Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Are Downloads Better Than Ratings? Echo Hopes So!

Fans of Dollhouse are waiting for Friday with baited breath, mainly for the pivotal episode, "Man on the Street." After five weeks of telling the story of Echo, a gitl who can be anyone except herself, in the usual procedural way, this week's episode is supposed to throw away the cookie-cutter and let the story run free.

One possible problem, or actually two: SciFi (soon to change its name to something that sounds like a chain of theaters) will be airing the final episode of Battlestar Galactica, while CBS has its NCAA basketball coverage. This will put some fans in a spot. Should they skip a very important episode to wave so long with Adama, Helo, Starbuck and the Cylons, or root for their favorite college basketball team?

Well, there's always one other option...TiVo Dollhouse, and watch it later. A lot of people have been doing that since the show began. Some have also seen it on the Fox website or Hulu, or even spent two bucks to see it on their iPods or iPhones.

Naturally, they could also DVR the basketball game or BSG, since BSG is leaving and the NCAA tournament is only on for a couple of weeks. But for this, let's say people will record Dollhouse instead. The real issue is whether TiVo'ing the show, or watching it on the net or on the iPod, is just as important as watching it live. There's has been a lot of mention of how many people watch the show up to a week after recording it. TV by the Numbers says it does boost the overall viewing numbers. It also does the same for Chuck and Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. However, is it enough to keep them on the air? The costs of making these shows, as well as the ratings, may be what will determine if your favorite shows will stay on their air, or you're stuck with a dozen reality shows you don't care about.

The only example of a show returning to the air in an unusual way is...Family Guy. It was on for three years before it was taken off the air in 2002. However, thanks to cable reruns and DVD sales, it's back on Fox to stay, and is holding its own against dramas on Sunday nights. Jericho got another season thanks to tons of peanuts, but only that much.

So, could Dollhouse be saved by iTunes downloads, hits on Hulu and Fox, and TiVo? Could any show "on the bubble" be saved that way? If so, Dollhouse could be the first. It would also signal that the suits at Fox are the first to admit that people who watch a Friday show during the weekend, or even Monday, count just as much as those who see the show live. That should change TV as we know it, even more than cable.

No comments: