This Ain’t Pandora’s Box – The (Non-)Impact of the Jericho Screener Leak

Have you ever felt that your nose was just a faucet that wouldn’t shut off? It’s a bizarre and rather grotesque image, but “snot faucet” most aptly describes my weekend experience. It was unpleasant, sure, but by the end of the weekend it was mostly gone. There are some leaks, however, that are somewhat more volatile – these are the leaks that are, for better or for worse, not gone by the end of the weekend.

I speak, of course (As if a runny nose opening could lead to anything else), about the fact that the three-episode Jericho screen sent to critics over the past few weeks has become available online through less than legal means. Now, I’ve written on this subject in the past in terms of pilots, and I want to focus on one of the things I emphasized in that instance:

“On the one hand, uptight network executives are probably concerned that their premiere ratings might go down as people watch the show ahead of time, or that bad buzz will take down the series before it can even get started. To those executives I make the following case: premiere ratings don’t matter, and the audience watching these shows online will not penetrate the casual mass of fans who make Two and a Half Men a comedy sensation. What you want to be doing is creating a fan base, something that this actually helps far more than it hurts.”

While I still believe everything I wrote there, the situation gets trickier in the case of Jericho. With Jericho, the premiere ratings do matter, as returning to middling returns will all but sink the show’s chances of gaining a season three if the initial cancellation hasn’t already done so. And Jericho already has a fan base of internet fans, they worked tirelessly to save the show back in June. So the problems facing a new show aren’t quite the same as the problems facing Jericho’s second season, and thus there is some concern that this could sink the show’s chances.

And I’m here to tell you that the answer to that concern?

“Eh, not really.”

And here’s why.

Rich at CopywriteInk weighed in on this on Sunday evening, and he raises some intriguing questions about whether the leak was intentional, and whether or not news of this story could overshadow the less illegal efforts to promote the series. To the first concern, there’s no mystery here: some critics’ screener got into the hands of someone who decided to put them on the internet. The studio would never release the first three episodes online on purpose, especially not when they’re trying to build momentum in other ways. If it had only been the premiere? Well, perhaps.

More importantly, however, is the question of overshadowing. As I noted above, I’m all for leaking pilots of series in order to build buzz and word of mouth amongst an internet audience which has more clout now than it did in years past. However, doesn’t that question become confused when it’s a returning series? Doesn’t it ruin all of the suspense, and severely damage the potential ratings?

The short answer to this is no, and there are a number of reasons why this is the case.

The People Who Download Television Do Not Watch Television

This is a bit of a generalization, but a fair one: the individuals who are the first to leech onto a torrent of the latest leaked series are not the type of people who would watch television on a regular basis anyways. They are the people who are more likely to download the episodes when they air, rather than watching the old fashioned way, and unless there’s some sort of massive crackdown (Which, I highly doubt) they will continue to do so regardless of whether this Screener leaks.

The People Who Download Television are a Small Number

The Jericho torrents have been highly active since they debuted a few days ago (Sorry, no links here), but still only 71,000 people have downloaded the premiere episode (For the curious, the numbers grow lower until the third, which still has a respectable 48,000). My point here is that that amount of viewers, even if we were to double it, will not present any sort of substantial shift in the premiere ratings. Whether it has 10.2 or 10.4 Million viewers, it’s still the same ratings to the network – the impact of this will be limited.

Screener Leaks Peak the Interest of Potential Viewers

For people who are torrent hounds, downloading everything in their sights, seeing Jericho pop up early gives it a novelty factor: it’s something illegal and early, and thus you gravitate towards it. This could have some people who might have never given the show a chance otherwise decide to watch the 43 minutes sitting on their hard drive, and who knows: maybe they might stick around for episode four when it debuts in early March!

A Screener Will Be Old News, Fast

The fact of the matter is that a majority of Jericho viewers, and television viewers, wouldn’t know a torrent if it bit them in the posterior. While Jericho fans have every right to be concerned about this leak, the reality is that people really won’t notice. And after a week, another set of screeners could hit the net, and Jericho will be old news. I certainly wouldn’t worry about this issue, isolated as it is within geek culture, to make an impact on even culture-savvy New Media.

Waiting Is the Hardest Part

I’ve had screeners long before a series airs before, and it’s brutal: with Dexter’s second season, I had seen the first two episodes in July, but the series didn’t debut until late, late September. It was a tough wait for new episodes into mid-October, but it kind of build up some nice suspense. It made me more interested to see what happened next, and I didn’t feel like my experience was ruined as a result. This could actually be a benefit for Jericho, although more of a spinoff effect than a real benefit.

Have a Little (Spoiler-Related) Faith in Them

This is the toughest part of all of this: with Jericho fans eagerly anticipating the start of the second season, they’d hate to have it ruined for them if they wish to remain spoiler-free. I can promise you that even if I see these episodes ahead of time, I have no intention of ruining anything for fans of the series. If anyone else does, they deserve a run-in with Mr. Hawkins’ tank, pronto.

All in all, my advice to Jericho fans is to act like the leak never happened: it got the show on the front page of Digg, it might turn a few new fans onto the series, and the loss of 100,000 viewers won’t be nearly enough to overwrite the amazing work fans have done thus far. Plus, even if I were to watch it early, I’ll be turning my TV onto Jericho Nielsen family or no Nielsen family to show my support. Hopefully, others will do the same.


Filed under Jericho

5 responses to “This Ain’t Pandora’s Box – The (Non-)Impact of the Jericho Screener Leak

  1. terocious

    Thanks Myles,

    This nicely laid out article should go a long way toward allaying the fears of many.


  2. Hi Myles,

    Great article. We’ve put a summary and link in our news archive at Jericho Kansas.


  3. lovejohnston

    I sure hope you’re right!
    I would feel better if it had only been one episode leaked. Three is A LOT.


  4. erika

    A nice and rational take on the leak. I would also like to mention that some fans of Jericho in other countries have found the show mainly because of torrents, and that may be the only way for them to see the show… so that makes them not all bad, right?

    That said, I am happy to remain blissfully spoiler-free, and appreciate you not posting the temptation.

  5. So CBS shouldn’t mind the leaks? Sure, they may help enrich the viewership, bring new people into the fold and keep those who wouldn’t watch the show otherwise…


    …the issue still remains that the show’s ads aren’t being seen.

    CBS is utilizing their television offerings as a means for drawing attention to the advertisements shown during the breaks. These leaks do nothing to bring advertiser’s message to viewers of Jericho, no matter the kind of viewer they happen to be.

    Best case, the leaks only help to spread word-of-mouth “oh hey, you’re gonna love the season premier” kind of buzz about the series, and hopefully drive a few new viewers to their TV screens… but probably not much.

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