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Stop Thinking Viewing Figures Are Important

This is the binge-watching generation.

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Anyone that knows me will know that television is one of the main loves of my life, along with chocolate digestives and my dog. But those people will also be familiar with the post-cancellation breakdown I go through every time a show I love gets axed before it was even given chance to shine because the viewing figures were “below average”.

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Most shows that get cancelled within their first season are the ones that predominantly feature minorities or tell stories that people (*cough* the media) don’t want to talk about.

For example, The Get Down and Sweet/Vicious were recently both cancelled after only having short first seasons. But how is a show supposed to build viewers if seasons are short and the system to count viewers is basically an estimation.

Lets look at the numbers

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I’m not going to pretend to know all the science behind rating statistics but from what I can gather from this article television viewing figures are based off the data from ~5000 households across the US. Now considering that this article also states that ~99million people have TVs in the country, this small number of households is not exactly going to be representative of the total viewing figures.

But we live in a binge-watching society.

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Not everyone watches TV straight away, we have shit to do. We record entire seasons or wait for the box set to go onto catch up and then watch it all at once.

Which is why it makes no sense that Netflix, a website based solely on the idea of watching TV when and where you want, would cancel shows because of lack of viewers. Even I didn’t finish the second season of Sense8 until recently due to dissertation deadlines and graduating from University.


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Judging a show that has a limited season by its viewers is not logical, networks need to follow in the footsteps of shows like Orphan Black.

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The New York Times recently published an article (which you can read here) about the legacy Orphan Black has built off the back of not very many viewers.

They listened to their fans’ stories, shared their art, gave the tattoo ideas and because of this the fans returned the favour by spreading their show across social media and across the world. Shows like Orphan Black is what TV should be like because they cared more about the people watching than where it sat in a league table of figures.

People are more important than numbers.

Shows about minorities are initially going to be watched by the people who feel represented most within that show, so of course the viewing figures aren’t going to be through the roof at first. The very definition of a minority is “a number or part representing less than half of the whole”. A show featuring a Muslim lesbian isn't going to be initially watched as much as a show about a bland group of white people doing nothing but drinking in New York because less people will relate to her story. But people will relate nonetheless and it shouldn’t matter the number of people. It is these people, the small group of viewers that finally see themselves represented in a place that often doesn’t cater to their life experiences, that are the most important.

It's shows like this that need a second season more than anything because they need a chance to share these rarely told stories.

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When someone writes a TV show, they don’t write it for the viewing figures, they write it to change the world, to share experiences or to just make just one person feel better.

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So listen to people's stories. Let them tell you how your show has changed their life. Television is a powerful tool that can make a person feel safe and accepted in world that often dismisses or mistreats them and that is more important than any figure on a spreadsheet on your computer screen.

Freeform / Via
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