Whoosh! Issue 42 - March 2000
Editor's Page




From the Graphics Editor:
THE NIGHT OF THE FLEEING FANS

From the Graphics Editor:
THE NIGHT OF THE FLEEING FANS

There's been a trend in the Xenaverse for some time now regarding fans who stopped watching XENA and some who have posted public farewells on the Internet. February is more a banner month than most, considering several people, some more recogniseable and some less, chose to say "I give up on XENA".

Two issues regarding this fan exodus come to mind.

First, it's inevitable that after such a length of time, with the show having undergone a major shift in focus (especially in the last two seasons), some people are just not going to like what is happening. If you fell in love with XENA during Season One and Season Two, and compare that to what you are seeing by Season Five, the fundamental nature of the show is quite different. I am not saying it is worse. I am not saying it is better. I am saying it is different. Words like "better" and "worse" are subjective and it is up to the individual who watches the show to accept or reject the show based on his or her viewing preferences. Those individual preferences have been gathering steam since Season Three, when the first "prominent" Internet fans began their exodus over controversial items such as the GabDrag.

The ratings chart below tells the story. Season 5 ratings have been fortunate to approach 4 million viewers on three occasions, but have dipped well below that several times, averaging in 3.5 territory. Compare this with Season 1, which dipped below a Nielson 4.0 only once in 56 weeks of broadcast (repeats included) and Season 2, which rarely dipped below 5.0 and more often pulled averages of near 6.0 while achieving a couple of dizzying highs near 8.0.


Ready to go flatline?

Ratings throughout the seasons. Not pictured: a rise to 3.6 for PUNCH LINES and to 4.0 with GOD FEARING CHILD.

The bottom line: A lot fewer people are watching today than three years ago. It's statistically inevitable that some of those absentees will include fans from the early days.

Of course, the numbers only deal in general trends. The reasons for people to choose not to watch anymore are quite diverse. But since more and more people these days have Internet access, it's not unreasonable to suppose that those who publicly quit watching XENA have reasons that mirror many of those we haven't heard from online.

There has been an excuse given in the last two seasons that "Ratings for all syndies have been down, so it's no surprise that XENA ratings are also down." It has also been pointed out that XENA was still top of the bill in action/adventure syndication.

The first statement is a bit of a smokescreen. If I am an advertiser, I care about how many people watch a show, I don't care that "fewer people watch overall". As a sponsor, I'd care that for the cheque I'm about to write, X million people will see my message. If several million people fewer than "X" watch, fewer people see my messages and I am much more reluctant to sponsor, or if I do, my cheque amount diminishes accordingly. Art is one thing, business is another. There are not fewer television sets in use than there were a few years ago, nor has the population declined. Interestingly, there are fewer competitors in genre television today than during XENA's highest ratings period. The fact that fewer people are watching a certain category of shows may well just mean that more people dislike those shows and watch others instead. A statement like "Fewer people watch overall" is a little like having a product slogan "We're no worse than anyone else", and that does not inspire confidence.

Meanwhile, the statement that XENA is still number one in the overal action/adventure hour is no longer true, strictly speaking. Since reruns of X-FILES and ER and STARGATE have hit town, they have consistently beaten XENA (though STARGATE took longer to ascend, its trend is definitely on the rise, not bad for a genre show that is first-run on a cable station). "Piffle," you say. "They aren't first-run shows and so they don't really count." Okay, consider the week the first-run XENA episode LYRE, LYRE was broadcast. XENA came in fourth place (first-run) with a 3.1 rating. What beat XENA in the number 1, 2, and 3 slots for first-run action/adventure syndies? Well, V.I.P. did, for one, BAYWATCH HAWAII did for two, and rounding out the competition was the new Back2back Action hour of CLEO and JACK OF ALL TRADES. Those three had ratings in the 3.2 range. XENA is definitely slipping. The trend, over the weeks before LYRE, is clear. One may not be alarmed by the numbers cited in this one example, but the trend from the start of the season is definitely one of concern.

The fact is, in the world of action/adventure syndie hours (and yes, X-FILES and ER and STARGATE count since their non-first-run seasons are now syndicated) XENA is falling way behind, even in overall standing. Am I happy about it? Heck, no. I still watch, so I'm still in that zone of 3.0 to 4.0 that still sees the show from week to week. I'm just pointing out the numbers in the wake of such a public exodus of long-time online fans. The online exodus reflects reality, and it is not an aberration. The "stunt" casting of Kevin Sorbo as Hercules in GFC brought in those people who used to watch HERC, but that was a one-time appearance and Kevin Sorbo won't be back.

As an interesting sidebar, even if one only sees a half-dozen or so shows in a regular season, the studio considers that person a *regular* viewer of the show. Casual viewers, by studio definition, see even fewer episodes.

I said earlier in this editorial that there were two items from last month regarding the withdrawl of more online fans that caught my attention. I explained item one above.

Item two has to deal with the attitude of some "fans" to those who no longer choose to watch or participate online.

There is a lot more venom out there than I would have expected from XENA fans in the past. I've interpreted several responses to fan withdrawal from online participation as "Don't let the door hit you on the way out." Nowadays, such negativity seems par for the course. Once upon a time, it would have registered as extremely unusual.

Perhaps part of the negative reaction stems from the desire to "protect" a show from harsh criticism in the wake of declining popularity. Perhaps part of the negative reaction is a knee-jerk response to having one's own beliefs shaken.

Still another factor is that, among those fans who still watch XENA faithfully (defined by me as those who see almost every first-run episode on a regular basis) I've noticed a trend among some who watch primarily because of a certain actor or character, as opposed to a shrinking number who focus on the show overall. I've seen more comments along the lines of "Renee is sure hot this week" and fewer comments like "My, that whole episode was really good." Yes, that's a generalisation, but it's my personal observation.

So to all of those who have stopped updating their XENA webpages or have left XENA fandom in disgust, frustration, or just plain boredom, I say this to you: We who remain are diminished by your absence and appreciative of your participation while it lasted. You have all been part of a community that is known more for its friendliness and generosity than for its discord or hostility.

Or so it is to be hoped.

Bret Rudnick
Graphics Editor
Executive Committee
Boston, Massachusetts
15 February 2000




Return to Top Return to Index