Perspective is Everything

Returning to the topic at hand…I hadn’t planned to do another post on ratings, mostly because at the moment, I think people fall into three categories: Those who do know how they work and what they mean, those who think they do, and those who are clueless but interested, particularly where their favorite shows are concerned.  For the most part, I don’t see anyone in the second group budging, and since I’m in the third group, I’m obviously not the best resource for information.

But I don’t see anything wrong in sharing observations I’m making – what people do with them is totally up to them.

I said in my earlier post on ratings that the numbers are objective (in that a 2.5 is higher than a 2.0) but that their meaning is not. I’m sticking with that, because it’s consistent with what I’ve been seeing for years.

Here’s what I mean: fans, at least some of them, want the numbers to be absolutes, because they want them to be guarantees: a 3.0 in the demo means their show will never be canceled; a .9 means it definitely will, so they need to start looking for someone to blame (the network, the writers, the actors.)  They also want them to be objective in another sense: that a 2.0 on one night of the week has the exact same meaning as a 2.0 on another night of the week.

But in my (admittedly limited) experience, none of those things is necessarily true.  A hit show doing well in the ratings can still be canceled if it becomes too expensive for the network – and I suspect that most of the costs associated with making a show are unseen by fans. (Do you know the exact number of people working on the crew on your favorite show? How much each of them makes? What it costs to insure the production? To pay for any special effects – some of which may not be apparent as SFX? To pay for any music associated with the show, including licensing rights?)

Everyone has an opinion about what the ratings mean – journalists, fans, the network, the studio, the writers, the actors – and they often seem to vary greatly. In my earlier post, I noted times when even journalists have seemed to take very different stances on what some ratings results mean. I thought of that this week, when last Monday’s Almost Human ratings hit on Tuesday morning.

TVLine led with “Almost Human and Sleepy Hollow slip” while’s take was that “Almost Human Finds Its Feet.

The ratings remain the same, but the interpretations vary. TVLine is focused on the difference between the number of people who watched the week before and those who watched this week, while Deadline is emphasizing that the show hung onto their entire audience for the hour – no one got bored and wandered off to see what was happening over on one of the other networks.

Fans (or non-fans, as the case may be) do the same thing: those who want the show to fail are focused on the drop in viewers; those who want it to succeed are similarly focused on the ‘held onto the entire audience’ interpretation.

Me? I’m not jumping to conclusions either way. Why? Because the big picture matters here, and I don’t know what that is. I don’t know how much it’s costing Fox to broadcast it, I don’t know how much they’re making on it, and I don’t know what the DVR numbers will show, or how much they matter to Fox. It also sometimes take a while for a show to settle into its audience, and AH has only aired three episodes.

(Case in point: I finally watched the pilot for Sleepy Hollow last Sunday, and then followed that with the next three episodes over the following three days. Will I continue with it? I don’t know, but it illustrates, I think, that a show can and often does grow an audience outside its first few episodes.)

All of this is just confirming what I said in my previous post on ratings: everyone has a different take on what the numbers mean, but often those interpretations are either colored by an agenda (i.e., people who want a show to succeed/fail) or by a lack of information about the big picture. Context matters, in other words,

Fox’s interpretation seems to line up with Deadline:

@GaudeP #AlmostHuman drew in 6.6 mil viewers, a decline from last week, but held 100% of its audience through the hour

(GaudeP being the Twitter handle for one of the Fox VP’s, who, as her profile notes, is not speaking in an official capacity here. Still, it’s a viewpoint.)

And Bones? Well, on that front this week, we got this:


(Ratings chart from TVByTheNumbers)

I’m sorry, but I have to gloat a little bit here, that the show some fans (using that term rather loosely) were sure would fail on Friday instead won its time slot.

We would never have seen that on Monday.  I love my show, but a genre-bending procedural is never going to have the widespread appeal of a talent show.

And when the +3 ratings came out, they were 2.2, leading @maskedscheduler (aka Fox exec Preston Beckman ) to say this:

“Good news #BONES fans. last Fridays episode up to a 2.2 rating in the Live +3 ratings. Comparable to GLEE. Thanx for the support.”

So what’s better, from Fox’s perspective? Taking some of the audience away from The Voice and HIMYM on Monday night, or winning the time slot on Friday, even with fewer viewers?

I suspect the latter.

As I noted in that earlier post, the cast and crew’s perspective may not completely equal the network’s in this respect, because they understandably want as many people as possible to see the show they put so much work into, regardless of percentages and demographics.

But pride can be for different things, and I think they are – also understandably – proud of a show that’s generated such a loyal audience that no matter where it gets planted on the schedule, the audience finds it.  (I wonder – has any other show been moved around as much as Bones and done as well? The show has now aired on every night from Monday through Friday.)

Meanwhile, one of the comments I saw on an entertainment blog this week was from someone who said they caught the show for the first time last Friday night, and enjoyed it very much.  Could that be? Could a show in its ninth season still be picking up new viewers? Apparently.

I don’t know whether that’s something that factored into Fox’s perspective or not, but for Hart and the others, it made me ridiculously happy to see.

So perspective varies, but from where I’m sitting, the move to Friday was a win for my show. But then, I’ll be following it wherever it goes.



One thought on “Perspective is Everything

  1. I honestly don’t know what it means in the grand scheme of things, but I can’t think that AH shedding so much of the audience that watched the premiere in only three episodes is what Fox was hoping for. Does that mean the show is doomed? I don’t think so. I think they’ll give the show some time to find its audience and it might grow during the season. Monday night is a brutal timeslot and I don’t see the show doing any worse than Bones was. As long as it doesn’t become too expensive, whatever that means for that particular show, the show will probably make it because while so far the ratings are unimpressive, they’re also not the worst for the network.

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