Peak TV has fractured the television audience to the point that it is hard for any one show to rise above the pack when measuring audience numbers using the Nielsen ratings, especially for same day viewing. And the fact that people have so many ways to watch a show has eroded ratings to the point that soon they may become immaterial if Nielsen does not get in step with the times. In this environment, networks are looking at other ways to gauge the audience of their shows, and this offers an opportunity for viewers to participate in ways that can keep a series viable even if the traditional ratings appear low. Audience engagement can be measured–and pretty quickly these days–and can turn the tide for a show that is in trouble. Fans should take this as a Call to Action, and should participate in ways that the networks can track and that will draw attention to a show. We have seen shows like Timeless (after its first season), Lucifer, and The Expanse saved over the past couple of years which proves that an engaged and active fanbase can get the attention of network executives. I outline the four methods that I believe can be the most effective below, and any campaign to help a struggling show or save one that has been cancelled should definitely incorporate these into their strategy.
Fans should be sure to provide focus and a clear direction for their campaign. Concentrating on just a few actions items to rally around is the best approach and can have immediate, measurable impact. Social media campaigns, online viewing, online petitions are good starts. The old style campaign of spending money to send a particular item to the network (nuts for Jericho, daisies for Pushing Daisies, Tabasco for Roswell) or buying up advertising (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) is probably not the best way to go (though it did help The Expanse). That type of campaign could generate some buzz if it gets enough media attention, but it is just wasted money otherwise and there are better ways to channel those funds (see Number 4 below).
Here are the four Call to Action strategies I believe are the most effective these days:
1. Social Networks
Social network activity mentioning / promoting a television series has become a definite factor as more and more network execs are citing “stickiness” in the social-verse as a measurement of success. Live-tweeting when an episode has its broadcast is definitely a good thing because this gets the show trending and brings more attention to it (and also proves to advertisers that people are tuned to the live broadcast). A lot of fans are also staging “Twitter Storms” where they send out tweets using a particular hashtag during a set timeframe to show their support and also bring attention to a show. The other social media networks such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. could also play a part in this if they are used to get the word out about a show. This acts as free promotion for the show and gives the network measurable stats to determine just how engaged the audience is. It is also a way for other networks to gauge the audience engagement and consider if they may be interested in picking up a cancelled show.
2. Online Viewing
This is not always an option, but more and more shows are streaming someplace shortly after their broadcast airing, and fans should definitely take advantage of that. Watching online provides viewership stats that are fully visible to the network and not skewed by Nielsen sampling. If you watch online, your viewership is counted, whether or not you are a Nielsen family. Many fans are staging “viewing parties” when they get together and watch an episode online at the same time (often tweeting about it in the process). This helped get Timeless uncancelled by NBC and may also have helped get Sense8 a series finale episode. This activity is measured and it shows an engaged audience actively supporting their show, and can definitely help keep it alive.
3. Online Petitions
This is kind of an offshoot from the social network activity mentioned above and should definitely be used in conjunction with that. There are any of a number of sites out there that will allow you to put up an online petition for free (www.change.org is the one I see used most often). These can provide nice statistics to show how many people support the series assuming you can get enough signatures. They should definitely be promoted on the social networks with call-outs to the network(s) on how many people have signed. Be sure to avoid the petitions that require a donation or require a person to create an account to sign. You will get a lot less participation with those (even Change.org is getting a bit pesky these days with its constant requests for donations).
4. Episode / DVD Purchases
I mentioned above that fans have been willing in the past to shell out money in support of their show, but there are better ways of channeling funds than sending some item to the network or buying up advertising. And that is buying episodes and/or a season pass for the current season of a show, and also buying DVDs, Blu-rays, and/or episode downloads for past seasons. A campaign focused on this activity goes right to the bottom line and helps generate revenue that could make up for a shortfall if not enough sponsors are willing to pay for advertising (or if they want a discounted rate) due to low ratings. I believe this could definitely sway a network toward keeping a show on the air because of the influx of revenue, and paired with the activities above could be the best strategy for saving a show. I can’t point to a specific example yet where this has been used effectively, but common sense seems to suggest it could work.
