People are speculating that DVD’s will change the way TV shows are made. Already, DVD sales are being considered in renewal negotiations. I think we’re still a ways off from anything really extraordinary – like episodic series being released straight to DVD and bypassing TV entirely – but anything’s possible at this point.
But what about the internet? That tiny fraction of viewers who were discussing shows and writing fan fiction online a few years ago is growing steadily. Even if we’re still too small a minority to take seriously, will that be the case five years from now?
From the beginning TV programmers, advertisers and producers have relied almost exclusively on ratings to determine whether to air a show, when to cancel it, what time slot to put it in, and how much to charge for what type of ads on it. The Neilssen ratings in the US – the only ones I’ve studied – aren’t really that indicative of what people want to see, and they certainly don’t explain why people do and don’t want to see stuff, and industry folks know that. They just don’t have a better system in place. (And, as you know if you’ve heard me rant about it before, I suspect a lot of people make their living by skewing the ratings to suit their own agendae – a power they won’t be thrilled to give up.)
I wonder if advertisers are already going to forums to get an idea about what type of audience a show has, and whether that audience might want what they’re selling. They could even be posting as normal viewers, but actually campaigning to change the content of the show to something they think will sell their product. Imagine the nightmare: an advertiser sends in fake fans demanding more sex and couplings on a show, while the studio sends in fake fans demanding more of whatever they keep telling the producers to put on there, and the producers send their assistants in to say leave the show alone. He who shouts the loudest…
Of course, there’s a chance it could work for the fans, if the producers listen to them and realize that maybe we don’t want what their film school professors told them we wanted: more sex, more explosions, more white men.