The Platinum Age of Television: Nielsen is Dead, Long Live Twitter
Breaking Bad, Dexter, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men; Television has never been better. Or has it?
For every action there’s an opposite and equal reaction, and with the rise of every new great television series there’s also a lot more dross making its way into living rooms across the country and abroad. Regardless, one thing is certain, television has made a strong comeback in lieu of movies and video games. But what’s with this so-called “Platinum Age of Television” and how is it measured? Is it that shows are actually getting better in regards to content, or is does it have to do with how that viewership is measured? Do these standard television rating systems even count the growing online audience found on Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming mediums? What about the rise of social media? How much pull does Facebook and Twitter really have in not only attracting television audiences, but also developing fanbases to keep the shows on the air? And while LaughingMan, Kenny, CineMax, and B-Mask lament the endings of a few of their favorite television shows (Dexter, Breaking Bad) they crack open a past issue of WIRED Magazine and debate how much validity this so-called “Platinum Age of Television” has behind it.
All while trying to keep off of the radars of Disney’s deadly attack helicopters.
LaughingMan: So, who’s lamenting the ending of their favorite television shows?
CineMax: *Sigh* Yeah, breaking bad is over. So is Dexter.
Kenny: Yeah, I’m sad Dexter is dead.
LaughingMan: See, I never remember television shows ever getting this kind of mass following. Sure, a lot of old television shows had fans, but they never had fans like this. People who follow television shows on social media. There’s even an April 2013 issue Wired Magazine that states that “We’re currently living in the Platinum Age of Television” and that “Television has never been better.”
B-Mask: Hmm. Now I know we discussed this before, but I find it really interesting when people say that we live in a certain age, like platinum or golden. Because it’s so subjective as a value.
Kenny: Yeah. I mean, people will say that shows like Leave It to Beaver, The Honeeymooners, The Andy Griffith Show were the golden age of television and that we’ll never get any better. But based on whose perspective? Based against what exactly?
LaughingMan: Well, they’re actually just gauging these things not by, you know, a value. They’re gauging them by an anniversary. You know, the golden anniversary, the silver anniversary, the platinum anniversary.
CineMax: But of course, what’s interesting is that, unlike history, which always follows a consecutive order of sorts… You know, the stone age, the bronze age, the iron age. So it always kinda progresses forward.
CineMax: However, when we discuss mediums such as movies, video games, or hell even comic books — it’s the other way around. You know, like: “Hey! Here’s the golden age of comic books.” Okay, what’s so special about the golden age of comic books? “Ummm. Well, you know, Superman lifted a car and threw it at someone! Oh, and Wonder Woman made a timely passing racist remark!
B-Mask: I’d like to just quickly add: I don’t know if I’ve said this before on the show, but I still stand by what was once said by a friend of Jeremy Clarksons. He said that there never was a golden age of television. What happened was, was that we had all this stuff that was made back in the day, and you can count, like, ten good things in a decade. Whereas now what’s happened is, because we are able to create more, we are able to produce more good content than we’ve ever had before. However, as a result, there’s a fuck of a lot more dross because we’re making as much bad as we are good.
B-Mask: So it sorta equals out that way.
LaughingMan: Here’s the thing. You guys are mentioning that… You guys are using the show’s quality as the decisive force of the platinum age of television. And while I do agree that certain shows are getting better and worse shows are obviously getting even worse. Honey Boo Boo… UGH.
LaughingMan: But the point of the Wired Magazine article is to look at why these shows are taking off, what’s driving this fanaticism. What helped the Walking Dead get 12 million viewers in its mid-season finale? They’re really exploring the social and technological aspects of what’s going on.
B-Mask: Yeah, well here’s the thing. While we can make the argument for the fact that there’s a massive following for great shows such as Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones; the problem is, you can also say the same thing for the Big Bang Theory… And that’s when you have to go: “Ah, now wait a minute. That’s a bit…”
Kenny: Yeah. *Sigh*
B-Mask: If we’re really looking at it objectively, we could make the argument for the fact that social media — you know, Facebook, Twitter, etc. — has a lot in building an audience for ANY show, regardless of its quality.
Kenny: Well, I mean it’s just like — with an example from the gaming industry — how, you know, you have The Last Of Us being so well received, but then you also have Call of Duty so well received. So it really is a relative point of discussion here. Like, how do these things get so many fans. You know, on the critical and general public side of things.
B-Mask: Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to say it’s because they’re not good shows. Because, you know, it’s completely subjective what you enjoy and what you don’t. And there are some things which I believe you can say with a certain degree of nuance: “Yes. This is a much better show than we’ve had before.” But it’s really tough. Because you’re trying to equate success with quality, and that doesn’t always add up. Because again, like I’ve said, there are so many bad shows out there.