Other Ways to Show Support
Email and/or filling out feedback forms at a network’s website is another way for fans to show support that will be measured pretty quickly. You can find a general email address at the network’s main site, and many times they have feedback forms that you can use as well.
There’s also the old-style snail mail campaign which could have some impact if enough people write in, but it is slow and there is not a good way to measure the activity beyond what the network claims it received in the way of letters.
I’m sure there are plenty of other ideas out there as well and I welcome you to chime in below in the comments section with your ideas. But what is most important is focusing activity on measurable results and immediate impact.
Save My Show Campaign Page
Another very important factor if you are campaigning to save a show is to have focused, consolidated information in one main location. Too many times I have seen campaigns that have plenty of support but that are too disjointed to bring the fans together in full force. So each campaign needs to have a focal point where it delivers clear and concise information to the fans on its goals. That concentration of information could be the most important factor in the campaign’s success. There are any of a number of places to post this information such as blog sites, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, etc. And our Reddit site r/SciFiTV is a great place to post campaign info and we will help with passing the word along. Make sure you find a site that does not require membership to see the page (Reddit requires membership for comments, but not viewing the page), otherwise that will significantly reduce traffic.
Sample Campaign Page
Following is a sample campaign page that you can use as a template:
Campaign to Save the CBS Series Time Express from Cancellation
Purpose: To save the CBS series Time Express which has recently been cancelled. This is the best sci fi TV show on television since Holmes and Yo-Yo and Vincent Price is fantastic as the host. We want to convince CBS to change their mind about the cancellation or persuade another network to pick up the show. We are staging viewing parties every Thursday at 8 PM EST where we will watch an agreed upon episode on the network website and/or Hulu. Watch for announcements each week on which episode to watch. We are also doing a Twitter Storm in conjunction with the viewing party, sending tweets that include the hashtag #SaveTimeExpress. Be sure to include @CBS, @TheCW, @Hulu, and @Netflix with as many of these tweets as possible as those are the networks we are targeting.
We are also asking for fans to sign our online petition and to contact the networks above either through Email, their contact forms, and/or snail mail to request that the show be renewed for a second season.
Click on each of the links below for the contact information for that network:
Also be sure to follow our Blog, Facebook Page, and Twitter Site, and to sign the Online Petition:
This week’s viewing party will be watching the episode “Death / The Boxer” on Thursday at 8 PM EST. And be sure to check this page on a regular basis for updates.
[Note: There really was a series titled Time Express and Vincent Price really was the host. It was an anthology series that aired only four episodes in Spring of 1979. It was sort of The Love Boat on a train that travels back in time. There was also a series titled Holmes and Yo Yo which was a sitcom about a cop teamed up with a robot. It was cancelled after thirteen episodes and a young Jay Leno had his second television appearance in the pilot as a gas station attendent.]
Comments on Save My Show Campaigns
First of all, let’s try to run a friendly campaign. I know we all get frustrated with the networks for some of their poor decisions, but ranting against them will accomplish little. The goal is to muster support from the fans and get them engaged in activities that can support the show and get the word out about your cause. Vent your frustrations on the many forums out there, and use the campaign page to inform the fans and rally them to action.
Also, try to keep everybody involved in supporting the show as close to being on the same page as possible. I have seen instances where different fan groups are doing different things and that can divide the efforts and make for a less effective campaign. We all have different ideas, and I know it is hard to rein in fans that get caught up in there own zeal. But try to focus efforts as best possible to have the greatest impact. Also remember that this is not something to get in a big brawl over. We all love our TV shows and want them to keep running, but ultimately they are just TV shows. Have fun, be diligent, and hopefully you efforts will be rewarded.