Saturday, March 8, 2008

Jericho: Counting The Everyman



My thanks to Karen for sharing her letter. Pay attention CBS.



To whom it may concern:

I’m writing you today to encourage the people that matter and
influence programming decisions to continue to support a little show
called Jericho. To be totally honest I do not trust Nielsen’s to
accurately represent myself and people like me who have little time
in their life for brainless, heartless television. Perhaps we do not
represent double digit millions but we are significant. We matter.
This is the only way I can feel I count so I truly hope someone reads
this.

I fall in the treasured age demographic, though I am a female and not
the coveted “boy-man” demo. I make a respectable income and have
complete control over how it is spent.

Why do I support Jericho so passionately? I’ve though a great deal
about this because I wondered why I cared so much too. For one thing,
from the first promo I saw I was reminded of one of my favorite
novels, read many times, Alas Babylon.

I am from the Midwest. I grew up in South Dakota and my father was a
Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force and he worked in a missile
wing. I can still remember when he snuck me into a missile silo and
let me peek over the edge. I was maybe 8 years old. I knew exactly
what it was and what it could do. Maybe because of this, I have
always known such possibilities as Jericho really do exist. Maybe
that is part of the lure. But when you grow up in South Dakota, and
for years at any rate, you couldn’t drive very far but you saw the
tell tale (at least to me) signs of a nuclear weapon somewhere.

I went to university in South Dakota too, graduated and now live and
work in Nebraska. I work for a small, independent telephone, cable
and internet company that services much of rural central Nebraska.

Do you realize that Jericho is one of the few programs I can ever
remember that accurately depicts small town, rural Americans? Jericho
is the “everyman” for a chunk of Americans who are largely neglected
by the entertainment industry. I know every single one of the people
portrayed in Jericho in real life.

My telephone technicians, who are also the county EMTs, and fireman
or who ranch on the side, one even runs a scavenging business and can
find you any kind of part, engine or any object are just like many
characters on Jericho. Oliver with the radio? Totally my customer
who calls in insisting that men in black cars are parking on the hill
and tapping in to their phone conversations. Emily and Heather are
definitely the women who teach but work the farm as well, or like the
woman who opened the mechanics shop with money she inherited from
family. Gail and Johnston Green are the people who come rescue you 40
miles out in to the country when your car breaks down. Do you see
characters like this on the double digit million viewer shows?
Probably not, because the majority of your urban viewers (read: the
most people with a Nielsen box) don’t think that’s realistic.

Jericho puts these people in an unknowable situation and the writers
spin heart and intrigue into the stories. People think no one is as
versatile as these characters but when you live where there isn’t a
WalMart for 50 miles and businesses close at 8 or 10 pm, you make
sure you know how to do many different jobs and you develop multiple
skills. There is no place I would rather be than a small town if a
disaster occurred.

The writers have also put us, viewers that relate, into a position to
feel up close and personal what people in many nations deal with
daily: deprivation and oppression. It is one thing to watch the news
and see a story or read history and another to see a street that
looks like my street, with people who are just like the people I know
facing that situation.

I also appreciate that the women of Jericho are presented as the
backbone of the community, as people of strength, action, wisdom and
practicality.

But, why should the network support Jericho?

Because six million faithful viewers in your hand is worth 11 million
in the proverbial bush.

Jericho fans turn out. Jericho fans continue to recruit (but it takes
time to catch people up). With the lead in of a show that is
guaranteed to be viewed by people who have no desire to turn on their
brains, you can’t expect them to stay tuned to Jericho. And people
who would probably like Jericho aren’t going to remember to go back
and turn it on (unless they are the diehards). This is not effective
scheduling.

Why should you support Jericho? Because on a night when the biggest
juggernaut in American Television history has its following sitting
on the phone either voting or yapping with a friend over yet another
singing zombie must see TV episode, Jericho holds steady. On the
Tuesday nights when the first actually exciting primaries between
iconic, history making candidates is playing out and people are
actually interested, maybe even excited about politics, Jericho is
holding steady. Without E!TV coverage of some scandalous trespass the
actors are not involved in; without one Early Show recap, behind the
scenes or sneak peak; without Barbie Doll actors sporting the latest
fashions or indulging in clandestine, steamy relationships in a
closet, Jericho is holding steady.

