Space Ramblings

Jericho: Saved by the DVR?

Hoping to take advantage of a devoted fan base — and the new multiplatform era — CBS is readying a plan to bring back the drama sometime next season. Net will likely order seven or eight episodes for broadcast.

CBS execs are no doubt hoping to take advantage of all the buzz surrounding the show’s demise — and likely revival — to help further reshape the net’s image away from the McGeezer web. Net’s just greenlit several new fall shows with very un-CBS themes (vampires, musicals, etc.), and saving “Jericho” fits right into that media gameplan.

What’s more, CBS no longer has to depend solely on primetime broadcast plays for its revenue. Between DVR playback (“Jericho” added nearly 10% more viewers when DVR figures were counted) and the now broadly accepted practice of streaming shows across the Net, CBS could try to make “Jericho” the poster child for a new business model.

Eye’s new CBS Audience Network, for example, distributes full-length episodes (and clips) to partners across the Net, from AOL to Veoh. It’s easy to see episodes of “Jericho” — perhaps with bonus footage? — serving as a key draw for CAN.

Now this is the interesting part of the game. ABC took an early lead on the web broadcast game by broadcasting prime time episodes of its popular shows and selling them on iTunes but CBS is working hard to catch up. That’s of course because CBS is no longer just the grey oldsmobile network but it’s a major chunk of the CBS Viacom beast which is all about distributing and selling content. In an era of falling ratings, Jericho is content that people are interested in.

Now lawyers and executives and agents will conduct the slow and brutal task of slashing the show’s expenses by demanding cuts in salaries, jettisoning characters and generally making the budget as thin as possible. And then they’ll see if this fish can swim.

The problem though is that while Jericho has a devoted fanbase, it’s not exactly a breakout show and thus makes it a poor choice for CBS’s experiment. The reality is not that many people had heard of Jericho before. The attention and the fuss may bring back some of the viewers who first watched Jericho before the break and certainly considering Jericho’s original numbers, CBS’s decision isn’t such a big risk.

Factoring in DVR’s and web ratings and video sharing, CBS is dipping one toe in the water to try and transform itself from just a TV network to a content broadcaster. It’s a slow and clumsy step but a necessary one if it’s going to survive.

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