Audience Measurement


There are more options than ever for consumers to watch television on. Between shifted viewing, portable devices and illegal pirating it is now much harder for producers to identify which programmes are successful and have a dedicated audience and which don’t. Community is a good example of this.

Ever since its inception Community has been compared to and against The Big Bang Theory (BBT). This is more to do with scheduling times in America than anything else (both shows competed in the same time-slot) however it has meant that the success of the show has been based on how well its ratings do compared to BBT, which is one of the biggest shows on TV.

Community revolves around a group of quirky community college students ranging in age from 18 to 80 and all the ridiculous things that happen to them. On the surface this may sound similar to BBT which follows a group of “nerds” and their “normal” blonde female friend, but the biggest difference is that Community doesn’t set out to shame those that are different but celebrate them, and BBT’s entire premise is making fun of people who act outside what is considered normal.

Community is subtle and considers its audience smart enough to get the joke without being told that a joke has been made while BBT uses a laugh track. Community has been described as “a show about dumb people made for smart people” (as opposed to BBT which is a show about smart people for dumb people). And Community rewards its dedicated fanbase using intertextual references to other texts as well as itself, by breaking the fourth wall and being self-aware and through the ongoing jokes such as “six seasons and a movie”.

Despite all this the show was put on hiatus at the end of 2011 because the ratings weren’t good enough.


“Television networks continue to rely on the archaic Nielsen ratings system to gauge audience interest. It became imperative that the fanbase prove to NBC that there was a sizeable enough audience without Nielsen boxes that were watching the show via nontraditional means. In order to do that, they needed to make a lot of noise…The ‘six seasons and a movie’ phrase was quickly appropriated as a rallying call to make it easier to organize activities like wearing fake goatees or arranging flashmobs to sing a song from the show or contributing more than 30000 comments on a single A.V. Club episode review article.” – (

The show was saved and returned for a shortened 4th season and a longer 5th season, but was once again under threat when NBC cancelled it altogether. Once again the fanbase were called into action and #sixseasonsandamovie started trending again.

fan art following the show's cancellation
fan art following the show’s cancellation

And it worked. Community has been saved and renewed for a sixth season on Yahoo. Further proof that audience measurement does. not. work.

Personally I can’t wait to see what Greendale has in store.



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