TV Execs Missing The Point About Connection Between iTunes Downloads And Viewers

from the let's-try-this-again dept

There's a bit of buzz out there over the news that NBC executives are claiming that putting their show The Office on iTunes has resulted in a big jump in viewership. As some skeptics point out, it's nearly impossible to determine how much of the bump is due to the show being available on iTunes for $2 an episode -- even if it was one of the most popular purchases. There are a variety of reasons to discount the claim. First, the show moved from Tuesday to Thursday nights -- a much more popular time slot. Also, the show has been getting a lot of critical acclaim lately, and that's probably leading to word of mouth appeal. They also placed it right after My Name is Earl, which is another quirky show that targets a similar audience and also has received a fair amount of critical acclaim and buzz. Finally, with so few TV shows available on iTunes, The Office would likely have received a boost simply by standing out against the competition in a weak market online. As more TV shows are offered on iTunes, the value to each one in attracting new viewers is likely to diminish. There's a good chance that all of these factors contributed to the viewership quite a bit. However, the really interesting point is that, if NBC execs are so thrilled about this bump in viewership by putting out an expensive download with a limited audience who can view it, why not just offer the same show up for free? You get a lot more viewers who are likely to get hooked on the show, meaning many more who will watch it on TV. They could even add in some commercials and recoup some money that way. It would definitely provide a lot more viewers, and viewers who are happier, since they'll have more freedom with the content and they'll even be able to share it with their friends to get more buzz going. There are obviously tradeoffs here, and perhaps the execs are calculating that $2/show and a much smaller overall viewership is worth more than a much larger viewership seeing the ads -- but it's hard to see that calculation adding up. Still, it is amusing that executives insist that things like BitTorrent have no redeeming value in terms of attracting people to a show, and yet $2 iTunes downloads are just dandy. Something doesn't add up.
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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2006 @ 4:26pm

    No Subject Given

    Please RTFA - the Office has always been paired with Earl, the show is the most downloaded of NBC's offerings, and the jump is based on both retention of Earl's audience (a key metric for a bottom of the hour show) and highs in the 18-49 demo.

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