Imagine a Jericho that is supported. Imagine a Jericho with some talk
show coverage. Imagine a Jericho aired before the viewers have to go
to bed because they work early. Imagine a Jericho with a lead in of a
television show that somewhat fits the profile of viewers interested
in smart, speculative, heart warming, funny, action TV.

Why, the viewer base might have a chance to grow! And always, like a
steady heartbeat, the faithful fans will be there. Your numbers at
least show that. I know advertisers buy the shows, but there are more
types of viewers than rating Goliaths cater to, and we have money to
spend too. Why not get both kinds of viewers instead of settling for
just the one slice, even if it is big? Is it really smarter to throw
an amount of money after a possibility than hang on to something
solid? How many of your freshman shows survived last year? I’m not
gambling a whole lot when I say maybe a smaller return on a sure
thing is better to back than losing a wad of money to that
glistening, good looking longshot.

Now a word about “new media”. I know it is an unknown factor. I know
it isn’t quantifiable in the same way as tried and trusty (but
questionable in truly reflecting the entire public’s taste)
Nielsen’s. New media is a baby.

Well, someone needs to start feeding the baby now. It may not be a
huge number but Jericho has a strong internet and download following.
Yes, some of it is repeat users like myself who want media in various
formats, but a lot of it is unique. It’s certainly how the people I
have interested in Jericho are catching up.

The company I work for took a gamble 12 years ago and shelled out to
begin installing a fiber network throughout our territory, which is
some of the most rugged isolated country around, because they saw
something coming. The big companies didn’t want to do it and other
independents were uncertain (though many were persuaded by our
actions to do the same not too long after). As a result, when the
technology was needed because the public interest in digital devices
became a necessity, we were able to provide service long before other
rural areas. Our CEO didn’t use internet and didn’t see why our
customers would need it, but some of us persuaded them that these
people needed it most. You are lucky if your town has a public
library at all, and those that do have maybe two days a week that it
is open. In an area where you have to mail order half your purchases
or drive 50 or more miles to Walmart or Kmart or Target because they
don’t carry it at the U Pump It or local equivalent of Gracie’s
Grocery, internet was going to be a godsend. So, as a result 95% of
our customers can get DSL and the rest are coming (it really is
rural). While big companies are dropping the towns they have because
they don’t want to put in equipment and while other small
independents or co-ops are closing because it is too much to handle
now when demand is so big, we are stable because we fed the baby.

The other day, one of my remote customers called in very excited
because we will be turning up equipment that can provide her DSL.
Satellite TV is all that brings them a clear picture, if it isn’t
windy, or storming, which it often is. The first question out of her
mouth to me was “So then I can watch TV shows whenever I want online,
right? And I don’t have to watch them when they are on TV?” The very
first question. Not pricing or anything else was on the top of her
mind, but rather “I can watch TV shows”.

Find a way to monetize, measure and quantify “new media” because,
like Jericho fans, it’s here and it’s not going anywhere soon. Feed
the baby.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

3 comments:

Balceroregontr said...

Wow, Karen what a great letter to CBS. You put a face on the Jericho viewer. You also give CBS the best reason to renew Jericho it will pay out for them. Once the baby is fed it will grow huge. CBS are you listening.
Debby

ratkeeper said...

Great letter Karen.

I'd just like to point out that the urban viewer is also unhappy with what Nielsen says we watch.
For the most part we urban viewers want good drama, not silly comedies or realty shows.

I have no idea who Nielsen is supposed to represent, but it's not the urban viewers that I know.

The TiVo Most Recorded Show list is more like what my friends and I watch.

Gwen
San Francisco Bay Area

Jericho Returns said...

Thanks Debby. It will pay if CBS will open that big eye.

Thanks Gwen. I want good drama too and Nielsen doesn't represent me for sure.