The Nielsen Family is Dead

Wired comes through with a realistic look at what TV has – and will – become. Basic premise: With the rise of the interwebs and social media and alternate ways of watching television, the whole thing about ratings determining what advertisers pay is obsolete…and the smart programmers know it.

Whatcha think?


by Tom Vanderbilt

From Game of Thrones to the new Arrested Development, television is better than ever. And it’s not just a lucky accident. Turns out that networks and advertisers are using all-new metrics to design hit shows. Under these new rules, Twitter feeds are as important as ratings, fresh ideas beat tired formulas, and niche stars can be as valuable as big names. Case in point: Mad Men and Community’s Alison Brie.

On February 7, the fourth season of Community kicked off on NBC. It was something of a shock that the show had survived for so long. It ranked 193rd among broadcast shows. In May 2012, series creator and showrunner Dan Harmon had been unceremoniously canned. And on the night it aired, the season premiere pulled in just 4 million viewers. That’s a mere quarter of the audience enjoyed by ratings juggernauts like Two and a Half Men or The Big Bang Theory. It even underperformed a rerun of the ABC reality show Shark Tank on the Nielsen charts.

Until recently, those 4 million viewers would have been the end of the story. Just a few years ago, similar niche favorites like Jericho and Firefly were summarily executed for such numbers. In fact, cult legend Freaks and Geeks averaged nearly 7 million viewers in its single, 1999-2000 season before getting canceled. But that night in February, Communityaccomplished something that none of those shows ever had the chance to do—it spawned two worldwide trending topics on Twitter.

All of your favorite shows are ratings dogs. Breaking BadGirlsMad Men—each struggles to get a Nielsen score higher than 3, representing about 8.7 million viewers. And it’s not just cable. NBC’s 30 Rock struggled to top a score of 2.5, and Parks and Recreation rarely cracks Nielsen’s top 25. There are two possible conclusions to draw from these facts: (1) All these shows should be canceled, or (2) maybe the ratings are measuring the wrong thing. Since the 1970s, television has been ruled by the Nielsen Family—25,000 households whose TV habits collectively provide a statistical snapshot of a nation’s viewing behavior. Over the years, the Nielsen rating has been tweaked, but it still serves one fundamental purpose: to gauge how many people are watching a given show on a conventional television set. But that’s not how we watch any more. Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Roku, iTunes, smartphone, tablet—none of these platforms or devices are reflected in the Nielsen rating. (In February Nielsen announced that this fall it would finally begin including Internet streaming to TV sets in its ratings.)

And the TV experience doesn’t stop when the episode ends. We watch with tablets on our laps so we can look up an actor’s IMDb page. We tweet about the latest plot twist (discreetly, to avoid spoilers). We fill up the comments section of our favorite online recappers. We kibitz with Facebook friends about Hannah Horvath’s latest paramour. We start Tumblrs devoted to Downton decor. We’re engaging with a show even if we aren’t watching it, but none of this behavior factors into Nielsen’s calculation of its impact.

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Angelo Bell: The Chasm Between Professionalism and Ego

Or, to quote an assistant LB once worked with: “We’re all aspiring to be assholes.”



by Angelo Bell

I’m watching a reality TV show that is a powerful, real-life illustration of the chasm between members of groups/partners with different levels of commitment and professionalism. Some people ‘get’ the entrepreneur factor, they understand the nature of the business. Some just don’t. They get caught up in small details and never understand that it’s dumb to stress over phase 5 when you haven’t gotten to phase 1 yet.

I think, if you find yourself lagging behind and not making headway in your career or profession, it’s time to look inward to identify some problems. There’s a saying that, “Common sense isn’t so common,” and I’ve witnessed big, bold illustrations of it, the impact of such,  floors me.

In a single week I’ve had conversations with a very successful executive producer who, although she was very excited about a project, was very settled and deliberate in her approach to doing business — one step at a time, one hurdle at a time. On the flip side, I almost lost my cool trying to educate someone in the strategy of picking and choosing your battles: when you want something from two behemoth organizations, let them draw swords, fight it out, and come to an agreement. You simply move on after they shake hands and write out a check for you.

People get caught up in name-dropping, and assuming titles that they haven’t earned. People get caught up in declaring self- importance, and assuming they have connections and clout where they have none.

