Random Thoughts – Randosity!

A call to boycott ABC’s V series

Posted in computers, entertainment, itunes, science fiction, streaming media, TV Shows by commorancy on January 20, 2011

[Update: V has been cancelled as of May 13th.  Bye ‘V’.].

I have personally decided to boycott watching the new V series. No, not because the series isn’t good. It’s a reasonably good series, so far. No, it’s also not for any creative or story reasons you might think. The reason I have decided to boycott the V series is that whomever owns the rights or produces this series has decided to no longer allow streaming of new episodes in any form or on any Internet site, like Hulu or iTunes.

No more V on Hulu?

It’s not just Hulu that’s cut out of streaming for this show. It’s all streaming sites including ABC’s very own ABC.com site. You would think that since ABC owns the broadcast rights to the series and, in fact, are the ones who make the very decision whether V lives or dies as a series, that ABC would have the rights to stream this program online. No, apparently they do not. Very odd. It’s also not available on iTunes or Amazon either.

It almost seems like the producers are biting the hand that feeds them (in more ways than just one). Seriously, not even allowing ABC.com to stream episodes of V on their own site? This seems like the kiss of death for this series.

Rationale behind this decision

I have no inside scoop here, so I really have no idea what the producers were thinking. But, I can only guess that the reasoning is to force viewers to watch the show live on ABC (the TV channel) and only on the TV channel for its first run. So, on the one hand, this seems like a ratings bonanza. On the other hand, let’s explore the downside of this decision.

Viewer Demographics

Because V is very much a long continuous story arc format, if you miss even two episodes, you’re hopelessly lost. V isn’t a one-off monster-of-the-week series where you can watch an episode now and then. No, it is a long deep story arc that needs to be watched one episode at a time in order.

On top of the long story arc format, it is a science fiction program involving heavy uses of technology and intrigue. This genre choice automatically limits the types of viewers. So, the types of viewers that V tends to draw in are those who tend to be younger, tech savvy, internet knowledgeable types. Basically, the kind of viewers who tend to watch things on Hulu and download content from iTunes.

Producer miscalculation

So, on the one hand, the appearance is that this decision should allow the program to get higher ratings by forcing people to watch it live. On the other hand, Hulu and iTunes (and others) no longer have the rights to carry the back catalog of episodes to allow people to catch up.  If viewers can’t catch up, they’ll not watch it live either. If you get lost, there is no reason to watch as you can’t understand what’s going on anyway.  So, turn the channel and watch something else.

By alienating the exact demographic who tends to watch programs on Hulu combined with the lack of back catalog of episodes on Hulu for people to catch up with missed episodes, my guess is that this decision will seriously backfire on the producers. The ratings will, instead, drop and drop precipitously as the season progresses. In fact, I’d venture to guess that this decision may, in fact, be the sole reason for the death of this series. It’s clear that ABC won’t keep V on the air without viewers.  We know that.  But, you can’t keep viewers watching V by trying to appeal to the wrong demographic or by pissing on the fan base.

The streaming and Internet genie is out of the bottle.  You can’t go back to a time before the Internet and Hulu existed.  The producers seriously need to understand this. It’s unfortunate that the producers chose V for this experiment.  So far, V appears to be a good series and is probably worth watching. But, the producers also need to realize that removing choices of where and how this program can be viewed is not the answer. You need more viewers, not less.

Underground distribution

Of course, that just means that people will create xvids or mp4s of the show and distribute them via torrents.   So, instead of seeing legitimate views on legitimate sites with legitimate ad revenue, the whole thing now gets pushed underground where there is no ad revenue and views don’t help the show or the producers at all.  Not smart.  Not smart at all.

What is the answer?

The answer lies with Neilsen Ratings. In a time where streaming and instant (day after) releases are nearly common place, Neilsen still has no strategy to cover this media with ratings. TV ratings are still and only counted by live views. This company is seriously antiquated. It still solely relies on active Neilsen households watching programs live. Hulu views, DVR views and iTunes downloads do not count towards viewership or ratings. Yet, these ‘day after’ views can be just as relevant (or even more) today than live views. Today, counting only live views is fundamentally wrong.

