Thinking The Unthinkable

What if NBC Doesn’t Renew Chuck?

Is It Over?

I know, it’s an awful thing to say, but what if despite all the logic and letters and love we throw their way for bringing us Chuck, the heartless bastards spurn us.  It’s been a rocky relationship for years.  If NBC can’t see how deserving Chuck and it’s fans are, I say it’s time to move on.

Bear with me for a few paragraphs, yes, only a few.  I have an idea, and I want to treat it gently, it’s in a strange new place.  Now personally I think Chuck will get picked up.  I’ve outlined why I think it is a good idea from a business standpoint and a creative standpoint for NBC and WB to back our show.  Now I want to come at it from the consumers standpoint, where we take matters into our own hands.  After the jump.

So let’s say the unthinkable happens and NBC spurns our love.  I say we do what any spurned lover should do.  Go out, get a makeover and find a new love to show the fool what they are missing.  I know it’s not an entirely new idea, find a new network or move to another NBC/Universal property like USA or SciFi, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

Move on to Netflix or Hulu. Move on to online.

The idea may not be totally original on my part.  I was reading about Netflix bidding for original programming and the implications, but for the life of me couldn’t find the link again, so I apologize to whoever it is whose idea I’m stealing (but they weren’t talking about Chuck).  Fans can organize to let Hulu or Netflix know we are ready to pay them directly if they bring us more Chuck.

Chuck is a cult favorite with about 5 million reliable viewers and a segment of the fanbase who are highly visible online and, to put it mildly, rather fanatical.  What fraction of that fanbase would it take to fund Chuck?  There’s a model we can use.  A HuluPlus membership is $7.99 a month for streaming content that you can watch on your computer or other device, or your TV with a compatible device attached.  The same is true of Netflix, though they offer DVD rentals in addition for additional cost depending on the plan you want.  Amazon has just included free streaming content as part of the Amazon Prime membership for $79/year (which also includes free expedited shipping on all orders).  This is in addition to rentals and purchase options for streaming and downloadable digital HD video available online from iTunes and Amazon among others.  How we watch entertainment is changing, and we’ve all discussed how it is affecting network television’s business model.  What we haven’t talked about as much is how it empowers the consumer.  On another network Chuck would suffer the same problems as on NBC.  Ratings and viewership and the ability to sell advertising are what matter most.  Even if Chuck turns a profit another potentially more profitable show is always going to be a temptation as viewership wanes.  Online, Hulu, and Netflix, and Amazon count our hits, record our viewings, and collect our money directly.  They know exactly what they need to turn a profit.  And we can show them.

Let’s say at present producing an episode of Chuck averages about $2 million (a bit higher than we’ve been told).  So a full 22 episode season of Chuck would cost $44 million.  At present a 22 episode season lasts about 9 months.  Do the math and it takes about 600,000 new subscribers to any of the streaming services to fully pay for the production costs of a season.  If someone like Hulu decides they can capture about 10% of Chuck’s audience by offering it as part of their pay package, you can see it starts to look like a tempting deal.  The best part?  We can show them, or perhaps they already know, exactly how heavily watched Chuck is online.  Now imagine there were no broadcast or DVR available, just online.  Suddenly even the advertising inserted into the free streams could start to look like a viable revenue stream, because unlike the networks they can count exactly how many times a show containing it was watched, and by keeping it relatively short (unlike network TV who need to sell nearly 20% of every hour), can make sure most people, while they might pause and take a break, will watch the advertising.

An online provider has numbers they can take directly to the advertisers, or like HBO, do away with the advertising and use the original programming to lure people to buy their subscription.  Chuck fans are proficient and a presence online and have shown they will support their show, whatever it takes.  Sounds like a match made in heaven.

Pop quiz!  Would you subscribe to an online streaming provider if it were the only way to watch Chuck?  Assume the standard $7.99/month subscription, and that you aren’t already subscribed (like I am to both Netflix and Amazon) and that your internet connection met the necessary conditions for TV quality viewing.

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About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
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55 Responses to Thinking The Unthinkable

  1. Matt says:

    Completely Awesome idea! NBC would shiite themselves! I would join Hulu immediately.

  2. McNugget says:

    http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2011/03/21/bigger-story-netflix-original-content-or-a-man-running-the-cw/86387

    Quote :

    ” I wouldn’t look for much original content from Netflix though. In its current business, Netflix’s economics are pretty good for TV shows on the streaming side, but that’s for old episodes which can be licensed relatively cheaply.  But with streaming-only subscriptions available for just for $7.99, the economics don’t suggest Netflix can afford to get bogged down funding a lot of original content. At this point I’d be surprised if Netflix did much to divert its focus on dominating with movie and not-new TV episode streaming. ”

    Even though it’s unlikely , I totally would .