At the end of the day, you can be the artist who has stuck to his guns and now no one has seen his work, or your can be the professional who finds and exploits win/win situations and employs a little give-n-take to get the job done. You don’t have to sell out (as some may call it), if you were enough of a professional  to develop multiple projects to the GO stage, and you weren’t putting all your eggs on one basket, i.e. one film, one script, one pitch, one score, one crowdfunding campaign…

What else have you got? If you’ve heard those words before, hopefully you’ve learned to actually, have something else at the ready. Perhaps it’s another script, short film, or pitch concept. If these words make you shudder, it’s time to put on your big boy/girl shoes and get back to work.

“Daily Variety” is History, Leaving Showbiz Mourners Everywhere

Last Tuesday’s edition of Daily Variety was the last printed edition since the publication began almost 80 years ago. Sob…choke…

 Hey, wait! We’re highly skilled entertainment professionals. We’ll adapt! Really we will! Just one thing…can you tell us a little more about this “interwebs” thing?

Daily Variety is sold at a newsstand.

End of an Era for Daily Variety
by Joe Flint

Leslie Moonves has had the same morning routine for decades.

“The first thing I do after getting out of the shower is pick up Daily Variety and have a cup of coffee,” the CBS Corp. chief executive said. “It’s a 30-year habit.”

That habit is ending for Moonves and lots of other Hollywood power players, movie and television stars, producers and publicists and thousands of wannabes: Daily Variety is ceasing as a print publication after almost 80 years. Tuesday’s edition is its last.

The decision shows that Daily Variety has had to grapple with the forces reshaping the industry it covers. Just as the entertainment business has had to adapt to changing media consumption habits, so have the outlets that cover it.

“They’re getting out of the buggy whip business,” said Stan Rosenfield, a veteran Hollywood publicist whose client list includes George Clooney and Robert De Niro.

So Variety is doing what all aging Hollywood stars do when they want to feel better about themselves: It’s getting an expensive makeover. The website has been redesigned and is now free to access. Starting next week, a revamped version of the 108-year-old weekly edition of Variety will make its debut.

The green-logo Daily Variety, the West Coast publication of the older red-logo weekly Variety, was long known for its catchy headlines and insider language such as “ankled” for an executive leaving a job and “boffo” for a big box-office result. Rising in importance as the film business came of age in Los Angeles and the music and TV businesses increasingly left New York, the trade delivered daily doses of box-office, ratings, casting and executive-shuffle news.

Daily Variety even became a Hollywood star itself. The paper often popped up in TV shows and movies, most recently having a cameo in the Oscar-winning “Argo.”

Getting a mention in Daily Variety was a sign that one had arrived. Moonves, who was an actor before becoming an executive, even once took out his own quarter-page ad to commemorate his guest-starring appearance on TV’s “The Six Million Dollar Man.”

“It was a huge investment in my future,” he cracked.

With more readers getting their news from the Internet, the print version of Daily Variety has become passe and less profitable. Advertising revenue at the paper has dropped dramatically over the last several years, and a move to charge for Variety’s content online drove customers to the free websites of its chief rivals Deadline Hollywood and the Hollywood Reporter. Variety made about $6 million last year, a far cry from the more than $30 million it made in 2006.

“We were delivering a print product telling you stories you’ve already read on our website,” Variety Publisher Michelle Sobrino said. “Financially it didn’t make sense.”

Engineering the overhaul of Variety is Jay Penske, the 34-year-old son of auto parts billionaire Roger Penske, who acquired the publication last October for $25 million from Reed Elsevier. Penske first made a splash in Hollywood in 2009 when he spent several million dollars for, the entertainment industry blog edited by the hard-charging and vitriolic Nikki Finke.

Penske’s strategy with Variety is similar to the one employed by the Hollywood Reporter, which stopped publishing its daily print edition in 2010 in favor of a glossy weekly magazine and souped-up website.

Whereas the Hollywood Reporter tries to appeal to both show business insiders and those who love the glamour of Hollywood — a recent cover story was about stylists to the stars — Variety plans to keep its coverage focused sharply on the inner workings of the entertainment industry.

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Heartwarming Crowdfunding Success Story


Seriously. We love that this children’s book “written by Lauren (age 11)” has passed its Kickstarter goal of raising $5500 for the publication of her book, The Clown That Lost His Funny.

This is what groupfunding is for!

Congrats, Lauren. We promise to buy your book as soon as it comes out.

Check out the details on Lauren’s Kickstarter page.

Christopher Guest Has a New Series on HBO


It’s called FAMILY TREE, stars Chris O’Dowd, and we’re already in love with it just from this teaser:

Coming, um, this spring. (Hey, blame HBO for fudging.)