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    bye bye “Pushing Daisies”? “Chuck”? “Reaper”? *sniff

    But of course Lost is on it’s last season. Battlestar Galactica, too. *sniff *sniff

    Thank goodness I’m having a baby because there won’t be any more good new TV to watch anyway. I’m hoping they can keep Dr. Who and Torchwood going just a LITTLE longer.

  8. Scrappy Says:

    BTW – that previous comment was me… sorry! =)

  9. Stephen Says:

    Lost’s last season is next season…

  10. Lacy Tree Says:

    Not to worry “Pushing Daisies” and “Chuck” are going to be back next season…at least according to Kristin at E!

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