Like a lot of other people in this profession, I watched Gossip Girl when it started airing on The CW because I've been reading the books for years. (Some of the books are better than others.) I have to say I'm not fully enamored of the show. I find the pacing slow and Blair's clothes better suited to a ten-year-old, and a great lack of the wit and humor that comes through the books. Although I've stopped paying attention to the show, I am still paying attention to the media that surrounds it, because it's fascinating.
Averaging 2.5 million viewers an episode (info culled from BuzzSugar), Gossip Girl is far from being the top-rated show on television. It's not even the top rated show on The CW (that's America's Next Top Model, which gets about 5 million viewers an episode). Comparitively, CSI gets 18-20 million viewers an episode, Chuck about 7 million. I realize that's comparing apples and pineapples because the target audience of CSI is not the same as the target audience of Gossip Girl, but it gives some perspective. Think about how many more shows get higher ratings than Gossip Girl and now comes the information bomb: Gossip Girl is the #1 show downloaded from iTunes. How does a show with a fraction of the number of viewers of Grey's Anatomy (which is popular with the same crowd that watches Gossip Girl) beat it out for downloads? I don't have definite answers, but I do have theories...some probably more educated than others.
1. There is a hunger among television viewers for portable viewing. Maybe there are groups of high schoolers crowded around someone's laptop in the hallway before classes begin. Maybe viewers bring eps to school for their friends whose parents don't let them watch. Maybe they'd rather watch it on their iPods without parents around.
2. The gadget marketing in the series really works. There is some serious Verizon marketing going on there. Verizon beat out a couple of other companies for exclusive right to product placement...which surprises me because I swear those were T-Mobile Sidekicks I saw in the first episode. Warring phone companies aside, if Blair and Serena can watch videos on their phones, why shouldn't the rest of us be able to?
3. It's one of those shows that's slow to catch on. This is a phenomenon I see with young adult novels; adults don't want to pick it up because it's marketed for teens and therefore must not have an ounce of intelligence but once they pick it up they can't put it down. Adults who tune into the show around episode 4 or 5 want to catch up but it's not available via OnDemand so they download it from iTunes. The problem with this idea is that episodes are available for free on the CW's website, but you can't visit the CW's site from your iPod unless you've got an iPod Touch.
4. SOMEONE out there is listening to consumers when we say we want more than just one way to watch TV.
With its interactive features, from Second Life (I don't even have time for a first life!) to a music feature on the CW's site, Gossip Girl is going where no show has gone before. It took American Idol a few seasons to really become a brand and not just a TV show, but Gossip Girl is waving the brand flag right out of the gate. It's something none of the other CW shows, even the ones with higher ratings (Smallville, Supernatural, etc.), have done yet. Of all the fall 2007 releases, Gossip Girl was the first one to be picked up for a full season, even before ABC's much-touted Pushing Daisies. This makes me think that the CW execs can see a bigger picture of the show than I can...which would make sense, considering they get paid to see the bigger picture regarding their shows. More than what happens with Blair and Serena, I'm interested in seeing where the brand and the viral marketing go.
crossposted at Pop Goes the Library