  3. Rick Holy says:

    If NBC cancels CHUCK after this season, I would say “thanks for four seasons,” and move on. I’ll look at my Entertainment Weekly 2011 fall preview, see if there’s anything that interests me, and tune in.

    As much as I enjoy CHUCK and have done (and spent) more in regard to promoting, purchasing, etc., etc., things “Chuck”-related, I realize that TV shows come – – and then eventually they go. They don’t always “go” according to MY liking, but that’s the way it goes. If we get a fifth season, I’ll be thrilled. But if we don’t, I’m not expending any more TIME, MONEY, or BLOOD, SWEAT and TEARS to “bring CHUCK back.”

    Mind you, I’m writing this wearing one of my 5 CHUCK tee shirts as my framed Season 1 promo poster of “He’s the Secret, She’s the Agent” stares down at me; two CHUCK hats sit on my book shelves, my CHUCK/BUYMORE coffee mug sits ready and waiting for my morning coffee, still shrink-wrapped copies of CHUCK Seasons 1-3 which I just purchased (for the I don’t know how-manyeth time) sit on my desk – waiting that opportune moment to be given to yet another person as a gift, a sleep sheep sits in a nook of my headboard ready to gently lull me to sleep with the sound of a gentle rain, etc., etc., etc., (I could list more) but THAT’S IT. I love the show, but when it comes to supporting it, trying to publicize it, working to “save” it, etc., I’M SPENT. There’s nothing left in the tank.

    I always managed to find at least ONE thing I enjoyed watching on TV each season before Schwedak even though up the idea for CHUCK. And I’m sure I’ll be able to find something else I enjoy after CHUCK is gone – be it this season or next.

    So……. If NBC announces a 13 episode pick up for my current favorite program for next season, I’ll say “Yipee!” But if they announce that CHUCK is cancelled, I’ll say, “Thanks for 4 seasons, most of which was a blast,” and that will be that.

  4. Verkan_Vall says:

    I think it is a very good idea and worth giving a try. One problem might be that Schwartz & Fedak don’t seem to think outside of the standard TV “box”.

    I voted yes.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      They don’t need to think outside the box if we do. Everything is silly and impossible, until it becomes inevitable. Powered flight, moon landings, zero calorie soft drinks….

  5. atcDave says:

    I like this idea a lot. Even if Netflix isn’t really an option, DirecTV has produced original programming, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Comcast did next. I’m sure with Chuck’s on-line prominence this could work. I know I would pay for it, I already do both for iTunes and Blu-Rays; so I actually like the idea of cutting out the network middle man (and the commercials).
    The only catch is, as a new business model there’s bound to be pitfalls we haven’t foreseen. Even if we get 95% of visitors here on board, its a pure guess how many more casual viewers would sign up.
    I’m hoping for at least one more season out of NBC.

  6. Faith says:

    No, I don’t really like Chuck, yet I still feel compelled to come to this blog. And vote.


    (Yes I purposely saved, uploaded and brought the rolling icon from the boards just for this comment. It was that funny).

    I love the idea Ernie. Certainly where it seems to me television is headed. Traditionally when something is purchased it’s with the understanding that it would be commercial-free but even then you have the opportunity to get financial support via in-show ads.

    From a financial standpoint, it would need to be profitable enough—as in get enough subscriptions and commercial endorsement to be able to come up with the overhead and also make a profit for the company (otherwise they wouldn’t do it). I believe there are a couple of shows that are exclusively online and radically, paid by consumer. Although these are usually one woman-man shows, of infinitesimal budgets it shows at least that there is a market for such a thing.

    Currently, Chuck gets roughly 5 million viewers, that’s a good enough number to stay on the air (in terms of NBC/WB profit margins) and bankroll its 1.3 million per episode. But it does so at a constant Cancellation Bear risk. Online it won’t need 5 million viewers, but it would need to create enough to bankroll and to profit for those companies to even consider it. Which brings to question how different is it from Cable? They have a bit of a lower budget at <1.2 million per episode and their licensing fees are subsidized by advertising and subscription fees.

