I don't know if this is a function of my age and interests being out of touch with the rest of America, or simply a fact that my media habits have drastically changed in the past year, but I find that the TV shows I've come to know and love are being canceled left and right.
Which brings me to the question: is the Nielsen Rating System relevant in the TiVo age? Is a sizable group of people—20- and 30-Somethings with enough disposable income to buy our TiVos, build our MythTVs, watch our video iPods, and otherwise consume our media in a time-shifted fashion—being passed by?
Case in point: Firefly. This great series was tragically canceled before its time. Yet brisk DVD sales of the series and Serenity, Firefly's big screen counterpart, and consistently high Netflix ratings would seem to indicate that there are at least a few million fans out there.
Another case in point: Futurama. This is another case of a great show fitting squarely in this demographic that was canceled (again by Fox, no less). Yet the show enjoys solid ratings in reruns on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim and frequent torrent downloads. There is even talk of the show being picked up again by Fox. This would seem to indicate that a larger audience exists for the show than previously shown by Nielsen.
I'm sure there are more examples (Family Guy comes to mind) of grossly underestimated audience interest in a show. But the television industry is shackled to an antiquated rating system that is wholly ill-equipped to monitor content delivery mechanisms other than traditional network and cable broadcasts. This leaves a whole generation of early adopters and an emerging group of gadget-heads out in the cold.
- 2005-01-29: Added "Go Deep" links