Blog Post

Hey TV Networks! This is How You Go Geek

With sci-fi shows such as Chuck, Reaper, and Bionic Woman debuting this fall season, it seems that Hollywood has realized there’s gold in them thar nerds. Too bad all the development execs were jocks, because they missed a grand (and geeky) opportunity to enhance the TV experience for a rabid audience that’s dying to pitch in.

I’m talking about the web sites that accompany these shows — shows whose content is aimed squarely at a tech-savvy audience. The lack of features on these sites makes it clear just how little thought went into them. Visit the sites for Chuck, Reaper and Bionic Woman and you get the standard video clips, cast and crew bios, some behind-the-scenes interviews, message forums, maybe a clickable game. Yawn.

Where are the tools that get people wrapped up in your programs, extending the time they spend with your TV shows to their everyday lives? Let’s run through some possibilities, from the very basic to the more advanced. Listen up, networks, these ideas will help promote your show, and you’ll barely have to lift a finger.


Forums are so… blah. Especially when you lump all your shows into one area. That’s why fans make their own sites. So set up the foundation for a wiki. Fans will populate it for you, and they’ll probably keep it more accurate than you would. Plus, they’ll do it for free. For one example, see Lostpedia.

Where is the ability for watchers to upload their own clips? In the YouTube age, this should be par for the course. People should have the option to tape themselves reacting to an episode, or offering up a theory, or examining a still photo or clip in front of others. Then you get people taping responses and suddenly your audience is buzzing about your show in between episodes. Best of all, you get to keep all that traffic.

Shows like Battlestar Galactica and The Office both offered up web-only fare for their audiences in between seasons. It keeps your brand active during downtime, and provides more fodder for discussion in the boards wikis. Don’t want to produce a video? Try an online comic like NBC did for Heroes.

Costume Patterns
Go ahead. Laugh. Then go to Comic Con. Nerds love to dress up and they love accuracy. So make it easy for them. Offer up downloadable costume patterns that they can print out and make their own costumes with (and get on TV at the next major Con).

Fan Films
MIT Professor Henry Jenkins notes that kids these days all grew up with action figures. They grew up inserting themselves into the worlds they saw on TV and film, creating their own stories. With the advent of cheap video and editing technology, networks should be encouraging people to do this “for real” and make their own fan films.

Equip audiences with sound effects, music scores and tips and tricks to make their own characters and scenarios. Sure, most fan films are gonna suck. But do you have any idea how much fun people have making them? How much fun they have associating with your brand? Yes, there are legal considerations, but there are workarounds for that. Need an example? Check out Battlestar Galactica‘s Video Maker Toolkit.

And finally, there is one thing that all networks can do to make sure the geeks get in your corner. Make a decent program.

12 Responses to “Hey TV Networks! This is How You Go Geek”

  1. Another tip of execs: Don’t drop a show if it doesn’t perform ASAP. The geeks can be fiercely loyal and avid promoters (look at firefly), but you have us time to warm up to a show and its characters. I have no doubt Firefly would be in it’s 5th season today, if Fox hadn’t mismanaged it soooooooo badly.

  2. PunkRockFarmHand

    This entry of yours should be a required daily meditation for studio execs everywhere. The value of cult followings is always underestimated in the short run. Look at Joss Whedon’s FireFly. That show only had a total production run of 14 episodes (11 that aired) before being cancelled and is STILL making money. The show’s producers knew their audience and kept them engaged. Thanks for this little gem!

  3. wow, badly css-styled form (shows white-on-white). Anyway I think that dressing up in costume is definitely more nerdy than geeky (and very definitely laugh-worthy from the geek side of the nerd|geek divide).

  4. It’s a pity that Lionhead Studio’s game, “The Movies”, tanked. It would have been a perfect platform for a forward thinking show runner. It was basically a game built around mechanima. They could have had downloadable sets and actors, allowed people to upload finished movies…I wonder who at was at Lionhead who couldn’t sell this game to big media. This one’s a gimme.