Change needs to come with the ratings companies, not by producers trying to force the 70s viewing style in 2011. Neilsen needs to count all views of a program no matter where they are or when they are. The ratings game needs to change and must change to accommodate the future of TV. As TVs become Internet connected, this change will become even more important. Eventually, TV programming will be seamlessly delivered over the Internet. In fact, there will come a time when you ‘tune in’ and you won’t even know if it’s streamed or over the air.  In fact, why should you care?  A view is a view whether live or a month later.

Understanding Neilsen’s antiquated system

Of course, once you understand Neilsen’s outdated model, you can also understand why Neilsen is not counting any ratings other than live TV.  Why is that?  Because counting any other medium than live TV threatens the very existence of Neilsen’s service. Once broadcasters realize they can gather these numbers through Hulu, Roku, Slingbox, Netflix and other DVR and on-demand technologies directly, there is no need for Neilsen.  That is, once we’ve moved to streaming TV 100% it’s easy to get accurate counts.  Neilsen’s service was born out of the need to track viewers in a time when the Internet did not exist.  With the Internet, it’s much easier to track viewer activity and data in real time.  It’s also easy to get this information right from the places that have rights to stream.  So, with these real-time reporting methodologies, Neilsen really is no longer necessary.

Neilsen has always used an extrapolation methodology for its ratings statistics, anyway.  That is, only a tiny subset of homes throughout the country are Neilsen households.  So, when these Neilsen households watch, these small numbers are extrapolated to the larger population, even though there is really no way to know what non-Neilsen households are watching.  So, Neilsen’s ratings systems are actually very inaccurate.  Counting the numbers of views from Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, Roku, Slingbox, Netflix and other streaming sites and technologies are exact and spot-on accurate.  In fact, these numbers are so exact, they can even be traced back to specific hardware devices and specific households, something Neilsen’s rating systems have never been capable of doing.  This is why Neilsen is scared to count online views.  This is why Neilsen is no longer needed.

Goodbye V

It was nice knowing ya. My instincts all say that the fan backlash from this decision will be swift and final. If this series manages to make it to the end of the 2011 spring season without cancellation, I’ll be amazed. However, if ABC cancels this show before June, that won’t surprise me. So, unless the producers make an about-face really fast with regards to this no-streaming experiment, this series is likely already cancelled… it just doesn’t yet know it. I’d also urge anyone reading (and especially Neilsen households) to boycott the new V series and send a message to the producers that not offering streaming options is not acceptable and that your program is dead without them. I can tell you that I won’t watch this series again until streaming options become available. This is not really a problem for me as there are plenty of other TV shows available. The problem here is for the cast and crew. These people are dedicating their time, effort and livelihoods to putting this series together only to be screwed over by the producers. Such is life in Hollywood, I guess.

15 Responses

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  1. leynatanva said, on March 2, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    It’s for just this reason that I started using torrent sites a few years ago. And frankly, with the availability of premium content (for which I was never willing nor ever will be to shell out anyway), bbc shows being available un-cut and before they air on bbc america and just the sheer convenience of having all my video content in one place and easily ported I’m not going back to live.

    All that said, I’d be happy to support a show’s continued existence and put up with adverts for the network’s or producer’s concession to make shows available online. So I’ll watch V untill it’s inevitable cancellation via torrent, but their advertisers won’t have my eyeballs, not that many ever get my dollars anyway.

    (I had no idea they were still using Neilson as their only source of ratings “information”. I imagine real time data scares the networks as much as Nielson)

  2. Rick said, on February 23, 2011 at 1:15 am

    I completely agree. I missed one episode, went to the ABC website and read the pathetic “summary” (which really does no good whatsoever), so will not watch any more episodes as there is no good way to catch up on what I missed.

    So long, ABC. So long, V. Instead, I guess I’ll watch “NCIS: Los Angeles” on NBC (on at the same time as V), because I can watch that on demand if I happen to miss it.

