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Leaked Pilots Help Predict Fall Season Cancellations

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If only Fox had listened to us. Back in June, we looked at the popularity of leaked TV show pilots to get a sense of what we have to expect this fall season. One of the shows we wrote about was Do Not Disturb, a sitcom about a hotel in New York that was directed by Jason Bateman. File sharers responded to the leaked pilot with the verdict “early cancellation.” And guess what? Do Not Disturb was canceled after only three episodes as the first show of the fall season.

Do Not Disturb wasn’t the only show that saw its pilot leak early. It’s safe to assume that at least some of these leaks were intentional, and they’ve shown to be pretty good indicators of the popularity of a show once it reaches the airwaves. Of course, online hits don’t always get great ratings on TV and vice versa. Episodes of Arrested Development are still doing pretty well on torrent sites, and it probably wasn’t just the DVD sales that compelled Fox to give Family Guy another chance. So how are this falls hits and misses doing on file sharing networks?

Fringe, JJ Abram’s new Sci-Fi drama, did really well with file sharers when its pilot leaked back in June, and P2P users continue to flock to show. It made TorrentFreak’s Top 10 as the only new show for three weeks in a row, and the TV torrent community EZTV gave it a collective rating of 8.18 points. It also did pretty well on TV, becoming the top-rated new show in the for 18 to 49 year olds. Fox responded by ordering a whole season from Abrams.

Life On Mars premieres this week on ABC. The pilot pretty much tanked this summer on P2P networks, and it hasn’t seen much more excitement in light of the upcoming premiere, despite ABC’s promotion efforts. EZTV’s users give it a meager 5.4 rating. There are just about 100 people sharing it on the Pirate Bay, and one Mininova user commented: “Oh my God, how bad is this! They should rename it ‘Dead on Arrival’ rather than ‘Life on Mars’.”

Raising the Bar is one of those exceptions that may just prove the rule: The show got mixed reactions from file swappers when its pilot leaked this summer, and it hasn’t really been a big hit on torrent sites ever since. However, the legal drama has been a ratings boon for cable network TNT, averaging about 5.5 million viewers per week. Maybe legal drama fans just don’t do illegal file sharing?

True Blood tanked with file sharers back in June, and it hasn’t done very well when it premiered on HBO last month either, attracting just 1.44 million viewers. It picked up a little on TV, netting HBO 2 million viewers for its second episode, prompting the cable network to renew the title. File sharers seem to give the show a second chance as well: EZTV’s ratings are now at a solid 7.8.

Life is one of those shows that got P2P users excited, but doesn’t seem to hit a nerve with the TV audience. TV by the Numbers lists it as one of the three shows most likely to be canceled, but the EZTV community rates it a solid 7.54, and new episodes consistently make it into the Pirate Bay’s TV Show Top 100. Maybe this will be the next network TV flop to become a DVD sales hit?

4 Responses to “Leaked Pilots Help Predict Fall Season Cancellations”

  1. Life on Mars did great this week..but the pilot was completely redone a few weeks before air. The crappy version that the downloaders hated was scrapped so, I guess they were right…and the network listened and/or came to the same conclusion on their own.

  2. “Maybe legal drama fans just don’t do illegal file sharing?”

    I think it is more than that–I am guessing the audience of “Raising the Bar” never so much as used Napster. I’m by no means an expert, but I’m guessing the file sharing community has a pretty particular demo, and I am guessing they would also be hard on a lot of other shows that skew older or more conventional.

    Also, wasn’t the pilot that leaked of Life on Mars the old pilot? Maybe I am not recalling correctly, but the pilot that showed last night was the new one–recast, reshot, reset in NYC, etc.

    I think you have an interesting point, and you could read a lot into their opinion if your targeted audience matches. Certainly for sci-fi shows, the file sharing community is an audience whose opinion I would listen to.

  3. I sat through the first episode of Fringe and it was absolutely ridiculous. Can’t build a sense of mystery or suspense when in the end they’ll just do something ridiculous like shoot a dead lady in the eye with a laser and get high res imagery of what happened to her before she died! I wanted to punch everyone involved with the show but was overcome with a sudden bout of laziness before I made it out the front door.