LaughingMan: Right. It’s my belief that that if FireFly was released in this day and age it would not have gotten canceled. Because according to Wired Magazine and the research they’ve done — that we’ve boggarted. *Laughs*
LaughingMan: They bassically make a lot of points about how Fox was always going off the Nielsen Ratings system. Which they found out is highly innacurate. Especially in this day and age when the Nielsen Ratings don’t even count Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV…
CineMax: Or hell, even DVR recordings.
LaughingMan: Exactly! DVR recording, which can boost a show’s popularity by 120%.
Kenny: And for those of you at home, really quickly, who don’t know what the Nielsen Ratings system is. The Niesel Ratings basically use a system called ‘statistic sampling’ to rate the shows. So they create a sample audience and count how many in that audience view each program. So, essentially what they do is…
LaughingMan: They pull stats out of their ass!
Kenny: Yeah, that’s what they do. They pull statistics. Like, because they don’t get the full sample of people. Instead, they get a small sample of people that may actually be innacurate as to how many people are actually watching the show.
B-Mask: Tell me about. They’re talking about 5,000 people, and how big is America?
B-Mask: But this is really how the movie industry uses that in particular to gauge what movies get made and what movies don’t get made. I remember telling you guys about how, when one of the heads of Aardman Animation came to talk to us, he told us about how, when DreamWorks owned them, they’d put them in a mall in Texas and have families come in and rate their films. And, the guy’s own words: “It’s absolute bullshit.”
LaughingMan: Well yeah. It’s Texas!
LaughingMan: I’m joking, I’m joking. But in kind of goes to illustrate that different cultures will have different tastes.
CineMax: This is the same reason why focus groups don’t really work.
Kenny: You know, that also brings up a point. You mentioned FireFly earlier. That could also apply to different time periods having different tastes. Like, right now we’re in a nerd revolution, where if FireFly aired today, it might not have gotten cancelled so quickly. It would’ve actually probably caught fire.
B-Mask: Perhaps, but I wonder if it’s becuase it’s Joss Wheadon after The Avengers. You know, after that movie happened, he can pretty much do anything he wanted to, and then did.
LaughingMan: I really don’t think that that’s necessarily the point. Because FireFly had quite a following, a cult following.
B-Mask: Don’t forget, Buffy the Vampire Slayer went on for ages, and that came out before…
LaughingMan: Yeah, so Joss Whedon had quite a…
CineMax: A following. The problem is, the network was no able to adequately gauge said following.
LaughingMan: Yes! That’s what I was trying to put in edgewise! Was the fact that they can’t gauge an accurate following from the Nielsen System. And what they’re doing these days is using Twitter. As much as I fucking hate Twitter, Twitter is one of the driving forces in getting an accurate assesment of the viewership.
LaughingMan: But, um. Twitter’s BlueFin Labs in an analytics company that combs all the hashtags and the trending content and presents that date to the networks. So, networks have a vastly more accurate assesment of the viewership. And, you know, you can even say they kind of tell how many people are watching a show in lieu of piracy.
Because, you know, if 2 million people are twittering about the latest episode of Game of Thrones and only 1 million watched the network broadcast, then there’s obviously a million people who are either echoing what someone else is saying or they’ve watched it online.
Kenny: Yeah, so I think the margin of error is a lot smaller with the Twitter system.
B-Mask: The Big Brother is watching you, afterall.
LaughingMan: It’s Big Brother + Advertisers. If you’re a network company, this is information you’d want. You would want to know if Arrested Development is worth spending 3 million an episode on.
CineMax: Right, so basically be aware of what you post on Facebook, kids.
LaughingMan: And Twitter!
B-Mask: Yeah, because someone is listening and they’re using it to put out more shit. No, it’s insane.
Kenny: Yes, even if you complain about, like, Disney’s Frozen…
CineMax: Disney will know!
Kenny: Disney will know! And just based on your rants, Will, they’ll come up with a sequel to Frozen!
LaughingMan: Kenny, don’t use his real name! Don’t use his real name!
LaughingMan: We’ve already determined that William is in England, his name is William, and this means that Disney’s already narrowed him down for a job he’ll never get. They’ll be, like, “William’s on our blacklist.”
Kenny: OH NOOOO.
CineMax: Mickey Mouse and a bunch of 1930’s factory workers are going to show up on his doorstep with baseball bats.
B-Mask: No, no, guys. You remember Iron Man 3 when Tony Stark gives the Mandarin his home address?
LaughingMan: LOL. Apache helicopters, with big Disney ears. *Laughs*
Kenny: Helicopters will just be like: “You’re going to die, ha ha!” Shoot the missle.