    College-Hill, Josh Schwartz's production company that is producing Chuck, is ultimately allied with Warner Brothers but it's still its own production company within the label (think music business, artists are sometimes given their own labels, under the Sony, Island umbrella). This leads me to a tangent on how is it that creators of their own show, and creators that are creating their own show under their own production companies (for example Smallville a Miles and Gough production, allied again through WB) could be replaced as show runners and yet still keep the show in production? I've been wondering that for awhile now, the answer must be that ultimately they sign off rights to prolong a show even just for profit and not for creative direction. But I digress.

    Anyway, back on topic: I think there is a market for Chuck to be a paid-by-the consumer of show. Not PBS (though that shows you the difficulty of public endorsed television), but one that might actually work. Especially if you market it globally. It's already shown that its viewers are willing to part with the dough, why couldn't it extend directly to the product? That's the question.

  7. joe says:

    Hum… I actually voted “It’s likely I would.” Surprised? Here’s my reasoning…

    Producing original content online strikes me as a great idea, but also, it’s too tempting. I spend enough time on-line, essentially alone, away from my wife in a semi-catatonic state, and I need to get away from that, not imbibe more. At least with the the physical vehicle of television we can get catatonic together.

    Seriously, Chuck is one of the few shows that a family can still enjoy together. Although it’s been a very personal (and intense!) experience for me, but I suspect that it’s a stronger family experience. No, it’s not Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, but this isn’t 1964, either.

    BTW, what will on-line content look like? Half-hour shows? Hour shows? Why? Could they move to 15 minute snippets, or for that matter, segments whose length actually depend on the story instead of the needs of advertising? Wouldn’t THAT be at interesting development?

    • OldDarth says:

      FYI Joe, in case you are unaware, streaming from your PC to a TV would allow you to keep the family viewing tradition up.

      Any current gen game console, including the Wii as well as many Blu-ray players, have built-in WiFi, and can do streaming.

      Let alone dedicated devices for the same purpose.

      • joe says:

        Ah, yes! That’s a technology that is new to me, even as I’ve just recently become aware of it!

        That may be a good compromise. Still, it’s waaaayyy too tempting for me to sit in front of my PC and watch HULU or the various network outlets to see things I really love. It’s a funny kind of solitary experience.

      • atcDave says:

        Thanks for that OD, I was going to add AppleTV to the list. It allows rental from the iTunes store, Netflix, You Tube, or anything in your iTunes library via your television. Many Blu-Ray players also offer Netflix or other streaming services. In a way, the Internet has become just another channel on your TV.
        Program length is less dictated by the programming medium than it is on television; but I think most peoples sense of value and the dictates of story telling would generate a show of similar, but less rigid duration. I know Star Trek: Phase Two is a fan produced Internet show that produces programs that are roughly an hour in length.

      • ArmySFC says:

        dave on the length of a show. its dictated by the net work in some cases. i know that mad men is rumored to be getting canceled because the network they are on wants to cut 3 minutes from each episode to sell more adds. the show runners don’t want to do it and apparently won’t budge. so online the episodes could be longer which would be good.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah army, 43 (+/- 1) minutes is standard on the broadcast networks. Cable networks are more like 41 minutes for an hour show. I was talking about internet produced media; my guess is program length would be similar, but less rigidly adhered to (much like for music; album length used to be about 30 minutes for an LP in the 1960s. With the advent of CDs in the 1980s album length often topped an hour. Now we’ve seen things level off at about 45 minutes for an album, regardless of format).

      • ArmySFC says:

        dave true. i was figuring if it was pay by episode or month covering the cost as ernie suggested there would be less need for ad time so the show could cut less after filming.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh yeah, or at least really good scenes wouldn’t be so often “cut for length.” It would be freeing in way not to have squeeze program and advertisements into an hour.

  8. Big Kev says:

    I would happily pay for quality TV shows in whatever form they were available – either directly, per show, or as part of a genre-based channel producing it’s own shows. In Australia, US shows are bought by the 4 major networks here, and most of the lower rated ones (like Chuck) are onsold to cable aggregators like Fox 8. Chuck, for example, was never aired on network TV here, despite being originally bought (I believe) by Channel 7.
    Virtually everything I watch (which, granted, isn’t much) falls into that lower rated category of show that doesn’t get a network TV run and turns up on cable. But there’s usually at least a year between the first run in the US, and when we see it here – which is why I download Chuck. If NBC gave me the option to pay them directly to watch, I absolutely would….but they’d clearly lose money on their overseas distribution deals if they did that.
    So the traditional network TV model basically produces nothing I want to watch, and has an antiquated data collection system that stipulates that I must sit down, at an appointed place and time, via only one platform, for my tastes and preferences to count. In an era when markets are fragmenting, and people want to watch when and how is convenient for them, network TV is a doomed model and the sooner there are loads of directly funded or subscription-based alternatives the better.

