PILOT First episode of a show Used to sell a show Often never air or are altered (ex. Dollhouse) Often have different casts (example Gossip Girl-Blair’s mother was played by a different actress) Characters may change drastically after pilot (ex. Kramer-Seinfeld)
Network Strategies The Lead-In Show The show at 8:00 which is ideally a highly rated show Brings large audiences to the network for the evening During commercial breaks-network promotes other shows for the evening Preference for spillover which eliminates commercials between shows Stunts—for instance in 1994, Must See TV-George Clooney and Noah Wyle from ER appeared on Friends---David Schwimmer’s voice was heard on ER
Lead-In Success Friends was the lead in for Must-See TV which bolstered the ratings of shows that followed it such as Scrubs and Will and Grace. American Idol is a powerhouse lead-in on Tuesday nights---contributed to the success of House.
Network Strategies HAMMOCKING Placing a new show between two highly rated programs. Example CBS placing the sitcom Rules of Engagement on Monday nights at 9:30 between the smash hits Two and a Half Men and CSI: Miami.
Network Strategies Counterprogramming Used when a time period is filled with a program whose appeal is different from the opponent program because it is a different from the opponent program because it is a different genre or appeals to a different demographic. For example—CBS counterprograms Fox’s American Idol with the hugely successful NCIS which targets an older demographic than American Idol. Thursday Nights—NBC counterprograms the dramas Grey’s Anatomy and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation with comedies The Office and 30 Rock.
The Implicit Rules of Television Uncertainty Guides Everything (Is there a true formula for guaranteed success?) Conformity to rules is rewarded Non-conformity is punished unless it’s a hit. (Example : LOST)
The Five Rules That Structure Prime-Time Television 1. Aesthetic Rules Market judgment always prevails over personal judgment. (Unprofessional behavior is when you use your personal feelings over marketing). Example---an executive who would green light a risky drama that they adore instead of a fourth installment to the CSI franchise which would more than likely be a guaranteed success.
The Five Rules That Structure Prime-Time Television 2. Pressure to Produce Short-Term Results A show has to be a ratings success immediately –the constant monitoring of the overnight ratings immediately---the constant monitoring of overnight ratings. The consequences result in the diminishing commitment to new series. Innovation is deemed to much of a risk. New shows—pay or play ½ season Pay or play (networks contractually guarantee they will air and pay for them.) Example Dirty Sexy Money, Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone—ABC was contractually obliged to air 13 episodes—after dismal fall ratings, the shows were aired in the summer on Saturday nights to fulfill contracted run.
The Five Rules That Structure Prime-Time Television 3. Reliance on Formulaic Genres Maximize audience and minimize risk. The utilization of talent associated with specific genres. Example-Norman Lear’s domination of sitcoms in the 70’s—All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, Good Times, etc. CBS—reliance on procedurals—CSI, NCIS, The Mentalist, NCIS franchise, Cold Case, Criminal Minds
The Five Rules That Structure Prime-Time Television 4. Duplicating Proven Successes Clones---Friends created many clones such as Coupling, The Class, and How I Met Your Mother Spin-off –taking an existing secondary character and creating a new show for them. Examples are Frasier (from Cheers), Angel (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and Joey (from Friends). Recombinant—which is combining successful elements from other shows into one new show. Example LOST= Gilligan’s Island meets The X-Files Miami Vice=MTV Cops
The Five Rules That Structure Prime-Time Television 5. Narrative Conventions The show features an individual hero/team who always triumphs after confronting an individual problem or an antagonist. The problem always has to be overcome. Example: Buffy has to confront a monster (literal and/or metaphorical) in each episode and has to defeat it. There is also a season long battle with a “big bad” which serves as an extension of the narrative convention. This is also the narrative of the commercial—”You are the hero, I have a product that will solve the problem”
Program and Commercial As in the conventional drama, the problem in a commercial has to be reduced to something solvable Individual action Program has to be comparable with commercial
RATINGS / STUNTS Sweeps February, May, July, November Determine popularity and advertising pricing Measured by Nielsen “Viewer diaries” and People meters People meters allow Nielsen to separate ratings by various demographic groups Flaws in system—DVR/times-shifting (overnight ratings effected especially), performance anxiety (people may be reluctant to reveal certain shows they watch in “diaries”), inadequate distribution of data pertaining to various ethnic groups.
