Last week in New York City, Presidents from each of the five major Networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and the CW) held court at the annual Upfronts. The purpose: To convince advertisers and media buyers that television remains the most effective way in which to promote their products and communicate their message to a mass audience.
This week, your very own TV Addict is here to convince the proverbial powers that be that if they’re really serious about ensuring companies continue to generously open up their wallet, the time has come to kiss Nielsen overnight ratings goodbye.
What was once a way to tout their medium’s dominance (See: Former NBC president Warren Littlefield’s just release recount of NBC’s heyday titled “Top of the Rock” that claims that “a staggering 75 million viewers tuned into the Network’s must see TV lineup on any given Thursday”), is now the Network’s number one achilles’ heel. What’s more, aside from being downright depressing (See: Last week’s dog and pony show that saw Presidents attempt to convince advertisers that shows barely managing to straddle the 2 million mark in the coveted 18-49 demographic should be considered a hit), it’s not entirely accurate.
Simply put, Networks need an Extreme Makeover: Publicity Edition. Rather than inexplicably continue to allow Nielsen to release data that does little more than reinforce the popular belief that the industry’s traditional business model is on its last legs, Networks must start taking control of the message and more importantly reclaiming their dignity. They must stop allowing the public to be left with the impression that a mere 5-7 million people tuned into, as an example, last night’s season finale of GLEE, when in reality 15-17 million people might have tuned in when one aggregates the number of legal and monetized methods for viewing, including but not limited to a Network’s official web site stream, Tablet Apps, Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, among a growing number of others. After-all, studies have shows that more people are watching television than ever, just on fewer actual televisions.
And while there are those that might argue that transparency is an integral part of this business we affectionally refer to as show, we would counter with the undeniable fact that the movie industry has been doing it for years. Hollywood heavyweights don’t seem to have a problem bragging about their big-budget summer action movie opening at 100 million dollars while quietly neglecting to mention that the very same popcorn flick cost 250 million to make and another 75 to market. Why should traditional broadcast television not start painting their product in the best possible light?
In short, it’s simple Social Network economics, you know what’s cooler than 5 million viewers? 15 million viewers.