    • I’m with you on this.

      Most of the shows that I watch aren’t aired here in France. When they are it takes forever for them to be broadcast, even for hugely successful shows (I just learned for example that Season 6 of House was coming this month. Can you imagine? This is ridiculous. Almost two seasons behind, and the show is a huge hit…) Not to mention that they really don’t know how to schedule the shows they do care to air. I actually make a point of not watching shows on TV now, because the way French TV handles TV shows just piss me off. Now that they forced me to get used to watch shows online for free, I have no interest in giving them money.

      I don’t know how much money overseas distribution deals represent, and how it works exactly, but the system in place is just screwed. Basically shows are sold so that they are never to be seen on TV and people have to watch them illegally. Surely they could find a better way to make money out of this.

    • thinkling says:

      What Big Kev said. I’m in the same boat as Big Kev and Crumby, when we’re in Brazil. Whatever US shows I want to keep up with are (1) on cable, not OTA and (2) a season or two behind the US. From the standpoint of living overseas, if I could pay any online provider (network, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, … even iTunes) and stream or download Chuck, I would do it. Unfortunately none of these is available overseas. I can’t even watch the network preview clips … only after someone puts them on Youtube.

      When we’re in the US, I have a networked CinemaTube (DLNA media server) attached to my TV. It plays content from my computer or an attached drive; and using Playon software as a UPnP server, it streams a ton of content from the internet, including Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, youtube, and a bunch of networks. So, lots of internet options.

      Chuck is already available a lot of places online, for US customers. I don’t know if they would be willing to make it uniquely available online. That’s a pretty big jump. If everybody can make the same amount of money, they might be willing to try it; but it’s probably longer odds than renewal.

      Bottom line. Yes, I would pay for Chuck online.

      • Brandon says:

        An HD episode of any tv show costs $3.99 on amazon/itunes. Take away apple’s/amazon’s $1 that leaves $2.99 for the producers. If Chuck really cost $2,000,000 per episode (it doesn’t, it costs more, the license fee to NBC is around $1,5m, WB tacks on online/international/DVD sales to break even) you would need 669,000 people to go out and buy Chuck on a weekly basis (or through season passes) for this to be viable. In other words 1 out of 7.5 viewers that watch Chuck (for free) would need to agree to pay for Chuck. I know it sounds “simple” but no, it wouldn’t work, not in a million years. You can’t get 13% of all the people that watch Chuck (forgetting some of those are multi-person families) to pay $60 to get a season Chuck, not everybody is THAT in love with the show. Look at DVD sales, have you ever seen Chuck sell 700000 DVDs? And that’s less than half the price a season pass costs. Have you seen a fansite with 700,000 members?

        That plus the fact the math assumes WB would be happy to produce the show for no profit, which is a tad unrealistic.

        Just enjoy whatever is left of the season. If the thing is canceled well, Chuck got 2 seasons more than it deserved from a ratings point of view. So that’s good. If not, there will be another fight to fight next year, if people have it in them to keep fighting for a TV show year in year out.

      • Brandon says:

        Obviously misclicked, the above was meant as a general reply to the topic not specifically a reply to thinkling

  9. armysfc says:

    Ernie…since this post has nothing to do with the actual show or its characters i figured what the heck. using your figures i see a few problems. first is you state it runs for 9 months which is true. if you run it online only would you still add in the breaks? without breaks chuck runs for 5.5 months not 9. if they showed it every week it would cost about 10.60 per month to hit your figures. i do understand the more viewers you get the less you can charge, again i’m using the numbers you put out.

    i bring this up because charging a monthly fee and not giving the same amount of programming every month seems wrong to me. they could just show 3 episodes per month for 7 months and add the extra one some where else and adjust the price from there. the less you show per month however drives the cost per episode up. by reducing the number of months you increase the cost per month. how high would a consumer go?

    the next issue would be the guaranteed revenue vs the non guaranteed revenue. networks for the most part have guaranteed revenue. for the internet option there is no guarantee. you can have 600k this month and 650 or 550 k the next. based on the decline in the ratings over the last few years as a business, not a fan, would you take the risk? unlike a network that could pull a show and replace it with something in the wings or show reruns, would you pay the same for reruns on the internet?

