Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

Fan Consideration = Ratings

Posted by Drake Kizer on March 1, 2017

Today’s selection covered pages 132-152 in our Spreadable Media textbook. The reading continued chapter three, or “The Value of Media Engagement”, in seamless fashion. As I accurately predicted in my last post, the beginning of this chapter was simple, and this second portion was a lot more dense and hard to follow. It took me quite a while to pick out something that I could describe with enough mastery to be able to do a discussion post, but I found my topic eventually.

On Page 138, the book discusses a great example of utilizing transmedia content to a show’s benefit. CBS’s The Ghost Whisperer was able to air for five seasons and reach syndication despite the fact that “finding the “right” demographic” for the show was very difficult from its inception. Jennifer Love Hewitt, the show’s star, had a very dedicated following among young people. However, since the show aired on Friday nights, it was hard-pressed to get younger viewers because they were “unlikely to spend Friday evenings at home” watching television. The show’s producers anticipated this issue before the show aired, though, and so they already had a plan.

The show’s producers decided to “closely [monitor] online fan responses, trying to identify program elements that particularly engaged active viewers.” That strategy proved to be very effective, and it provided a reward for viewers who watched the show closely. The book recalls that “a throwaway detail” from a specific episode of the show was actually revived and inserted into a later episode as a major plot point due to the fact that people online had responded positively to it. The show’s creators also launched a series of online stories related to the show’s episodes, but from the perspective of the ghosts and not the “cast members.” The response to these transmedia pieces was tremendous, and it actually caused people who had never seen the show to begin watching. This outpouring of passionate support kept the show on the air for years, and it certainly showed the value of media engagement.

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