Friday, December 22, 2006

Cancelled TV Shows and the Long Tail

In the wake of the cancellation of Day Break, the ABC show about a cop who has to re-live the same day over and over, I was thinking about the insights of Chris Anderson in his article and book about "The Long Tail."

The first time I remember getting riled over a cancellation was when The Outer Limits died in 1965 after what seemed like a very short life. When these things happen, I pretend to be baffled, but now that I'm a little more grown up I realize there are economic realities that drive a network's decision whether to continue or cancel a show.

A blog entry and comments on "Brilliant But Cancelled" expresses some of my sentiments about the cancellation of Day Break, but I was also struck by the figures here on Day Break TV showing that 13.96 million watched the first episode but viewership dropped quickly to only 3.9 million (a cynic would say that people weren't smart enough to understand it, but I wouldn't say that).

But think about that figure: "only" 3.9 million people. Wow, too bad ABC could only rustle up such a paltry number of viewers!

This is the connection with The Long Tail. Clearly there is a sizable market for a program like Day Break, but it's enough of a niche market that ABC apparently can't make it work, given the economics of scarcity in mainstream network television.

Note: As of today you can still stream the existing episodes of Day Break from the ABC web site. I'm interested to see that ABC even has ads that play at intervals during the show. The last episode that appears there is the one for Dec. 13, 2006, leading me to think that ABC will not continue to produce the full 13 episodes of the show for Internet release, as some people had speculated.

AB -- 12/22/06