The explosion assaults your otherwise quiet, habit-filled day. In the distance, a massive mushroom cloud heaves toward the heavens. Seconds later, you buckle from the shockwave. An electromagnetic jolt shocks you back to the Stone Age.
When you regain consciousness you realize the dust shower now settling on your town was once a nearby metropolitan city. Days pass. Amid the chaos, you learn that this Armageddon was released on several dozen major metropolitan cities by the very hands of the newly formed, self-appointed government now taking over the country.
Sit back, grab your bag of peanuts and enjoy the show.
On Sept. 20, 2006, CBS debuted "Jericho." Twenty-two episodes later, on May 9, the final episode played to what many at CBS believed was a small, insignificant audience.
While the pilot raked in a 7.6 rating with a 12 share indicating about 11 million viewers, the final episode, according to Nielsen ratings, logged a 5.2 rating with a 9 share (7 million viewers).
Networks rarely un-cancel a show. But the program’s fan base, a collection of millions of Web-based viewers, launched a resurrection campaign unlike anything the networks have ever seen. In an unprecedented move, CBS executives agreed to gather cast and crew and grant the program seven new episodes.
In an open letter posted on the CBS blog, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler wrote, "We hope you will rally around the new episodes of ‘Jericho’ with the same passion and volume you displayed this summer to bring the show back. There is the potential for more ‘Jericho,’ but we will need your help to recruit new viewers" — in other words, find people who are willing to sit in their living room at 10 p.m. on Tuesday to watch the show.
As the walls tumble
Founded in 1923, Nielson’s last update and modification to its ratings system took place in the 1940s — when TV was black and white, when characters were named Fred and Ethel, when cars ran on leaded gas that cost 10 cents a gallon.
The ratings system’s inability to account for change, to account for how today’s audience wants their entertainment, to yield to the new metrics has led to the show’s second cancellation.
The information is available and difficult to dispute. TiVo, iTunes, XBox Live, Netflix, Bit Torrents and the half dozen other venues used by viewers who are too busy, too social, too wrapped up in other things to plant themselves in front of the TV the way their parents once did scream for attention. ITunes reports "Jericho" as one of its most popular show downloads ever.
Online engagement for "Jericho" is impressive. The show’s season two opener was streamed 520,000 times during the week after the broadcast and 180,000 times during the following week. That’s just the episodes. Clip downloads took engagement well into the millions. That’s just for one week.
Speaking of online participation, "Jericho"-related forums, Facebook groups and blogs measure into the hundreds with tens of thousands of postings.
Mere hours after the cancellation story broke, online chatter sent a nuke-like shockwave through the blogosphere. Read through the posts. It’s a crash course in how Gen X thinks.
All shell and no nuts
This is not about the fate of a small Kansas town set in TV fantasyland. Neither is this a statement for how success must now be served up like fast food — piping hot and instantly.
This is about CBS’s failure to recognize who their customers are, where they are and how to provide programming to them. This is about a brand that has, even if by accident, touched millions of consumers and destroyed its chance to invest in their hearts and spearhead a major paradigm shift in television viewing. They stood at the crossroads. Turned their back. And proved they are all shell and no nuts.
At worst, "Jericho" could have been viewed as a lost leader. Making 9 million average Nielsen viewers happy and keeping them inside the store seems like smart business to me.
Instead, they chose to cancel their future, remain in the past and pretend the world hasn’t changed.
Looking for "Jericho" and finding Mayberry
Outside your office is the "Jericho" audience. They’re younger and different than you. If CBS failed to convert them to their way of participation, my guess is real estate will also fail in its efforts to convert them to its century-old model.
The world has changed — there is a new viewer in town. They’re unlike their parents. They’re not typical Nielsen families. They’re online. Looking for "Jericho" when it comes to real estate, my guess is that they are locating Mayberry in the form of Web sites that resemble the old black-and-white programs, produced by Fred for their Ethel customer.
CBS had something and they let it go. It wasn’t the show. It was the 10 million-plus diehard viewers that could have become CBS brand loyalists. Now they are rangers, fighting against the brand.
Real estate has something too. But it lets it go every day. The only difference is real estate viewers won’t protest brokerages with bags of peanuts. They’ll simply go and click on other channels.
There is a lesson to learn from CBS and its blind eye and deaf ear to a burgeoning demographic. People can be as passionate about real estate as they are about television shows. They are looking to do much more than just search for a home and they are looking to do it in ways that don’t always confine them to their desktop computers.
It’s time for real estate to go nuts. Attack old models. Attack old ideas. Attack those systems that threaten your way of life and that of your customers. Watch the last episode of "Jericho" season one.
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