For nearly three years, “Gossip Girl” has been one of the most talked about shows on television. The show is featured on covers of major publications, like Rolling Stone and New York Magazine. The stars of the show are regularly mentioned in tabloid magazines and gossip Web sites. “Gossip Girl” also garners attention for its racy advertisements, containing phrases like “WTF,” which stands for “Watch this Fall.” With this constant media coverage you would think “Gossip Girl” is one of the top rated shows on television. However, it only averages about two million viewers per week.
“Gossip Girl” is on The CW television network, which has fewer stations around the country than other networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, or FOX. This could be one reason why The CW normally has lower ratings than other networks. But I think the main problem is the network’s image.
The CW offers almost exclusively teen-oriented programming. With shows like “Gossip Girl,” “90210,” “Melrose Place” and “America’s Next Top Model,” it’s obvious that the network’s target audience is young women. And the network is relatively successful in reaching this demographic. Recently, The CW had the largest percentage gains in viewers of any network in women ages 18-34. These numbers include live viewers as well as those who record the show on DVR and watch it during a seven-day period after the show airs.
The CW’s ratings are also indicative of a larger trend. Less people are watching television shows when they premiere, opting to record them using DVRs, buy them on iTunes or stream the shows on the network’s Web site. When these numbers are taken into account, The CW’s ratings grow considerably. In fact, ratings for “90210” and “Melrose Place” increase by almost one million viewers when DVR users are included. But even with this increase, The CW’s ratings cannot rival the viewership of other networks. Last Monday at 9:00 p.m., “Two and a Half Men,” which airs onCBS, had 11 million viewers, while “Gossip Girl” had slightly more than two million viewers.
I think The CW has a niche audience of teenage girls, but in order to increase viewership they should target other groups. However, the network offers little variety in its programming. The CW has several shows about rich and attractive young people, like “Gossip Girl,” “90210” and “Melrose Place.” The CW’s emphasis on superficial content is almost insulting to its audience. It would be refreshing if they began creating shows with characters who care about more than clothes and money.
One of the most popular new shows this season is “Glee,” a part-musical, part-comedy about a high school show choir that airs on FOX. I believe a lot of the show’s success stems from its originality. Many people watch the show because there is nothing else like it on TV. The CW should take note. Developing diverse programming may be a risk for a network, but it can be worth it. By expanding its creativity, The CW can gain new viewers and become known as more than a network for teenagers.