  3. Elle said, on February 4, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    I AGREE TO BOYCOTT V, AND, I AGREE WITH ALL OF YOUR REASONINGS.
    ADDITIONALLY, I BELIEVE ONE MORE REASON ABC IS HOLDING IT FROM LEGITIMATE IS TO MAKE PEOPLE SEARCH FOR IT, WHILE THEY PUT THE SERIES IN 3D/HD DVD’S FOR BIGGER REVENUES.

    LAST, ABC, THEMSELVES FIRST POSTED “WATCH LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE HERE” ON THEIR ABC FRONT PAGE, 1ST SCREEN SHOT, LEFT THE MESSAGE THERE FOR 8-10 HOURS ; WHILE VIEWERS CLICKED & SEARCHED THROUGH DIFFERENT URL’S & REFRESHING..THEN REMOVED IT ALL TOGETHER WITHOUT NOTICE NOR APOLOGY.

    • commorancy said, on February 5, 2011 at 10:00 am

      Hi Elle.

      Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, waiting for DVD sales is way too late in the equation for a TV series. That is, by the time DVD sales can be tallied, the show could already be cancelled. So, a series currently continues or gets cancelled based on live TV viewership, not by offline sales (like DVDs) or via sites like Hulu. I understand the idea that they may make some money back from the sales of a DVD set, but again, it’s just too late to save a series. That is, at least the way the ratings system works now.

      TV networks need to smarten up and realize that gathering real-time viewer statistics is far easier than ever (and will get easier the more people watch on the internet). The Internet will be the death of the Neilsen business model, but change always signifies the end of some things and the beginnings of others. So, the seeds are already sewn for Neilsen’s demise. As a network, why prop up such an antiquated system when they could have real statistics right from places that matter? The ratings share idea won’t change, it’s just that the numbers will be shifted from extrapolated data to real one-to-one viewer relationships. This means that it’ll be far easier to networks to directly target relevant advertising to extremely granular demographics than just showing random ads targeted towards perceived demographics. Seriously, why would you settle for a Volkswagen when you can own a Lamborghini? Neilsen = Volkswagen, Real-time ratings shares = Lamborghini!

      Thanks for your comment.

  4. Duane Lofton said, on February 3, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    A very wonderful and educating article. It was not rude or mean spirited just honest and smart consumer talk. I have always hated the nielson numbers and I believe we would still have quite a few good shows working today if the nielson numbers were not used. I believe heros is another that should have been left to one more season to finish out the season. ABC is starting to go CBS. CBS will not show hardly any shows online. You know everything comes down to the $$$. I am also one who cannot always watch the show as I am on a HD antennae and it only works on ABC about 65% of the time. I WAS using the net to watch any shows on ABC I could not watch via our HD antennae. And as you said I am another faithful who will not be able to keep up and will stop watching as I will get too far behind and will not be interested. Thumbs Down to ABC and CBS.

  5. Jack Regula said, on February 1, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Due to the fact that I get up for work at 5:00 AM, I miss most prime time shows. I did get hooked on V series 1, watching it on abc.com and was looking forward to doing the same for series 2. The folks who made the stupid decision to kill streaming the shows after the initial showing should lose their jobs. I watch only a few TV shows during the week and if this practice becomes more prevalent in the future, I think I’ll just sit down and read a good book.

    • commorancy said, on June 10, 2011 at 6:39 am

      Hi Jack,

      You just got your wish.. well, at least, your wish came true on May 13, 2011. That’s when ABC officially canceled V and those who made the ‘no streaming’ decision lost their jobs (along with the cast and crew). Oh well, another series bites the dust.. but as they say, out of the ashes…

  6. Cariyan Aduvhan said, on January 28, 2011 at 3:47 am

    ABC SUCKS!!! They won’t even allow cable to have the shows on demand.

    • commorancy said, on January 28, 2011 at 9:42 am

      While ABC may have had a hand in this, I personally believe it’s Warner Brothers and the producers most at work here. So, if there’s anyone to blame, it’s Warner Brothers and the producers. Whoever is at fault in this decision, though, must really want V cancelled because I can see no other outcome.

