Some Musings on Split Seasons on TV

I was reading the latest Leverage post-game Q&A post and was thinking about split seasons.

Now, I HATE split seasons, particularly if I know the episodes for the back half have already been recorded, and they are just sitting on them for one reason or another.

From the article:

“All the networks are struggling with ways to retain viewers in a very crowded marketplace. The theory that by spiking winter episodes you create a kind of, ah, “enthusiasm bridge” between seasons is a popular one, and actually makes a fair bit of sense. I’ll be interested to see if Walking Dead holds its audience after a ten month break, for example.”

In some cases, it might sort of make sense, like when your season airs during the summer and you have a Christmas episode. Is it possible to bridge enthusiasm and/or deal with seasonal episodes in another manner than still creating month long gaps between season halves? Discussing with my good friend Jon, we came up with the following.

What if instead of splitting a season and having to worry about fans coasting for a few months, networks  instead slowed down the updates in general. So instead of on for 3 months, off for 4, you instead aired a new episode every 2 weeks, using the extra week to generate more buzz for the next episode.

There are multiple ways you could use the off week to generate buzz. Ones we came up with:

  • Reruns! A second showing of the latest episode, preferably in a different time slot to maximize the number of people who can watch your show. Sure, lots of shows let you view episodes online, and DVRs make recording easier, but TV still has the advantage of larger resolution and zero setup. Even with internet episodes, spacing out episodes still lets you build buzz.
  • Teasers.
  • Interviews. With the actors, or the writers. On the show in general, or in a Q&A format to interact with the fans.
  • Alternate Reality Games. Like what Lost did between seasons.

Really, none of these haven’t been done before. Doing them while the show is ongoing (as opposed to on break), would possibly have more impact and generate more buzz, and drive an audience to your show WHILE it is airing. Spreading out the airing schedule potentially gives people more time to do the above (prominent example being John Rodger’s Q&A above, on which he fell behind at some point, due to being busy writing and shooting Leverage).

There are, of course, other advantages:

  • If you plan properly, you can probably time your off weeks to coincide with major holidays (like Thanksgiving and the Superbowl) when the show won’t normally be aired ANYWAY.
  • Shooting schedules wouldn’t have to change, but if you wanted to, you could space those out a little more as well, which would let a show react to fan feedback (without having to go on break).

Downsides? I suppose this would alter the way Nielsen ratings work, but the internet is making that more and more meaningless. Being less competitive over time slots? Internet making the time slot largely irrelevant (seriously, when was the last time you stayed up to watch a late night talk show as opposed to catching the highlights on the site’s page or YouTube?).

As the internet makes the time slot largely irrelevant, this might seem like breaking out lawn chairs on the deck of the Titanic as she ends her voyage, but there is nothing stopping the above from being applied to shows online.  Especially for independent shows, where obtaining viewers is done solely by buzz over the internet, rather than via traditional advertising.


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