“1.2? 1.2?! REALLY?” No, not really. That 1.2 is the raw HouseHold number that doesn’t include our DVR performance. We used to receive this raw number early Monday and then wait around for the same-day DVR data to come in and bump that number up a couple of points. I thought it would be irresponsible of me to release the raw number because we have yet to factor in the 3-day DVR audience and didn’t want people flying off the handle. So to all concerned fans (and gleeful haters), that number will go up before week’s end. And THAT end-of-week number will be our official rating.
“But even if the show does a 1.4-1.5, that’s still a big drop from the 2.0’s you guys used to pull in!” True, but t.v. is changing in a big way. DVR penetration has reached 20% of households. The internet now offers viewers the convenience of watching their favorite shows on demand. With the proliferation of channels, t.v.-watchers have more choice than ever before and audiences are becoming more and more fragmented. These are all reasons not just Stargate, but SciFi, cable, and the networks have been bleeding audiences. It’s no coincidence that the inroads made by online entertainment options (ie. I-Tunes) and DVR/Tivo just happen to coincide with the drop in ratings across the board.
“So what does this mean for t.v.?” Well, what this means is that The Powers That Be are going to have to adjust the way they gather and weigh ratings . And they have started. For the first time, programs recorded and watched within 3 days of a show’s initial airing are being factored into the mix. It’s a first step but, clearly, only a baby one in the reconsideration of a dated approach to calculating ratings. Bottom line: they must find a way to calculate a ratings in a way that reflects today’s rapidly developing technologies and increasingly disperse audience.
“So what to do?“ In the words of one of my mother’s bellicose companions: “Get with the program, grandma!” The internet aint a fad. More and more people are going to make use of devices like digital video recorders because it allows them to watch what they want, when they want. Reconcile your expectations with the new reality. I’m reminded of an exchange way back in season 7 when we pulled in a 2.0, the show’s highest rating to date. Upon hearing the number, producer Michael Greenburg’s response was: “2.0? Geez, that‘s terrible!” And he would have been right – ten years earlier. Back when he was working on McGyver, ratings in the mid-20’s weren’t unheard of for a hit show. Today, a show is considered a huge success at half that number. Of course finding a solution is easier said than done because broadcasters recoup the licensing fees they pay for shows from advertisers – and advertisers are understandably reluctant to continue paying top dollar to reach an ever-dwindling audience. The beauty of personal recorders like Tivo (and any football fan who has had to sit through the commercials immediately following a score AND the ensuing kick-off will no doubt back me up here) is that it allows viewers to fast-forward through those annoying ads. Surprisingly, research has shown that about 50% of people who do record programming actually do sit through the commercials – but that’s still a 50% loss of eyeballs of the roughly 20% of viewers who prefer not to watch something live.
What to do? What to do? Well, maybe it’s time to consider more creative means of getting the message out there. Perhaps a lower screen scroll, akin to a sports ticker, could run through a broadcast trumpeting the merits of Mazda cars, Dentyne gum and an annual prostate examination. Maybe a company logo can subtly fade in and out a corner of the screen every few minutes or so, a ghostly reminder to eat at McDonalds, ship FedEx, and pay for it all with Mastercard. Or maybe product placement is the way to go. A new character joins the ever-growing Heroes roste – Orbitz, a sassy young girl with the power of flight and the ability to book you the lowest airline or hotel rate available. House cures Lupus through the healing powers of a cool, refreshing Coca-Cola. Don’t say no just yet. Think about it.
“So where does that leave Atlantis?” Good question. I know the anti-season-four-former-fans-of-the-show-with-nothing-better-to-do-but-gripe will claim that things like DVR, the internet, and the proliferation of channels are just excuses and that the real reason the ratings are down is because: 1) Character X is no longer on the show. 2) Character Y IS on the show. 3) We’re not doing enough wraith stories. 4) We’re doing too many wraith stories. 5) Teyla changed her hairstyle. 6) We repainted the set. 7) Whatever. – and they’re well within their rights to make said assumptions even though, in so doing, they demonstrate an almost inhuman amount of ignorance with regard to the reality of the situation. Throw in the fact that we were up against the season premiere of Numbers directed by Tony Scott and guest-starring Val Kilmer, and that we’ve lost our SG-1 lead-in…but I won’t even go there.
I’m still feeling very positive. To the fans of the show, I’d suggest you keep tuning in because a terrific fourth season of Atlantis awaits. To the non-fans and gripers who bemoan the new uniforms and Teyla’s different hairstyle, there is always the comforting world of fan fiction where Grodin never died, Ford is still a member of the team, and a magical little being named Grumblespire joins our heroes on their off-world adventures.
Today’s pics: A windblown BamBam, Post Coordinator Kerry McDowell complaining because I never post pictures of her on my blog, Alan sounds the alarm, David Nykl drops off my end-of-season gift (To be perfectly honest, I was expecting a kitten).
Today’s video: No video today but expect something very cool (er, blustery) tomorrow.