A Modernly Bad Idea

62nd Primetime Emmy Awards - Show

If it were up to Modern Family producer, Steve Levitan, he would yank the ABC sitcom from all online viewing portals, like Hulu or abc.com, so that people would have to watch his show when it airs.

Noting there’s roughly 2 million people watching “Modern Family” episodes online whose viewership is not fully monetized Levitan said that, in theory, those viewers could be watching the comedy on regular ad-supported TV.

“I’ve asked very specifically to use our show for a test market,” Levitan said. “We’re making it far too easy to watch it on other mediums and not getting proper credit for it. If we weren’t on Hulu and ABC.com, why don’t we try that? … I’ve actively lobbied to look at the big picture.”

Between online viewership and DVR viewing, he said, “we could be a Top 3 show if you add all that in.”

“The idea isn’t to remove ways for viewers to find the show,” he added, “but to see what [would happen to the ratings].”

The problem with Levitan’s thinking is that the ratings for Modern Family would increase only slightly if they cancelled online viewership.

It’s a good show, one that I think is pretty funny and worth watching, but it’s not appointment viewing television.  I would never organize my week around watching the show when it actually airs.  And if it weren’t available for me to watch online, then I probably wouldn’t watch the show at all, as much as I like it.

On a larger point, his thinking is indicative of the old Hollywood, not coming to grasp with the new Hollywood. Levitan understands the situation, but his conclusion based on the premise is faulty. What he should conclude is not to take Modern Family offline, but to lobby Hollywood to change how they determine a show’s ratings, or it’s popularity.

Hollywood should be factoring in online views and torrent downloads (which if they offered for their shows they could track the number of downloads each week, make them high quality, with a few commercials included) into their ratings game.

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