Recently, ABC announced that they would be making all episodes from the current season for many of its shows available online for a limited time. While sites like Hulu allow people to catch up on some of these episodes, it is limited to the 5 most recent episodes aired – about half of the current season.
ABC is the first of the broadcast networks to do something like this, although I think it is a good move and one I hope other networks will embrace. December has typically been a slow time for new television episodes. The midseason hiatus typically starts in the second week of the month for most shows, with a few shows extending the first half of the season by an extra week or do. As a result, people who primarily watch broadcast television have little to watch that isn’t reality programming, repeats, or holiday specials. Rather than rely on repeats to attract new viewers, ABC is giving viewers the opportunity to catch up on shows that they have missed.
ABC has several shows that could benefit from this decision. Scandal, for instance, has recently seen an uptick in its ratings. Momentum for the show is building and it is finding a new audience as it has received positive publicity. While Nashville hasn’t been as large of a success as ABC might have liked, it has been steady in the ratings for the last few weeks. However, it’s a more serialized show and therefore more difficult to jump into in the middle of the season. The same can be said of Revenge and Once Upon a Time. Things will be understandable, but viewers will likely get more out of the show if they watch in order. While these things don’t matter to every viewer, they do to some, and for those people, I think it is worth making the shows available.
Until the shows return in January, we will not know if this decision will result in improved ratings for these shows, but it should keep discussion about the shows going through midseason and people discover them and want to tell others.
Personally, I hope that this is a success for the network and I hope that the other networks notice and do the same in the future. If it works, it is something to consider for NBC with Revolution to help sustain interest over the long hiatus.
If people want to start a show badly enough, they will find a way to do it. However, this allows networks to capture some of that audience and keep track of the number of people who are watching. This information can never replace the audience who watches a show live, since that is where ad revenue comes from, but perhaps one day we can find a way to have online viewership generate meaningful revenue and be taken into consideration when it comes time to build a new fall line-up.