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Find The Boots

Rantings from a few corporate types about life, technology, travel, guns, politics, and everything good in the world.

Save Jericho: Flexing Muscles

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The "Save Jericho" movement is now finishing out its second week. That's over 3 years in corporate time.

Well, maybe not that long, but time moves at a different speed for a web movement. The Nuts campaign has been wildly successful, edging toward the 15 ton mark as I write this. They've got ads in the print media, and they've been picked up everywhere. The web footprint of the "Save Jericho" movement rivals that of presidential candidates that are spending serious cash to build awareness.

So what's next for the fans and for CBS? I've previously written that I think this movement is different in scope and speed from other movements and that it will change how the networks deal with canceling shows -- they'll have to deal with the liability as a toxic waste. Kotr1 started an interesting thread ("In for a penny, in for a pound (or, why CBS won’t blink)") over on the CBS Jericho board that takes my suggestion a bit further:
We have reached an ironic juncture here where it may very well be in CBS’s best long term interest to commit to what they have done, and to not back away from their decision. The irony stems from the fact that renewing Jericho is a short term no-brainer. CBS would bring back the 8 million member fan base, and add another 4-6 million through promotions like “watch the show that was too tough to die”, or “see the next season of the show that created the greatest internet movement in the history of television”. Jericho would be THE most talked about show going into the new season. Without a doubt.

So if it’s a no-brainer, then why hasn’t it happened?

Because no network, especially the Tiffany network, ever wants to be humiliated like this again.
Kotr1 and I came to different conclusions. Kotr1 seems to think that CBS will stay the course and ignore the movement out of a long term desire to avoid fueling new movements. I'll admit that's a possibility, but I find it hard to believe even a corporate drone could be that foolish.

Wouldn't it be a terrible thing for the networks if every time they canceled a show they got hit with a gigantic amount of free advertising in favor of bringing the show back? In the words of Brer Rabbit, please don't throw me in that briar patch!

As I see it, CBS could harness the movement without destroying their existing Fall schedule. It's a very easy solution: Order up 13 episodes and run them starting in January, after the inevitable failure of something in their fall lineup. An outright reversal is probably too much to ask for -- they've already set their fall schedule and have started to take orders from advertisers.

Another solution would be to release them as pay-per-view, either over the web or cable. Tell the fan base that if they get an overwhelming response, they'll get a full season and possibly a return to the airwaves in the future.

This fits with the model of movies that are made "direct to dvd" -- they bypass the normal distribution and focus on a pre-existing niche for their sales. Would viewers buy a DVD set of 13 episodes of Season 2 without it ever being released on TV? Would they pay $4.99 to watch an episode as a download from Amazon/Itunes that was only available via pay-per-view?

You'll notice that former Googler Chris Ender has been talking to the press about the "Save Jericho" movement. My bet is that he's pushing this solution internally. The networks are clearly one of the best sources of web content. Look at how successful YouTube is, and it's mostly amateurs. The question is economics. If it takes $30M to produce a series, you'd have to sell 600K DVDs at $50, or 6M downloads at $5. If there really were 500K downloads per episode, then they'd have to have at least that many to pay for each episode over a 13 show season. The real question is what percentage of the 8M viewers they had would pull out their credit cards to watch the show. If it's more than 6.25%, then it's a cash-flow positive proposition.

The only way the fans are going to get their show back on "free tv" is to demonstrate far greater numbers than they already have. The petition is at 95K signatures, they've had 3,577 orders for nuts, and raised about $15K in advertising. These are impressive numbers for two weeks of work, but they'll have to demonstrate far more muscle. The 8 million viewers that watched the show weren't enough for CBS -- they'll have to show that if they bring the show back they'll get a much bigger crowd.

The petition is a measure of how many people were willing to give up their email address for the cause. The nuts and advertising are a measure of how many people are willing to spend money. Being willing to watch the show is obviously some multiple of these numbers, but the movement will have to get these numbers way up in order to avoid being ignored. It's one thing to say that 3,500 people sent nuts to CBS. It would be something entirely different if they could point to 100K people being willing to spend money.

Probably the worst thing that could happen for the movement would be for CBS to make a quick decision. Not much danger there, because CBS moves at corporate speed.

So what can they do? They need to grow their base. They've gotten CBS's attention, but now CBS is in wait-and-see mode to see how they do. Advertising in the trade rags doesn't make further sense - CBS knows the movement exists, as does everyone in the business. The Nuts campaign has been a good story to drive press coverage, but how much longer can that story run? The Greensburg story is a good one, but it risks the story becoming more about Greensburg than the movement.

