What if NBC Doesn’t Renew Chuck?
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.