Blog Post

quarterlife Stats Draw Multiple Interpretations, Personalities

The New York Times just can’t make up its mind on quarterlife. In the course of one week, it’s had four different takes on the web-to-TV series. And yes, we understand the Old Gray Lady has a stable full of staff members with diverse opinions aplenty, but three out of four stories were by one writer.

Dec. 17, “New Life for ‘Quarterlife’”: TV Decoder writer Brian Stelter blogs news of quarterlife getting a premiere date on NBC, plus mentions of Chris Albrecht’s Dec. 4 piece on NewTeeVee “Is quarterlife Cooling Off?” which had taken a hard look at the series’ viewer numbers and determined that it lacked a consistent large audience.

Dec. 18, “Herskovitz Calls ‘Quarterlife’ ‘on the Upswing’: Stelter changes his tune after speaking to quarterlife creator Marshall Herskovitz, putting a positive spin on recent episodes drawing an average of 100,000 views. “Mr. Herskovitz believes the most elusive method of marketing — word of mouth — is beginning to boost the five-week-old series.”

Dec. 23, “Artists Only: New York Times Magazine columnist Virginia Heffernan has high praise for quarterlife, calling it “Internet’s best-wrought original series to date” and describing its “more than two million views since its Nov. 11 debut” and its NBC deal as proof of the show’s success.

Dec. 24, Can NBC Do for ‘Quarterlife’ What YouTube Could Not?: Stelter reuses much of the reporting from his December 18 blog post, but switches back to a negative take on the series’ viewership. Is it a rebuttal to Heffernan’s piece? “The low traffic numbers are significant because the series has been touted as the first television-quality production for the Web, as well as the first to be introduced online as a warm-up for its network debut.”

To be fair, I’m probably being overprotective of Chris’ excellent story. We don’t, as Herskovitz claimed in our comments, have a pre-set agenda against quarterlife. In fact I’ve watched every episode, and not just cause it’s my job. I do think it’s great that the creators of My So-Called Life are working online. But I don’t think quarterlife‘s the greatest thing ever, or even the greatest show online, and there’s no reason to hold it up as such.

One last aside: We’ve compared quarterlife more than once to another original series featured on MySpace, Roommates — which, by comparison, is definitely lower-brow as far as writing goes and more skimpily clad as far as acting does. Herskovitz even mocked the series in our comments, “By the way, even if you take away the first episode, our average plays on MySpace are higher than any series other than Roommates (to which I happily defer since it is so superior to our work in every possible way…),” he wrote. But I gotta say, there were multiple gratuitous boob shots featured prominently in last Thursday’s quarterlife episode. I’d screenshot them here, but I don’t want to be crass. Getting a little hungry for views, I guess?

Further reading: What Constitutes an Online Hit?

5 Responses to “quarterlife Stats Draw Multiple Interpretations, Personalities”

  1. Liz–sorry you and I got off on the wrong foot regarding Chris’s original post about quarterlife. For the record, I never said you or newteevee had an agenda against quarterlife — I said Chris did, and I took that from his belligerent tone during the interview and from the fact that he basically ignored what I had to say. I think you are now a bit defensive about what I wrote, and I’d love to put that behind us if possible. Perhaps you and I could have a chat about the ins and outs of trying to present content on the Internet. There’s much to talk about, as you obviously know.

    A couple of comments in the meantime: yes, it would be nice for Chris to do a new post saying that our views are up since he wrote that we were cooling off. It would also be nice for him to reference his own post from September and acknowledge that quarterlife has reached the minimum benchmark he himself suggested for a hit-like performance — 100K views in a day.

    Also — quarterlife was not “introduced online as a warm-up for its network debut,” as Mr. Stelter said in the Times article you quoted. It was conceived entirely as an Internet series. The NBC deal was made long after I spent my own money producing the pilot. I would like to believe that we will find enough viewers online to justify the expense of making the show, but this remains to be seen.

    And while we’re at it — Chris inaccurately, and intentionally because I explained the circumstances, described quarterlife as a “failed pilot re-cut for the web”. Several of your commenters have picked up on this, so even though it’s been clarified numerous times, I’ll go through it again here: the pilot of quarterlife bears no relation whatsoever — other than the name — to the pilot we did for ABC three years ago. We threw out everything — story, characters, cast — and started from scratch, and conceived this new pilot specifically for the Internet. I would be happy to supply you with the script of the older pilot so that you can verify. Keeping alive the shibboleth that this is a busted pilot thrown on the net is a convenient and subtle way to make us look bad, and contributes to the sense that perhaps your website now does have an agenda against us. Ditto your snarky-ish last comment about boob shots. I’m an admirer of breasts (who isn’t?), and hold nothing against Roommates for showcasing them. My ironic comment was about the quality of their show, not their breasts, and the fact that they have a promotional tool — breasts on banners — that we don’t have. Mainly, though, you chose to end with a line that was absurd on its face, as you could have easily figured out: I would have had to be clairvoyant to add that image to raise views, since it was shot before we premiered.
    At any rate, I know you take what you do seriously, as do I, and I believe it’s possible for two serious people to converse honestly and honorably, and I would welcome that opportunity. I’d be interested to hear whatever problems you have with our show or website or business model or anything else.
    Best wishes,

  2. I think the reporting here at NEWTEEVEE is right on – quarterlife is good – and it has promotion and money that lots of other shows don’t have – yet it only barely squeaks by matching their numbers. why?

    It’s audience isn’t really online and the quarterlife is a TV show that didn’t get sold – so they did it online – and now its going to jump to TV – not really on it’s merit or high traffic numbers – but because the developers of the show have aggressive agents and massive existing connections and track record with network TV. All of this against the background of a writers strike which has choked the pipeline of filmed scripted content.

    quarterlife is a special case scenario in terms of online video – and yet the creators wish to compare it to other online shows and toot their own horns for trashing other shows in ratings (which it hasn’t) or in the deals that they get. (which it has)

    Just on a purely production level – the show looks good – but not better than some other series that have come online.

    Thanks for cutting through the PR and talking about the raw numbers and the genesis of these deals.

  3. Erik Gregory


    You know, you folks are just not nearly as smart as you think you are. As to your observational aside, for you to even imply that “Quarterlife” is gratuitous or exploitive in comparison to “Roomates” proves Mr. Herskovitz’s point exactly. Will Mr. Albrecht be doing a follow up story on how the viewing numbers have risen in recent episodes making his hypothesis of declining viewership arguably wrong, or is it simply enough for you to be able to plead your objectivity and stand by his speculative theory. Maybe Mr. Albrecht should point out that although viewership totals on some of the recent episodes have been among the highest, that a continued rise in the number views of the very first episode proves a drop off. Or maybe you might realize that since the episodes don’t air only one time like a traditional television show, the totals for any particular episode haven’t been finalized yet. But I wouldn’t expect you to understand something like that, after all its a new TV concept.

    Oh, and one last aside of my own. Quarterlife has gotten multiple positive critiques from publications and online entities like the New York Times, Hollywood Reporter, Variety and NPR so I don’t think your insightfully cutting remark “Getting a little hungry for views, I guess?” will cause the people at Bedford Falls to loose a tremendous amount of sleep or effect the viewers of Quarterlife to tune out. It may however give a chuckle to some of the hundreds of loyal readers who must flock to this site on a regular basis. Sorry, didn’t mean to be crass.