NIELSEN MEASUREMENT RATINGS/SHARES As of September 1, 2008, there are an estimated 114.5 million television households in the United States. A single national ratings point represents one percent of the total number, or 1,145,000 households for the 2006-07 season. Share is the percentage of television sets in use tuned to the program. For example, Nielsen may report a show as receiving a 9.2/15 during its broadcast, meaning that on average 9.2 percent of all television-equipped households were tuned in to that program at any given moment, while 15 percent of households watching TV were tuned into that particular program during this timeslot. The difference between rating and share is that a rating reflects the percentage of the total population of televisions tuned to a particular program while share reflects the percentage of televisions actually in use.
Oppositional Ratings Discourse The multiplication of consumer options (cable, DVR, etc.) has led to a fragmentation of the television audience—which in turn had led to a perceived inadequacy of figures provided by current ratings service. Niche programming has contributed to the survival of ratings-challenged shows such as Dollhouse and 30 Rock. Media theorist IenAng states that the ratings system is a panapticon----a technology of power controlled through visibility. The ratings are used to limit our choices. Audiences are excluded from early decision-making. The process is centralized.
DEMOGRAPHICS Nielsen Media Research also provides statistics on specific demographics as advertising rates are influenced by such factors as : age gender race economic class area Younger viewers are considered more attractive for many products, whereas in some cases older and wealthier audiences are desired, or female audiences are desired over males. DINKS—Dual Income No Kids (Disposable Income)
Ratings Stunts Ratings stunts are conducted usually during sweeps period to bolster ratings and increase advertising revenue---major characters are placed in dire jeopardy or die, season finales, weddings, catastrophic events , beloved character s depart or return to show’s, major guest stars, deviation from conventional narrative of series.
Types of Stunts The Masquerade Stunt—series disregards conventional storyworld. BUFFY “Once More With Feeling” (musical episode), Roseanne (50’s sitcom episode)
Types of Stunts Production stunt—when an episode takes on cinematic conventions-a self-conscious stylistic mode gets adopted. Example: Smallville “Noir” was an episode that employed the cinematic convention of film noir.
Types of Stunts Docu-stunt Example ER live episode “Ambush” The migrating “cross genre” guest star stunt Example Tom Selleck on Friends Cross-series guest star stunt Example Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice
“Jump The Shark” To resurrect declining ratings—showrunners will make desperate and often bad attempts to lure viewers back. Phrase derives from an episode of Happy Days Often takes form of time-traveling (with the exception of the temporal shifts of the fifth season of LOST), new characters, actor exits, or musicals (with the exception of Buffy’s Once More With Feeling) Signifies the downfall of a series
“Jump the Shark” Examples Dallas-Pamela Ewing’s Dream Grey’s Anatomy –Meredith’s “death” CSI—William Petersen’s exit ER—George Clooney’s exit (season 5)-jump 1 Anthony Edward’s exit (season 8) -jump 2 Felicity--cuts her hair—the ratings declined even though the quality of the show remained intact) All in the Family –Mike and Gloria move to California Heroes -Hiro ‘s temporal shift to feudal Japan.
Viewing Presentation-Grey’s Anatomy “Some Kind Of Miracle” Season 3 Episode 17 Originally Aired February 22, 2007 Culmination of a Three-Part Sweeps Stunt revolving around a ferry crash. The stunt initially took the characters outside the confines of the storyworld (Seattle Grace) The stunt employed the cinematic convention of a big budget disaster film
Viewing Presentation-Grey’s Anatomy The promotions for the story arc revealed that a major character was going to die. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) is accidentally pushed into the water and “drowns.” In this episode, Meredith is in purgatory and is visited by dead characters from the past include series favorite Denny Duquette (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) In addition to employing various conventions of a ratings stunt—the episode also was considered to have made the series “jump the shark.” The audience felt cheated by the promised “death” and many felt that the writing of Meredith’s purgatory was subpar. The show experienced a steady ratings decline afterwards.