Posted by spark
If you are anything like me (a televised entertainment consumer with a basic awareness of current events), you know that NBC recently pulled Community from it’s mid-season line up, effective mid-January 2012.
First of all: DON’T PANIC. They did a similar thing to Parks and Recreation last year, and that show came back just a strong if not stronger. Personally I have no reason to believe the same thing won’t happen to Community as well.
Second of all: If, for some reason, Community ends up getting the axe, you know it’s not the first and it is not going to be the last. In fact, I predict more and more shows of the weird-funny-smart variety are going to be canceled over the next year or two. I know, I know, old news. But do you know why?
It’s not that these shows aren’t being watched. They probably are. The problem is the ratings systems can’t be bothered to keep pace with new technology.
According to the article “Why Nielsen Ratings are Inaccurate and Why They’ll Stay That Way” by John Herman (full article here), Nielsen ratings don’t track viewers via the Internet the way they should. Really, they don’t seem to track anything the way they should. Ratings are based not on how many people watch the show, but how many people see the commercials that air with the show. The more people watching the commercials, the more money the network can get from advertisers and the more likely they are to produce more episodes. Logical, but nauseating, especially given Herman’s insight that, “if every Nielsen family watched a show the day after it aired but skipped through all it’s ads, the show would probably be canceled.”
Because the Internet doesn’t air the same commercials with the same shows in the same way, the ratings system for an episode broadcast on television doesn’t directly translate to the Web. The article says that Nielsen tracks some Internet viewing, but implied that the weight granted to the Internet-viewing audience is not as great as the television-viewing audience. The article makes special mention of this being a particular pitfall for comedies…like Community.
These days, people are really busy and fairly frugal. We want our entertainment when we want it and we want it for cheap or, if possible, free. We can’t expect to be at home at X time to watch X show, and if we have no way of recording it, then we don’t watch it. Not on television anyway. Given these circumstances, online viewing is really the only solution we have: it’s convenient, almost always available and very affordable. It’s shocking to me that networks and advertisers wouldn’t be more interested in reaching (and yes, selling to) another large viewing market, and one that is only going to get bigger as time goes on and cable prices spiral out of control. But if everyone’s getting paid and the only people who suffer are the viewers, what’s the difference?
Until the Internet audience is taken seriously, more shows are going to be unduly canceled. It’s important that you see this not just as the machinations of a greedy network that can’t identify good programming outside of how many IPhones a show can sell, but as the sign of a broken system that needs to change so it works for you instead of against you.
In the meantime, if you want to try and do something for Community now, join the Save Greendale group (Facebook) and/or the #SaveGreendale (Twitter). They will be airing new episodes for a new more weeks yet, so if you do watch it on television or DVR, for the love of God, DON’T SKIP THE COMMERCIALS!!