      So basically, V is so dead at this point. Without a way to catch up on missed episodes, the viewership will decline to an all-time-low by March. In fact, I fully expect to hear that ABC has cancelled this series by February or March. Oh well, so much for what could have been.

      • Robert Angel Davis said, on February 18, 2012 at 4:18 am

        It is not the producers creators or directors or even time warners fault they are ready to go for season 3 the responsibility lies only with the lack of imagination of the ABC execs thankfully it is now in production again season 3 was picked up by the CW network as well as TNT

        • commorancy said, on February 18, 2012 at 8:22 am

          It could have been ABC, but I kind of doubt it. Someone in the chain of the V program decided they didn’t want it streaming on the web. Basically, after that, the viewership dropped to an all-time low for this show at the end of April. By this point, there was no saving it. Perhaps ABC was trying to cancel the show and the only way knew to do this is to take it off of web streaming entirely. These types of shows are expensive and ABC may just not have wanted to fund it any longer. Whatever the reason, the new networks need to allow it to be streamed again. The problem, though, is lost viewership. They’ve burned their bridge and they may find it hard to recoup the lost viewers. So, they’re definitely going to have to pull out all of the stops to not only bring former viewers back, but they also need to gain some new audience as well. However, without a Season 3 to watch on Hulu or Netflix, it may be difficult to pick up right where they left it.

          We also still need to see Season 2 on Hulu so we can even begin to understand Season 3. It’s a catch 22 that, while it may have been picked up, has significant hurdles to overcome from the bad ‘no-streaming’ decision that was made in Season 2.

  7. Jim Hale said, on January 22, 2011 at 5:59 am

    RE the Nielsen ratings:

    Any advertiser who spends money based on Nielsen is just plain dumb. Other than sports, I maybe watch live TV about 2 hours a month.

    My computer’s on 18 hours a day. I watch a dozen hours of dramas a week….when I’m ready…and often while I am somewhat focused on doing something else on the other side of my large monitor.

    I know many people who do the same.

    Nielsen is a cart without a horse. Madison Avenue may as well be outsourced to India.

    After all, I understand you can watch V on-line in other countries.

    Maybe Anna is mad at somebody in the White House.

    • commorancy said, on January 23, 2011 at 5:57 am

      I agree that Neilsen’s system is way outdated. Advertisers and networks have long held to the Neilsen ratings system as the end-all-be-all. The trouble is, it’s so inaccurate, it’s not even funny. So, tying advertiser dollars to this extremely old and outdated system is extremely stupid. Yet, millions of dollars pass through the system every day based entirely on Neilsen’s ratings. You would think that advertisers would pause and realize just how insane it is to hand over that amount of money based on a system that is completely inaccurate.

  8. Jim Hale said, on January 22, 2011 at 5:48 am

    ABC has made serious mistake.

    I have been looking forward to season two for months. But, due to work and other commitments, I cannot watch on Tuesday nights. I watched every episode of season one on-line. Indeed, I watch almost all my television on-line.

    I am a fan of this show and genre. I refuse to watch these episodes out of order. I am not alone. The more fanatical you are the more upset this makes you.

    Every week I’ve checked to see if ABC has repented of this error. But with this comment, I am done with that.

    I will not buy a season-end DVD.

    • commorancy said, on January 22, 2011 at 6:32 am

      I’d like to point out that it isn’t ABC that’s at fault here that I can see. This issue appears to be either a Warner Bros. decision or one of the producers and/or stakeholders in the show. Even ABC.com can’t stream the show on its own streaming site.

      Although, ABC could hold the producers ransom by telling them that they will cancel the show if they don’t enable streaming. I think the producers and WB would comply really fast.

      Whomever is the cause of this, one thing is certain. This series is so dead. If it makes it to a third season, I’ll be highly surprised. By that time, I won’t even care. I have no intention of buying V and don’t plan on watching it until someone wakes up and realizes their stupid mistake. Oh well, some people need to be not only learn from their mistakes, but they need to be beaten over the head with them.


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