Courting Alex…and the Internet

January 23, 2006

Kudos to CBS for bringing Jenna Elfman back to television, this time with a new comedy called “Courting Alex” premiering tonight right after “Two and a Half Men.” This is a good time slot. Ms.Elfman is a smart comedic actress. And as you can tell I am sold. My new ATI TV tuner card is set to record each and every new episode of “Courting Alex” via Titan TV.

So why the Blog? And what does Jenna Elfman have to do with the Internet? Because this morning’s USA Today portends both a disappointment and an opportunity for CBS, “Courting Alex”, and I. First, on page 3D USA Today’s Robert Bianco gave “Courting Alex” a rating of 1.5 out of  4 stars. In other words, he’s probably not going to use Titan TV to capture the rest of the season. CBS, on the other hand, likes Jenna Elfman as much as I do and invested what I imagine is a lot of money in a page 4D and 5D poster-size ad promoting “Courting Alex’s” premier. Whoever said advertising dollars influenced editorial content should take a look at pages 3D through 5D.

So what if CBS and I are wrong and Mr. Bianco is right? “Courting Alex” gets pulled or put on “indefinite hold” like “Joey”. But what if I am right (Jenna Elfman has a loyal following willing and ready to watch every episode of “Courting Alex”) but the show still gets pulled? In this case CBS should take Jenna Elfman, her show, and her loyal viewers to the Internet. I don’t mean Google; Google is not the Internet. What I do mean is that CBS should let their 202 affiliates opt to buy and provide via “air to web” all existing, but unaired episodes of “Courting Alex.”

Think about it. What if you lived in Raleigh, NC and were a loyal viewer of CBS affiliate WRAL? Given the chance to download “Courting Alex” (or “CSI”, “Survivor”, etc.) from WRAL.com OnDemand would you do it? Of course you would because when you think CBS you think WRAL. You don’t think Google. What if you liked “Courting Alex” yet the ratings weren’t high enough and the network pulled the plug? Would you download the remaining unaired episodes from WRAL? You bet you would. And why not? Would you pay a token amount per episode to do so? If you liked the show I bet you would.

You see, even if a show isn’t performing as well as the network would like, it may have value to some viewers. Giving local affiliates the ability to make that content available to the viewers who happen to have liked canceled shows is yet another way for both the networks and their affiliates to make money. Imagine that, a model where the viewer wins and both the networks and their affiliates make money.

All that said, I highly doubt a show with both Jenna Elfman and Dabney Coleman will be anything short of a hit. But I admit to a bias and in the event I’m wrong, I hope CBS can be as imaginative as I am, and asks “what if .…”