Friday, May 14, 2010

Dear ABC

Dear ABC,

Last night I was mad at you, to learn you had killed off "Better Off Ted" and "FlashForward." I know that it was expected for "Better Off Ted," but "FlashForward" was disappointing to learn about.

But you know what? There's precedence. "It's, Like, You Know," "Pushing Daisies," and "Eli Stone." And there was that weird mystery serial with that tax guy named Jim. And I know there were plenty of others that I don't remember, or that were promoted so poorly I never had a chance to check them out. Ok, that tax guy one turned out to be too quirky for me and I guess it was like some big Taco Bell ad or something, but here's my point.

You take risks, you bring us quirky and interesting ideas.

But then you can't stand by them. You don't promote them, you let them die.

But you're a business right? If the story always ends the same for the quirky shows: Critically-acclaimed, but couldn't find its audience... Started out strong but audiences left in droves... Too confusing... Viewer campaigns were too little too late.... Great buzz but just couldn't pull it off... Viewers couldn't keep track as it jumped around the schedule looking for a home...

That maybe, just maybe you shouldn't be trying for quirky and unique. Maybe you should serve us up the same gray globs all the other networks have to offer. That way, you don't have to work so hard to differentiate, you don't have to work so hard to promote and we don't have to think so hard when we watch. We can just sit back, slack-jawed. On the comedy side, this has worked well for CBS with "Yes, Dear," "Two and a Half Men," "King of Queens," and "Becker" (two of which I watched, two of which I did not) on CBS and the "Law and Orders" on NBC for years.

If the quirky and unique shows can't find big enough audiences and those numbers aren't ones you're prepared to live with,then in the end, this may just be your own fault. If you're going to go out of the ordinary, you need to be prepared to live with out of the ordinary numbers.

Now, granted, this may mean that you might have deprived the world of LOST, but in the end, maybe you got lucky.

So, in closing, if you are going to continue to do quirky, then you need to do a better job of promoting the show, supporting and engaging the audience, so that even if they're small, you make sure they're vocal - telling their friends, telling the advertisers, telling the media, telling you that a show's worth keeping in ways that make financial sense to you and your advertisers. This might mean a smarter social media strategy or it might mean more tangible products (Veridian Dynamics coffee mug? Appears to be plenty out there, none appear to be official.) sooner and more heavily promoted.

P.S. Stop fighting over Thursday. There are lots of other dead nights. If Thursday is the night to promote movies, maybe you can work with Netflix to turn another night into promoting new DVD releases, or with Apple to turn Monday nights into nusic release nights or something so you can build in some big recurring advertising.
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