As Guardian Media is reporting here, the Daily Telegraph is dropping TV reviews to include more TV features and articles. The main argument for all of this is that not enough people are watching the same telly anymore.
In all the problems facing media, this is a simple one to solve and there’s two ways to do it:
1) For the websites, have the reviewers review live as it happens. The Guardian does this with The Apprentice and it can be quite funny to read after the event – or with the event if so minded.
2) But for print and websites, here’s what I would do: review the torrents and run ratings based on torrents. BitTorrent is as mainstream now as email, web surfing or flickring. Run the reviews under something along the lines of ‘And here’s what they watched in America last night’ and run a review of the popular shows – ER, House, Desperate Housewives, Mad Men, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Pushing Daisies, Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles and others – and just put a big SPOILER warning at the top.
Reviews form the main part of the article, ratings – based on downloads – to the side.
Predictably, someone is going to say you can’t do that as you’re backing piracy. No you aren’t. Treat it as review copies. Treat as TV reviewing for your readers in America. Heck if you’re that concerned, hire a US journalist to do the reviews and file them over (or pretend that’s what happens). Or just don’t tell them how you got them. What matters is the coverage.
For the fans who don’t dip into the BitTorrent waters, it gives them some advance info (and most people do that to follow their top shows anyway – tons of LOST fans have been hunting for spoilers or hitting Aint it Cool News for the long season-end Talkback), for the TV companies it gives a bit of extra publicity and a way to judge a product in another market.
I know from anecdotal evidence that many people who BitTorrent also buy DVD sets so I’m not falling for the argument of ‘downloaders don’t spend’.
So it keeps the reviewers in a job, websites may attract more viewers to see the reviewer’s opinion of the show, shows may gather extra viewers. Win all round.