Will your new favourite show make it to 2014?

With the fall, comes the new programming season; and this year’s lineup is looking promising with over 30 new shows. From the highly anticipated Marvel’s Agents of Shield and Micheal J. Fox Show to The Crazy Ones, Sleepy Hollow and new sitcoms like The Goldbergs, it’s going to be an entertaining fall.

BUT don’t get too attached folks. As we all know, only a handful of these 30+ new shows will stick around. Ever wonder why networks cancel your favourite show(s) and keep the crappy ones? Me, too. The problem is, your favorite shows might not be my favorite shows… and network television stations (like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW) depend on mass audiences to survive.  That means keeping the shows that attract the broadest audience. It also means disappointing millions of people whose favorite shows don’t make the cut. (I am still mourning the loss of Firefly.)

So how DO ‘they’ decide what shows stay and which ones will take the proverbial long walk off a short pier? It’s not heart. It’s data. Data from a combination of television ratings and social data, such as how it’s trending on Twitter. Ever wonder how television actually ratings work? Check it out on my favourite site: HowStuffWorks.com and start tweeting about your new favourites!

Happy Viewing!

I Know You Watch TV

If there is one thing that can generate a discussion, it is asking someone about their television viewing habits. The typical knee-jerk response is that they don’t watch much at all. As the discussion continues, it is only then that their true viewing habits are revealed: “I don’t watch much TV at all… except for this show and that show…” Love it or hate it. I know you watch TV. I do too. Statistics show that the average Canadian watches 16.9 hours of television a week. Although television remains the predominant mass communications device worldwide, consumption patterns have changed as new technologies have entered the market. Apparently, we are still watching our favorite shows. But how we watch them is changing.

Let me start with this: I have a love-hate relationship with television. I love watching it, but I hate watching it. For six years I worked at a television station doing their PR. I had a television in my office so that I could monitor our channel. So for eight hours a day, I watched TV. I watched it on-air. I watched it being created in the studio. I watch it from the control room as the director called out camera shots to the crew. I watched the product placement, the scripting and a slew of other technical and creative aspects. I watched how a show came to life. I watched how the producer determined the content of a live show. I watched how the director lead a team of cameramen, floor directors, production assistants, audio, video and graphics teams to fulfill the creative vision.

When my workday was done, I went home… and watched more TV.

Television shows were an obvious choice for water cooler discussions. Whether you work at a TV station or not, one can agree that discussing TV shows is an easy way to bond with new people as you get to know one another. In fact, one of my close friends and I met, and instantly bonded, over our love for Buffy The Vampire Slayer. However watching all this TV came at a price. I wasn’t reading as many books. I wasn’t practicing my violin. And, if I’m being honest here, I wasn’t really using my brain as much. Like many people, I like to watch TV to “zone out” when I’m feeling drained after a long workweek. I want to spend time with my “friends” on CSI solving cases. I want to explore freakish events as part of the Fringe team. And although I am solving these cases alongside these characters, television is still remains a passive medium. It doesn’t ask me to do anything other than to turn it on. But too much television viewing made me sluggish. It was time to shut it off.

After conducting what I’m sure were many costly studies, broadcasters realized that during the summer months, people watch less TV. So the traditional viewing season now ends as the warm weather beckons us out to play. I noticed that during these summer months, I am a happier person. The effects from the added Vitamin D aside, I recognized that this was in part because I was watching less television. I read more books. I socialized with friends more. I had more ‘free time’ as I was not tied to a broadcast schedule.

Over the years my personal viewing habits have evolved as technology has evolved. The creation of the DVR/PVR has freed us from the traditional broadcast schedule and allows me to watch my shows when I want. My time has become my own again… and I feel liberated. As newer options to view content are growing, audiences, such as myself, are now able to choose how, when and where we receive content. I now have the option to watch show on my iPad, phone or laptop. I can get programming through Netflix and iTunes. I rarely, if ever, watch live television.

For me, my love-hate relationship with television comes down to finding balance. It’s about watching my favourite shows – guilt free – by ensuring that my viewing habits do not cannibalize other aspects of my life. It’s about the freedom to choose when I watch these shows.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch True Blood.

UBC Day 19: Under Pressure

Captain’s log. Star date: 7-19-20-12.

Feeling pressured to write a blog because I signed up for the Ultimate Blog Challenge. But I am empty today. Writers block has struck so I am doing a writer’s block 101 exercise where I do nothing for the next few minutes but write whatever comes to my head. Boy are you guys in for treat. Ha! In case you didn’t get the “Star date” reference, I’m a Trekkie. I like how Kirk never gives up; tries to be diplomatic when he can; and when he can’t, he uses his all purpose judo chop.

Light-bulb! Question for everyone… What do you do to overcome a creative block?  When it’s writer’s block, I do this… when it’s creating a PR campaign, I start by added in the most basic stuff that needs to be done. Then I let my mind wander. I envision what I want the outcome to look like and start filling in the blanks to ensure it gets there.

Whether writing or starting a new project, it doesn’t matter where you begin. You just have to begin.

Kirk out.

UBC Day 18: Best Campaign Ever

One of my favorite PR campaigns was when I was working at a local TV station. We were launching a new reality show that, at the time, was new territory for us. I remember how excited I was about the show but also because I was brought in during the initial planning stages so that I could proactively contribute from a PR perspective, rather than a reactionary one.

The show was a contest that began with an open audition, that through public voting, was narrowed to ten contestants. These ten contestants were pitted against one another through a series of talent and self promotional activities. The winner received their own TV show for one season. As the show progressed, the ten were slowly eliminated to the final three. The winner was decided through a combination of judging and online viewer voting. And this was just as marketing through Facebook and Twitter was starting to take off!

On the PR side of things, because this show was new to our market, it was easy to generate some buzz. Our two major dailies picked up the story and I engaged our audiences through our website, Tweets and Facebook updates. The other thing I did that in my mind made the difference in the sheer amount of earned media we received was to engage the community newspapers in each of the areas where our contestants lived. I’d send each paper a target media releases immediately following each show, providing an update on the contestant in their coverage area. I made sure it was easy for them by also providing stills from the most recent show. To compliment this, we ran a guerrilla campaign postering the downtown core and local universities. We organized publicity stunts and photo ops. Basically we had fun with it.

When typically running campaigns, we place a lot of value on getting hits in the dailies and we forget about the smaller publications. Publications, such as community newspapers, are always looking for content relevant to their coverage area. By engaging them from the start, we achieved an unprecedented amount of earned media.

After all, that’s the goal right?