    dave hit on a big thing as well, the start up cost. i’m looking at worse case scenario here, a complete start from scratch. the infrastructure alone would cost a lot. a place to film, land for the studio, buildings, equipment things like that. it would have to go into the double digit millions if not triple digits. that’s an awful lot of cash to lay out in hope that people will tune in. it would also take time to set up. will the fan base be as strong when everything was in place and production ready to start? i would guess these costs would also be passed on to the consumer again driving the cost per month up. even if NBC or WB lets X use all their stuff already in place they would most likely charge X for its use again driving up the cost per episode. why would they let X use a studio for free when they could use it to produce a show they could make money on?

    do i know this for sure no, and i am not trying to say i do. these are just some counter points from a business and consumer point of view that i can see coming up in the event it takes place.

    i would give it a shot for a month depending on the cost. it would depend on how i liked the episodes to see if i would keep it the following months.

    • atcDave says:

      I don’t think its so much a matter of getting WB to let someone use their facilities; I’m pretty sure WB, and other studios, will want in on the act. At some point, I imagine a lot of content will be produced on a pay-per-view a la carte basis. My biggest concern would be promoting the start of up of such a venture. Its a different way of delivering content for most viewers, so it may take some time to catch on. A show like Chuck, with a well educated tech savvy viewership may be a good candidate for such a project. But whether its Chuck or not, I’m sure we’ll see this model in the near future.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Army, you make a lot of assumptions that you need to not make. Simplify it. Right now WB budgets Chuck somewhere around 1.5 million per episode. We have that from one of the Chuck team in an interview in season 3, so we’ll go with that. Now WB has a long term interest in Chuck with foreign distribution and DVD/Blue-Ray sales, plus possible syndication. Based on all those things, WB charges NBC a licensing fee which gives NBC exclusive rights to broadcast Chuck in the US for some time. It also seemed to have given NBC the right to online distribution for some time, which changed abruptly when Comcast bought NBC. So we don’t know the fee NBC pays, but we can assume it is based in some measure on the production costs of the show since the reduced fee for season 3 directly impacted the show budget. So to be safe, say the whole of production costs is the licensing fee. Instead of producing the show and licensing it to NBC, WB would produce the show and license it to Hulu, who like NBC would hold exclusive rights for some period of time. When the online providers can stream to your TV, they essentially become a subscription channel. Sooner or later they’ll start acting like one and picking up or producing their own content to attract subscribers.

      If an online provider wanted to get a jumpstart and make some headlines, a cult show with a fanatical online fanbase might seem like a good gamble to make some headlines and maybe attract some new subscribers.

      That’s all I’m saying.

      There will be naysayers, like there were with iTunes. But it was precisely the mindset that the distribution method, $18 CDs or broadcast TV, was or is the product as opposed to the delivery method that nearly killed the music industry and is killing network TV. Network TV is already obsolete and the ratings reflect that. There are more than 3 choices and people don’t have to sit at the appointed time and watch as delivered. The VCR killed that in the 80’s. It is taking some time, but sooner or later the broadcast networks will have to adapt.

      • ArmySFC says:

        ernie for some reason my posts seem to bother you but thats ok. my response was based on your main post and this line in it….”What fraction of that fanbase would it take to fund Chuck?” no where in that post did you mention the things you just did.

        i replied to what was in that post alone. you quoted 2 mil not me. i just used your numbers and the information you gave us in that post. you never mentioned any network backing or other factors you added like you did in in your reply to mine. if you look further down the page you will see that i think comcast could possibly pull it off and why. had you given the same information you did in this reply in your main post i would have agreed with you and my response would have been much different.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Army, they don’t bother me, they just confuse me. I was presenting what I thought was a pretty simple model, online licensing versus broadcast licensing, and all of the sudden you were writing as if the show shut down and had to find a new studio or that Hulu or Netflix would have some sort of special plan or rate for Chuck fans. Maybe I wasn’t clear, and so I sought to clarify that assumptions like needing a new studio or the full production cost being paid by the online provider weren’t really necessary. They were just confusing the issue.

      • ArmySFC says:

        ernie i wasn’t alone in being confused. dave mentioned start up costs as well. Faith also brought up the idea that it needed to be profitable. yet you singled me out which is ok. i did mention it was worse case.

        i agree with the itunes. the big difference is for a fee you can get as many songs as you want from various artists correct? same with hulu premium or whatever it’s called. i’m not up on how it works so that’s just a guess. with the chuck thing you would only get chuck.

  10. Stef62 says:

    People buy season tickets to watch whatever sports team they like, and no one blinks.

    It’s the same with magazines. People pay an upfront subscription to receive the magazine they want.

