Apr 23, 2008

Bumrushing the Nielsen Ratings

One of the primary rules of customer service is never take back something your customers have gotten used to having. Whether that something is a bowl of mints at the cash register, an allowance of two free suitcases per airline traveler or free access to a show via the internet.

It’s a rule more and more companies are violating in their rush to increase profits and to stave off what they see as an internet model that demands they give away content for free.

What they’re forgetting though is that they’re not getting those customers or viewers back. They’re likely losing them forever and creating bad word-of-mouth in the process. And bad word-of-mouth is not something you want in this time of The Real Digital Revolution, where bad news spreads like wildfire.

The most recent example of this sort of thinking is the CW’s decision to pull its much buzzed about show “The Gossip Girl” off the internet. Which, as someone pointed out, is like trying to remove the milk from your coffee. (You can read an excellent account of the full story on ianschafer.com.)

What surprises me is that the CW—or anyone else, for that matter—hasn’t tried to do a “Bumrush the Charts” type play on the Nielsen ratings. I mean you’ve got a show that has a lot of buzz and an audience of die-hard fans who are savvy enough to understand the effect of low ratings. So organize them, via social media vehicles, so that they all tune in to the show when it’s first broadcast live, thus boosting the ratings.

A move like that would have two very beneficial effects: (a) it would unite the viewers of the show against a common “enemy” and create a stronger community going forwards, a community others will want to join and (b it would point out the absurdity of relying on a rating system that doesn’t take alternative viewing options and timeshifting into account more fully.

Oh, and it would get a whole lot of press coverage. The benefits of which every network executive should be able to recognize.

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