Saturday, October 29, 2011

Supernatural's Ratings Suck But What Can I Do? 5 Suggestions to Feel Better Other Than Hacking Nielsen

Many things plague a Supernatural fan's world. Anxiety over future deaths (keep breathing Bobby), fandom wars, the CW, and of course hellatus are just a few. Still no foe ever pursued by a Winchester comes close to our greatest adversary. Larger than a Leviathan's shadow, more constant than a Lucifer hellucination, more hysteria-producing than a 2 line plot synopsis, Nielsen is our enemy and he's got a cancellation bear that makes hellhounds look like Lucky. A cunning adversary, he controls the Winchesters' fate far more than angels and demons ever could.

Nielsen's torture of choice - ratings! Part of what makes Nielsen so deadly is no one understands him. He uses ratings and shares and live viewing vs DVR. He's equipped with a weapon so dull it lulls you to sleep before stabbing you in the heart. Complicated charts and endless numbers are his "salt and holy water" 2-punch assault on the passionate. While you have to be a statistician to fully understand the beast, it's implications are clear. Fall under the "desired" number and your show is history no matter how much you love it. Problem: the desired number changes more than Big Bads in season 6. In order to effectively control the monster, you have to be a part of the monster. And the monster is not accepting applications. Sorry to those clamoring to be a Nielsen family.

In layman's terms, Nielsen operates under the statistically significant principle, which means the sample size of a survey can be small but still accurate. Increasing the number of participants does not change the percentages. Basically, even though most people don't know anyone who has ever been part of the Nielsen system, it's still mathematically correct....maybe, depending on who you talk to. You should be able in theory to survey 100 varied people you don't know and don't get online (because that's majorly skewed), and find that yes, an absurd number of Americans actually watch Jersey Shore to the detriment of society. Unfortunately, in that same sample, you would find a low number who watch Supernatural or have even heard of it.

So what's a fan to do? Only a few thousand American households are Nielsen families. (Sorry international fans.) This group is picked randomly so the more you really want to be a Nielsen family, the less likely you are to become one. Remember Murphy's law. Since thus far no one has successfully hacked the Nielsen system to get on the list and finding a Nielsen family to force into watching Supernatural is both illegal and harder than finding someone in Witness Protection, Supernatural fans need to be creative. Telling people who already watch Supernatural won't do it folks. In fact, unless those people have a Nielsen box, it doesn't matter if they watch it live, on DVR, live streamed, or downloaded legally or illegally. The only people who count in the ratings are those with the elusive Nielsen boxes. Time for a new plan.

1. Show advertisers the money - Sending random things to the network to save a show does not work. Getting a company to sponsor a show might. For example, Chuck got sponsored by Subway and it was renewed despite bad ratings. If we show advertisers we will buy their products because they run ads during Supernatural, we deliver a nice add-on value. Of course, they need to know you bought their product because of Supernatural. To best understand this campaign, head over to the Supernatural National Guard run by St. Jon. In fact, go now! They are doing great stuff for Supernatural.

2. Show Warner Brothers the money - Warner Brothers sells Supernatural episodes to the CW. Therefore, the more Warner Brothers makes from the show, the cheaper they can sell it to the CW and the fewer ratings Supernatural has to get to cover the CW's cost. It's all business, so put your money where your heart is. Buy the DVD's. International fans, if Supernatural is shown in your country, watch it. Let that station know how much you love it so they repurchase it. Show TNT the love and encourage them to continue syndicating Supernatural. These three are huge money makers for Warner Brothers. Christmas is coming so put official Supernatural merchandise on your list. Buy the novels and magazines. Purchase a ticket to a con. All of which benefits Warner Brothers.

3. Watch Nikita (or Vampire Diaries...) - Yep, you heard right. But do it with a purpose. This is where the online community can help. The Supernatural fandom can be their own worst enemy and we've made foes of people who should be our allies. (I can hear it now - but then those shows' ratings will rise and Supernatural will falter in comparison. Nope, not unless you are a Nielsen family because otherwise your viewing doesn't count.) I'm guilty myself of mostly watching and talking about Supernatural. However, if every SPN fan watched one other show and went on its fanboards and websites to say what they liked and mention why their fans might like Supernatural, we come out with a lot more allies and possibly a Nielsen viewer. Granted it's a long shot but I'm willing to try Nikita. After all, Nikita is known for action and SPN has that in spades. Already we have something in common. Best news - CW and Netflix now have a contract to allow past seasons to live stream. Anyone with a Netflix account should take advantage of that.

4. Talk it person, not online - It's highly likely those mythical Nielsen families are not passionate fans who spend every waking hour chatting online about SPN. They probably don't have a favorite website to dissect every detail of the previous week's episode. It's unlikely they have a hellatus countdown dominating their desktop. Warning - you may need to sit down for this - In fact, there are millions of people who watch Supernatural regularly who are not part of the online fandom. I know, it's a shocker. We have to reach out in person, but admittedly even then our chances of talking to an actual Nielsen viewer is slim. So....

5. Talk it up in entertainment magazines - Again online excitement is great but what really works is the TV Guide cover. Notice how TV Guide gives Supernatural more coverage now than it did previously? How there's a whole lot more press from them than Entertainment Weekly (EW)? That's because TV Guide sells a lot of issues when it features Supernatural. And yes, I know people who actually started watching SPN just because it was on the cover and they wanted to see what the big deal was. While we cannot grab every magazine cover, we can write in the comments mentioning SPN. If EW hasn't profiled Supernatural for 5 weeks in their What to Watch section, write to them about it. Be positive about what you like in the show though instead of attacking the magazine. If it has a Comic-Con issue and fails to mention Supernatural got into Hall H, remind them. And by all means, if a magazine does prominently feature Supernatural, buy it. After all, every magazine will highlight what sells and if we keep SPN in the forefront of their mind, nothing but good can happen.

In the end, none of these things will raise ratings but it does make Supernatural worth more to Warner Brothers and keeps it in the forefront of conversation. Besides, it makes a non-Nielsen family fan feel like they are doing something for the show, which makes me feel better. Right now, Supernatural is still looking safe in the ratings. We aren't in the bottom three on the CW and SPN still makes tons of money for Warner Brothers. The ratings while not good are not dire either. However, ratings tend to slip as the season progresses, especially in spring, and that's when decisions are made. I expect a season 8 but I'm campaigning for a season 9. After all, a year without new Supernatural will be more depressing than a season four brother split.

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