    They are both forms of entertainment, and paying a subscription for a tv programme is the next logical step. The programme makers are guaranteed a pot of money to work with, and there still is scope for the casual viewer to buy episodes. Similar to what happens with casual sports fans who go to watch the odd game.

    • Faith says:

      That is a great point.

      In fact on itunes alone, how many people buy season passes? I mean that’s a hefty chump of change right there. Not all that different, really.

    • ArmySFC says:

      stef62, good points all. you are correct some teams sell out each year no matter how bad they are. keep in mind most teams have been followed for a very long time.

      consider sports teams, look at some stadiums of teams that are not doing well near the end of the season. stadiums are near empty in some cases. they get supplements from the leagues they are in plus all the revenue generated by the sales inside the stadium. a pay by month show can’t afford that. they need to maintain a certain level to be profitable to the company backing it. also look at the number of ads around the stadiums.

      next, magazines subscriptions are fairly cheap due to the ad in the product. the reader is not paying all the cost of production as was suggested here.

      i do feel its a good idea it may not be practical for a lot of reasons.

      • Stef62 says:

        you make a valid point on the stadiums being empty. However many of those empty seats will belong to season ticket holders who will have paid upfront before the season has started. Admitedly if the fare they’ve been offered is poor, then they don’t renew when they the renewal letter through the door, but it’s the same with anything you pay upfront.

        I’m also assuming that they show runners will access to the sponsorship monies from the likes of Toyota, and Subway

  11. Ernie Davis says:

    Some interesting comments. I’ll say this in general, sooner or later some of the online providers are going to start looking for their own content as opposed to licensing from others. It’s a well established path for cable channels and for pay channels like HBO and Showtime. My back of the envelope economics was a guestimate to show that the economics aren’t insurmountable. No provider like Hulu is going to poll Chuck fans and only take on the show if they have X number committed to subscribing, or adjust their subscription fees according to the costs. They will, like HBO did, make a judgement when they feel spending the money to produce their own show is worth it to attract new subscribers, who they then hope will be long term subscribers.

    • ArmySFC says:

      ernie i agree completely with that. comcast would be a good company to try it. not only do they own, either in full or in part, several networks. they are also a cable provider to millions. all they would really need to do would be start up an online service similar to hulu (if possible) for shows they want to produce.

      as you say, i see online viewing coming, much the same way some movies are made studio to DVD with no time spent in theaters.

    • Brandon says:

      The networks own Hulu, all they are trying to do is to monetize online views for content they already own .. they tried using ads, people were just not interested in watching 20 minutes of ads per episode. So subscriptions is the only way to go. I still think internet only shows (with budgets in the millions) are a long way away.

      And you are confusing Chuck’s budget with Chuck’s license fee. They are not the same thing. The license fee is considerably lower than the budget (the $1.5m figure you quoted is the license fee)

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Actually, we have somewhere on this blog one of the Chuck crew stating that their budget was about 1.5 million. I agree licensing fee and budget are often confused, but they are linked. TPTB were clear that when NBC wanted a cut in the fee WB cut the show budget.

      • armysfc says:

        heres a tid bit that makes me wonder. i researched the cost of an ad on NBC for mondays. a 30 sec spot goes for about 87k. there are about 17 minutes of ads during chuck or 34 ads total. at the above price chuck brings in just under 3 mil per show. so for 24 episodes it brings in 72 mil for the season. using the 1.5 mil cost per episode it costs 36 mil. so chuck makes 36 mil.

        my questions are… when is doubling your investment in a year a bad thing? who splits the 36 mil? does it all go to NBC because the license fee is part of the 1.5 mil per episode or does part go to WB?

        sounds good right? check this out. during the same hour house generates 8.5 mil.

      • atcDave says:

        I think 36 million is likely an acceptable profit until they come up with something they think will do better. So the margin S5 hangs on is entirely that, can Chuck be replaced by something that will yield a higher profit. As Ernie was suggesting in his post above, that is actually a pretty good reason to be optimistic for another season on NBC.

      • Big Kev says:

        @Army,
        I’m not sure if that $1.5 million is the production cost borne by WB (and recouped via their licence fee to NBC) or whether it’s the cost to NBC? If it’s the first, then the net cost to NBC would be higher than $1.5 million, because WB would need their cut.
        I remember last season Magnus said that NBC made about $1 million per episode on Chuck, so if we assume they’re shelling out about $2 million in licence fee/overheads and making $1 million – it’s still a pretty tidy return of 66%.

