Dear Network Executive: A Letter Regarding Cancelled Shows and Outdated Ratings Systems

firefly whedon

Dear Network Executives,

Nicki here, sorta blowing off steam today regarding some cancelled shows. As I�m writing this, Heroes premiered yesterday on NBC. As it happens, Sarah Connor Chronicles is on Fox at the same time. Hmm� what a conundrum�. that would have been, many, many years ago. But today�s viewers are extremely savvy, and yet quality shows like the 4400 have been given the axe due to an outdated ratings system.

I own a DVR so as far as having to choose between one show or another, that�s a no brainer, I�ll record one and then watch the other. Or, I�ll download it from iTunes or watch it streaming on my computer. Maybe I�ll wait and rent the series instead.

I�m a huge Dexter fan, but I don�t have HBO, so I just watch the DVD�s. Does that mean that my viewership doesn�t count? The fact is, even if I�m only faced with one show on TV that I really want to watch, I so rarely watch it right from the beginning. Instead, I�ll let it start halfway through, so I can fast forward through the commercials.

To be honest, my time is valuable, and sitting through commercials is, for me, a waste of my time. And while we�re on the subject of not wishing to waste my time, the fact also remains that I don�t like to get into a show, and then see that the studio cancelled the show just several episodes down the line.

I suppose I�m still smarting from Firefly, another cancelled show. So most of the series I watch have been ones that I got into after the first few episodes have aired. Maybe I decided that since they�d lasted a few episodes, hopefully it wouldn't join the graveyard of cancelled shows, or maybe somebody whose opinion I know and respect gets me to watch the show. Lost and Pushing Daisies are two such shows I�m thinking of. In both cases, I ended up getting caught up with them at a later date.

The point is networks need to realize that audiences get their television from all kinds of different outlets, so why choose an outdated rating system to decide whether or not a show is a success? What�s worse, these decisions are made so quickly, a new series rarely has a chance to blossom before it gets turned into yet another cancelled show even though the series was still finding its way.


Not all series, of course. If you�re a Star Trek or a J.J. Abrams series, you might have a little more pulling power, which is the case of Star Trek TNG, thank the universe, because those early Next Gen episodes were not that great. They were still figuring out what the show was about, and that�s to be expected from any series.

I realize that with a new series, you have very little to go on, as to whether or not it�ll be a success. I understand that the networks are out to make money and, hey, how about we don�t worry about doing a 22-24 episode first season, and just concentrate on a shorter season? The network gets to try out more new shows that way, while the shows get to tell a story beginning to end, and once it�s aired they can do a better analysis of how well it�s done.

How so? Well, the internet is obviously a big one. Gauge the buzz from the fans. If you�re seeing multiple fan sites pop up, you might think twice about cancelling a show. Analyze DVD sales and rentals, downloads, all of those things that viewers today utilize to watch a show, because as proven by the writers strike, online media is not about to go away.

And please, please do not cancel a show that you have received giant mail bags full of peanuts, or sunflower seeds from, that just makes no sense. These fans have worked hard to bring attention to a particular show. If those fans are willing to spend that kind of money on sunflower seeds, then you can be sure that they are willing to put bums on seats to watch the show, and buy the DVD�s. Like my suggestion for new shows, maybe a shortened season is the answer, or better yet- you could utilize all this new media, and put episodes on the internet for download on iTunes. You know you�ll have a following, so how about it? After all, it seems to be working for Doctor Horrible!


A Frustrated Viewer

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