Sunday, March 16, 2014

Putting your money where your fandom is.

For all those folks who have wondered what it would take to make me stop watching CBS's Elementary, I think we have found the answer.

Make me pay for it.

Reuter's had an article this week about CBS CEO Les Moonves discussing cutting off the network's broadcast transmission and going totally internet based if a certain court case didn't go their way. It sounds like an unlikely threat, but if they did they would turn the channel into another cable network. Which could be one of those "included in the main package" things like USA, or a premium channel like HBO. Even though it would probably be the former, the idea of "pay for play" that it brings up is worth a little discussion.

One of my friends is a big supporter of getting rid of commercials and individually buying every TV show you want, as iTunes will let you do. As I quickly discovered, via Netflix streaming and my own iTunes purchases of a few special shows, life without commercials is a wonderful thing. But it also makes you really consider what you're watching.

I've bought the DVDs of Sherlock, to watch it whenever I choose, so obviously I'd pay for that one. I've bought tickets for Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, so plainly I'd pay to see Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes. But Elementary . . . well, the day they start charging for that one, I'm out.

And I'm betting a goodly share of its eight million viewers go with me.

There's a reason HBO wins award after award for its programming: they have to make shows good enough to get people to pay for their network. With the big four networks, it's usually the strategy for outrunning a bear -- you don't have to be faster than the bear, just faster than the other guy the bear is chasing. Network TV just has to be good enough to draw eyeballs away from whatever else is on in that timeslot for that mass of viewers that are just going to be plopped down watching one thing or another anyway.

Which, I guess, knocks Robert Downey Jr. out of my "pay for quality" test, as I tend to head for the movie theaters every weekend to see one thing or another anyway, just as those habitual TV viewers do. I'd have made the trip anyway that weekend, even without Game of Shadows.

So what Sherlocks would you pay for, if you're not a Sherlockian collector who'd buy it all anyway?


  1. That is an interesting thought experiment. Would an "Elementary" fan pay for the show? As I bought the DVD of season one, I'd have to say yes, I would pay for CBS as an "included in the main package" cable channel (not, however, as a premium channel; I don't currently have any of those). Of course, as with the non-British fans of "Sherlock" that are able to view the show before official broadcast in their home countries, I'm sure a dedicated "Elementary" would find a work-around.

    "But Elementary . . . well, the day they start charging for that one, I'm out. And I'm betting a goodly share of its eight million viewers go with me." That statement assumes two things. 1) That the regular weekly "Elementary" viewer is not a true fan of the show, but watch free at Thursdays at 10:00 pm by Pavlovian conditioning (an assumption, by the way, not born out by same-day, live-plus-three and live-plus-seven viewership; people actively seek out the show to watch it on their own schedule or to watch it again). 2) Those that wait patiently every two years for a three episode series of "Sherlock" are true fans that would pay anything to watch their show. It is just as reasonable to suppose that if "Sherlock" were to be only available on, say, HBO that subscriptions would not increase but that the fans would wait for Netflix or DVD availability.

    Really, though, such comparisons of fandom cannot be made due to the fact that as an American network broadcast show, there are 22 to 24 episodes per year as opposed to the three episodes every two years model for "Sherlock". By their very natures, the fan bases for each show are different. As we know in the Sherlockian community, opinions for each show range from love to loathe. When "Elementary" and "Sherlock" both follow the same broadcast model, USA network-like yearly thirteen episodes perhaps, we might be able to measure fadoms for bragging rights.

  2. I am not a Sherlockian collector who buys everything and anything under the sun.

    Recently, I have bought Sherlock and the two Guy Ritchie movies, in addition to old classics like Livanov, Cushing, Wilmer and others.

    I have not bought any season or episode of CBS Elementary and definitely do not plan to do so in the future. Not worth spending my bucks.


  3. Same story as Buddy2Blogger above. For thirty years I've collected VHS & DVDs of all things Sherlock. The worst ones too: Charlton Heston, Anthony D.P. Mann, Matt Frewer, & even that horrid Peter Cook & Dudley Moore HOUN, yet somehow I can't get myself to purchase 'Elementary'. I've recently purchased "The Murdoch Mysteries" & the complete "Monk" series, because they are more Holmes to me than 'Elementary'. It certainly looks as though when the day comes my kids inherit my DVD collection 'Elementary' will not be in it's inventory, yet, BBC "Sherlock", the Downey Jr. movies, and even the new Russian series will.