      • Brandon says:

        armysfc the network doesn’t make money on every single ad minute. The average is about 25 ads/hourlong show, those are the ones the network gets paid for. The rest are network/affiliate promos and ads run on behalf of each affiliate. And from those 25 ads, when a show underperforms, you have to deduct makegoods that the network has to deliver to clients that bought ad time during upfronts.

  12. amyabn says:

    I want a season 5. I think there are stories left to tell about the Bartowski legacy and how Ellie fits in. Add the family dynamics, and the spy stories and you have more to explore. As for subscription tv, I already am an iTunes season pass person, I buy the dvds, and when in the states, I’ll try streaming the occasional episode. Oh, and I tivo.

    In another unrelated thought (getting back to schadenfreude), I was on TVBTN and looked at the Friday ratings for NBC shows. Chuck kills them all in terms of ratings. I’m just trying to keep up and look at the other choices out there. I don’t think their Next Best Restaurant show will do well, and I’m not sure about the new Law and Order: LA reboot. I know, off topic, but I thought it was worth sharing.

    • thinkling says:

      Me too, me too, me too. Season 5 I mean.

      The schadenfreude news sounds encouraging, Amy. If nothing else they could move us to Friday.

    • atcDave says:

      Moving to Friday would certainly be better than cancellation, but it would likely cost us a number of same day views. Obviously no way of telling how big of a loss until the time comes.

      • armysfc says:

        dave, im going to disagree but on a more positive note. i think chuck would do better on friday than it does on mondays. granted the may lose some of the current viewers but i think they would gain more of the viewers back that they lost to other shows over the years. on monday viewers have much more to choose from. fridays there is not much on that does good. having chuck on against that competition can only help.

        i think we would also see the drop after the first half hour stop. i know we talked about that as well. on mondays folks can leave and tune into DWTS after the recap first half hour or CBS comedy show. friday again has no options. i don’t know why i just feel friday at this point in time is a better fit.

  13. Gringo Chuck Fan says:

    Hola Amigos – really interesting discussion –
    I’d like to wade in on the topic….
    First off – I think it will happen eventually – and its probably a good idea.
    Secondly – How many networks air programming that they do not produce?
    I think we could see an increase in that. It would be like the Walmart of broadcast media… or maybe much more like radio stations. They don’t produce the music – just give it air time. Broadcast networks might just become outlets – not necessarily the creative force nor the producers. How many great show come out of the WB – that get air time on other networks?… sorry, I asked that already.
    Third, I think as we see a greater proliferation in smart phones – and greater bandwidth capacity, you’ll no doubt see more mergers or partnerships between traditionally distinct media types….. Movies, TV, Radio. Phone, Cable, Internet….
    will all end up within similar distribution bundles – its inevitable. So entertainment production will be at a premium… especially anything of quality.
    Will any of that help Chuck – probably not [ at this time] – but I wouldn’t be surprised if someday we live long enough to see a “reboot” of the series if it doesn’t make the cut in this current schedule.

  14. Robert H says:

    I would probably do it. A lot would depend how many chuck viewers have access to, understand, and would be willing to use the technology. Comcast might be a good base to start with. As an idea I think it is a good one but it might be a little ahead of its time
    although I agree with atcdave its time will come and maybe sooner than later. The idea of cutting out the middleman and going direct to the consumer building many small to medium niches in the market place, not to mention possible large ones, as the technology becomes more common place in the mass media stands a good chance of being the wave of the future. Sadly while I agree this could be done for Chuck now from a pure technological viewpoint, from a practical point of view I just don’t think this is going to happen at the present time to save Chuck. Whether or not the show comes back for one more year will depend on a business decision by Comcast-NBC that
    will depend on a number of variables-ratings, show profit, sponsors, what is available or not available as a replacement in the current time slot, syndication rights, negotiations with WB, etc.

    In the final analysis I’m inclined to agree with Fr Rick. If a final season comes about, NBC needs to make it clear it’s the last season, order 22 episodes up front so the producers can plan ahead to wrap things up in the best way possible and maybe move it to Friday nights. If the show is cancelled then at least viewers had 4 years of a show that on any other network would only have gotten 2. There’s always the possibility that if cancelled NBC could order a special show or a short arc to wrap things up or Comcast could move it to cable. Maybe another network could pick it up for another year although the odds of that happening are slim.

