Monday, July 7, 2008

What? OLTL is hot, but no ratings bump?

Week to week writing DOES NOT AFFECT THE RATINGS in a meaningful way. Yes, we may see dips and valleys of .1 or .2...but those are trivial. Those are simple random variations around the moving average. This larger trend, of course, is decline and death.

The best analogy I can give is in the muscle strength of an adult from the age of 50 to 100. NO MATTER WHAT THAT PERSON DOES, there will be steady decline and descent in muscle THAT CANNOT BE PREVENTED. Now, there may be week to week fluctuations in strength. "I walked more this I'm a little stronger". That is true! And if the person really works on the muscle, there may even be growth and maintenance. But, in the long haul, the muscle is going to continue to decline and decline and decline. This is called the "inevitability of aging", which is defined as "universal, progressive, deleterious, and irreversible". Hmmmm...that sounds a lot like the ratings trends, doesn't it?

So, how to bring this back on topic? Well, personally, I think the excellence of a Carlivati, and powerful returns like Tina and Marty CAN make a difference...but not in the short run. What you need is a year (actually, they used to say, in the 70s and earlier, five years) of sustained quality to build an audience. I remember John Conboy said that repeatedly about Y&R in the 70s: Five years was the minimum needed for audience building.

Who thinks ABC has five years of patience and five years of budget to let Carlivati work his magic? Who thinks Carlivati has the energy and creativity to sustain five great years? (He may. Many have been complaining that he is reheating the past, rather than creating something new, but he is also trying to honor the 40th he needs some latitude to do this homage AND rebuild the classic base, pace and face of OLTL).

Can you tell it drives me nuts when people expect instant payoffs from stunt casting and the like? WHAT I WOULD EXPECT is (a) a slower rate of decline for OLTL than other shows, and possibly (a gradual 0.2 HH points per year, maybe) increase in the moving average IF ABC/OLTL commits to a five-year plan. (I'm not so sure about the gain, since the whole TV and soap enterprise is in it is hard to fight the overall contextual trend).

I realize this will never happen. But when we look for meaningful week-by-week variations, we simply are persisting in the face of the fact that these variations are not meaningful.

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