A mistake the campaign may have made is to look at the first ads and say "There, we advertised!" Advertising is about reach and repetition. You've got to reach more people and you have to tell them the story several times before they get it. It's like taking a shower -- you can't say "Ok, I showered. Now I'm clean!" You're going to need to shower more than once a month...

They should treat this like a political campaign. The key is to get supporters and more money, which leads to more supporters and more money. Advertise in venues that will bring in people that don't already know about the cause. Keep up the internet noise, because you want people to be able to find you once they've logged into the internet. Do some things that will demonstrate that they have financial muscle.

What if 10,000 people purchased an episode of Jericho from Amazon or Itunes in a week? That would put them at the most popular product level in a very public venue, and it would demonstrate to CBS that they're willing to pay-per-view, which is probably the calculation being made in internal CBS meetings right now. Being willing to pay for a rerun shows an awful lot of loyalty to a show, in a way they can't ignore. And it would provide ammunition for the faction inside CBS that must exist in favor of distributing content via the web.

What if the 3,500 people that bought nuts set up a booth at their local flea market, gave out free peanuts, and had a computer set up to sign the petition? Or at least distributed a flyer? What if they combined that with a radio campaign? With advertisements in the local paper? What if they start doing fund raising in those types of venues? How about a few hundred "Save Jericho" car washes, funneling the money to a charitable endeavor?

I don't know what will be most effective, or what the movement will do. Part of the power of the movement is that it's unpredictable, which is part of why you can't control the monster and shouldn't even try.

My prediction is that different people/groups will try different things, and as some fail and others have success, the practice will get wider adoption. If they run an ad in the Atlanta paper and get 10,000 new signatures that weekend, they'll start running ads all over. If one group has a car wash and raises $500 for Greensburg, then car washes will break out all over the country. The key is that the group rewards successful endeavors with piling on. It's not through leadership, it's the power of thousands of independent people harnessing positive energy and doing what they think is best.

The movement can take action quickly. If you haven't been clobbered by the evidence already, the Greensburg donation drive has raised $1,300 since I started writing this article. I think they're making a lot more money at this than I am...

The last two weeks have been an interesting phenomenon to watch. The difference between this movement and others that came before it is the speed and scope at which is has operated. They're running circles around CBS's decision cycle. But they have to make it to the next level in order to make a real difference.

In the words of Johnston Green, "We'll be watching you."


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  • At 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    BoonDoggie, this is KOTR1 at the CBS boards. I sooooooo hope that you are right! Nothing would please me more than for me to be wrong :)

    Sadly tho, I just saw Les Moonves eat a size 20EEE shoe at the WSJ D- Notebook http://blogs.wsj.com/dnotebook/2007/05/30/aww-nuts-why-cbs-cant-save-jericho
    Where he pretty much writes off Jericho and it’s 8 million fans, and then he bemoans the fact that his he email box is full, despite his best attempts to BLOCK all those pertaining to Jericho.

    I hope that there is someone that can override Les and Nina (Liike the CBS Board of Directors?) and get Jericho back for us. Because if it is left up to those two, we are in trouble :(

  • At 8:52 PM, Blogger kystorms said…

    This blog has become a constant source of knowledge for me and I am sure many other people. It is true, knowledge is POWER.
    Thanks for the hints, I plan on implementing as many as I can.

    As for Mr Moonves, he has forgotten one important thing in business, the customer is always right.
    I plan to make sure that this works out to our advantage, if it kills me -
    excellent blog!

  • At 9:08 PM, Blogger SaveJake said…

    Stay tuned...don't blink.
    Thank you for following our campaign so well. We are committed to bringing Jericho back to television for all to view. To say it is of no cost to watch TV is not correct. To provide homes with cable, DVR's, On Demand, PPV, and televisions cost as much monthly these days as does providing gas for your car. So when viewers turn to CBS instead of 300+ other stations they could be watching, they should be treated as a valuable customer. People who feel valued are loyal. Are we valued? Maybe that's the question that needs to be answered.

  • At 5:09 PM, Blogger Donna said…

    Your commentary on the Save Jericho movement will be part of the New Media textbooks five years from now--except the textbook will be online and constantly updated with the freshest information in the field.


  • At 11:42 PM, Blogger Tom Mosier (falconr10) said…

    Boondoggie!!!!! Don't lose interest in our historical drive....I seem to actually LIVE on the CBS Jericho boards (and the others).....and I cannot come close to keeping up with the rapidly scrolling threads...which seem, of late, to be moving as fast as the Monster, itself.....

    We have some great new ideas, a few batallions of new rangers, worldwide.....and we have not yet begun to kick CBS arse.

    Clue-LES should try eating some of the legumes he's receiving daily...after all, aren't they a "brain" food?? Based on his recent interviews, and comments, he could sure use them. : )


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