    Well we are now entering the home stretch. Nothing to to do now except wait and see.
    Maybe an announcement will be made one way or another before May 18th but I think
    we’ll have to sweat it out as usual, what will be will be……

  15. Camper says:

    For me this show hit its high point 2 years ago with Chuck vs The Colonel (which in one way was one the best episodes this show ever did, in another way trapped the show too soon on a road of no return wrt Chuck/Sarah). From then on it’s been a headless chicken running around looking for direction, and a story to tell. They gave Chuck his hero journey (which should have been the endgame to the show) in season 3. And they did a lousy job at it. Season 3.1 and 4 have just been filler and fluff. I dread to think what a possible Season 5 would bring. Big Mike joins the CIA? Jeffster the new campy Big Baddies ? Spare me. Would I watch a Season 5 if NBC airs it? Maybe. Would I go out and preemptively spend 10-20-50 dollars to get a Season 5? Sorry but no.

  16. Faith says:

    From a business point of view, though, Chuck is angling for that fifth season because that’s generally seen as a threshold for syndication viability. And given that almost nobody predicted Chuck would survive this long, it would be kind of a shame for the rug finally to be pulled at this point. But who knows what NBC is going to do this fall under new management. The network may still need to hold on to a couple of fan-friendly franchises such as this as it rebuilds once again basically from scratch. Or they could decide to do a thorough housecleaning. My crystal ball, as they like to say, is cloudy.
    TVGuide’s Matt Roush.

    Season 5 FTW. Also I disagree with the fan, but I appreciate her POV.

  17. Faith says:

    Are people reading my out of topic posts? 😛

    But even if it was, unfortunately, and I’ve talked to fans about this before, online viewership just doesn’t hold water with networks. The money is coming from advertisers who are paying for the show to be watched on television. We make some online revenue, but it pales in comparison to what we need to make a show, especially one the size and scope “Chuck” is. I want to say to the fans that I love your fervor and your passion and your love, and it means so much to me, but don’t waste your time thinking it’s going to resonate with the network thinking that they’ll renew the show. We’ve come back every year, and I know that the network and studio have taken the fans voice into account. One of the smartest things I’ve ever seen is the Subway campaign, because that does resonate with the advertiser. The advertiser might say, “Well, if they’re willing to buy sandwiches to keep a show on the air, there may be some merit to it.” While going online shows love and shows passion, our numbers continue to drop. You’ve got to go rustle up people to watch the show.
    Zachary Levi, HitFix with Sepinwall

    A great read all the way through. ^is just a snippet.

    So is this:

    I try not to look at ratings, because at the end of the day, all you can do is go to work, do your best, and be as much love and light for everyone around you, and keep a positive attitude.

    ZL is a great guy.

  18. DS says:

    Sounds like a great idea to me and I would have considered it if the plan is to actually make the content accessible for European viewers (opposite to hulu and many others).

    I’m living in Europe so the only way I can keep up with chuck is by illegal means but if they make such a website/ service available for us non-us viewers as well than I’m definitely willing to pay a reasonable amount to watch new chuck episodes, especially if this can keep the show on the air for a few more years.

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  21. Heather says:

    Ok, so I am coming to this post almost a year after the last reply, and after the last episode of Chuck has aired on NBC. Maybe I’m wasting my time, but here is a thought…What if we started a movement for all Chuck fans to join a particular site? (That is, assuming you aren’t subscribed already). *After* signing up, you send a message that you joined in the hopes that Netflix or Hulu or whoever we choose might pick up and produce new episodes of Chuck. Maybe we stay another month and send another message. Then, in the third month, assuming there is no announcement, we all agree to quit paying for the service and drop it. When we do, we let them know we are leaving because they didn’t deliver Chuck. Cost per person? Around $15-$20 for the two months (and yes, we’d have to make sure we paid, so it might take 3 months if we got some sort of free trial offer). Anyway, my point is this: It is the Subway sandwich movement but with the internet. We bought sandwiches for Chuck, and Subway responded because they saw money coming in as a direct result of advertising. We gave them feedback and cold hard cash. If we just ask for Netflix to produce the show, promising to join only *after* they do, then we are asking them to take a huge leap of faith. They have to spend lots of money before they get any back. However, if we can get lots of participation with many, many Chuck viewers joining a site they didn’t belong to or withdrawing from a site they already belonged to, the online site will see the effect immediately. They will be happy to pick up new customers at first, then baffled on the day we agree to all cancel en masse. I just think that might get through to them better than asking for new shows or an online movie. If it works, great! If not, we aren’t out much money and in the meantime we get to use the service to view other content. Just a thought. Of course, the plan would take mass participation, coordination, and an agreement to focus on a particular site.

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