How Will They Bite It, plus some thoughts on ratings and cord cutters

One of my favorite bits from this week’s show is a silly game show we created called How Will They Bite It? It wasn’t until after we’d played the game that I realized it has the potential to actually be a legitimate game, that anyone can play at home while watching some of the magnificently craptacular Syfy Original Movies (and let’s be honest: magnificently craptacular original movies is probably the one area where the network formerly-known as sci-fi truly excels, and may actually set the standard by which all other magnificently craptacular movies should be measured.)

Take a look:

Although we’re only two episodes in, I think we have a possible recurring bit in How Will They Bite It?, one that I can play with just about anyone who we can trick into coming onto our show extend the tremendous privilege of appearing on The Wil Wheaton Project.

I got our ratings numbers yesterday afternoon. Surprisingly, they were slightly lower than our first episode, but I understand that the ratings across the entire network for the whole night were down, so that’s not necessarily a reflection of us, as much as it is something that just sort of seems to have happened. I wonder if there was a big sports thing, or maybe a finale in some other show? I heard that we kept more of our lead in than last week, which is actually really good, according to the people who care about that sort of thing. I also heard that a very important person at the network loved our second episode, which is also very good. Most importantly for me, though, is that I was completely happy with the show. I thought the jokes worked the way we wanted them to, and all the other stuff I mentioned yesterday.

Felicia and I talked last week when I was feeling pretty down about the ratings, and she pointed out to me that the only thing I can truly control is the creative side of things, so if I put out something that I’m happy with, I can let all the other stuff go. This week, I can let all the other stuff go.

Now, here’s something interesting that I’m probably going to get yelled at by the network goons for sharing, but it’s important and relevant. A lot of people have told me that I haven’t been able to watch our second episode online. I understand that if they try to watch it at Syfy.com, and they don’t have a cable or satellite provider, they can’t see it. I understand that it isn’t even on Hulu like our first episode was, and the show isn’t on Hulu+ at all.

With that in mind, look at this, from about an hour ago, from The Pirate Bay:

Wil Wheaton Project Torrent
Click to Embiggen

Last week, our first episode had a total of about 800 seeders and about half as many leechers. Math is hard, but I’m going to estimate over 2300 seeders and almost as many leechers, for our second episode alone. That’s pretty huge growth and interest from people who probably want to watch our show, but can’t, because they’re cord cutters, or they’re in a country that doesn’t carry the show. Yes, I know there are people who want everything for free and won’t pay for anything, but I don’t count them as “lost” viewers, because they were never going to be scored by advertisers or the network, anyway.

I think I mentioned that our ratings improved with every repeat last week, and our 11pm repeat on Friday even beat our premiere on Tuesday. This tells me that people clearly want to watch our show, and as more people hear about it, the more they tune in. I understand that this is the way it typically goes with shows like ours (I heard it took The Daily Show a year and a half to find its audience), so we’re expecting a slow but steady building of audience as the summer goes on. That will be awesome, but it can be even more awesome, if we can make it easier for people who want to watch us to find a legal way to do it.

I’ve heard from countless people who legally watched our first episode that they wanted to watch our second one, but discovered that they couldn’t watch it in a legal way. It’s out of my control, so I can’t do anything except point out over and over and over again that the show is losing potential viewers, and that’s really frustrating to me.

Our show costs a lot of money to make. It’s possible to make our show because Syfy licenses it from us, and then sells advertising on the show to cover their investment. If everything goes according to plan, it’s profitable. If it’s profitable, we get to keep making more episodes. The best way to help us be profitable, then, is to watch the show on Syfy when it airs during the week. I don’t fully understand the realities and nuances of licensing and all that, but I do know that the world is rapidly changing, and a lot of people don’t want to watch TV live. I know that lots of people don’t want cable because they can’t afford it, or because they hate cable companies. I know that a lot of those people would gladly pay for Amazon on demand, an iTunes subscription, whatever Google Play does, or watch some ads on Hulu or Hulu+. I’m doing everything I can to let the people who make those deals know this, but I’m a very small voice in a very loud room. If you want to help make that voice louder, you can write a polite email to Syfy and let them know that you want to watch the show in a way that supports us.

Maybe this is all a lot of hand-wringing for nothing, because we are only two episodes in, and because this is an entirely new type of show for Syfy, they’re just getting their legs under them the same way we are. Maybe this will all work itself out over the next couple of weeks, and everyone will be happy. That’s what I hope for, because I am having an insanely good time making this show.

Before I go, I just want to reiterate that I want you to watch our show, and I want you to like our show so much that you keep watching it. I’m trying my best to make it easy for you to watch our show in a way that helps us pay for it, so we can keep making more of it. I know for some of you it’s easier to just fire up a torrent client and go to down, and I’m sympathetic to that. But I’ll ask all of you, please, if you can watch the show in a way that counts for our network and our advertisers, please do.

159 thoughts on “How Will They Bite It, plus some thoughts on ratings and cord cutters”

  1. I’m a huge tabletop fan – got King of Tokyo, Pandemic, and Settlers of Catan because of it. Came over to the site to see what you were up to because I love all your stuff and I find out you have a whole new show! How did I miss this?! I’d love to support the show and watch it properly however I live in Mexico so I’m only really left with one option unfortunately. For the record – not watching the show isn’t really an option!

  2. Does anyone know if watching On-Demand (say, from Comcast) counts toward the numbers? Is that part of the showtime + 3 days calculations they do?

  3. I DVR’d the show, but then realized I could watch it online. Lucky for me I had no problem getting the second episode to work and enjoyed it immensely. It has terrific potential and I hope it sticks around long enough to find its groove.

    That being said, I was curious. Do online viewings on Syfy’s website help the show’s chances in any way? If they do, that is the preferred way for me to watch it. If not, I will try to have my TV on Syfy. I’ve been a (silent) fan of your work for years and want this to succeed.

  4. I hate that they’ve blocked your online audience by requiring all the “network provider” garbage. I would love to help your ratings by watching through them or hulu. I loved last week’s episode. Going to torrent it now.

  5. Thanks for the link, some of us in the uk would love to see the show, but our top 4 ISP’s block piratebay, very kind of them, so of anyone in the UK wants to see wil’s show, go to a proxy site (http://proxybay.info/) and look it up. Only way to get Talking Dead as well for us UK people

    The 2nd show was way better than the 1st, you looked more relaxed and at home with the format, keep the bad 70′s porno music, really funny in those clips. off to find Salem now, have to see this :)

  6. I have cable, but my cable company isn’t on the list of network providers, maybe the Tampa area audience isn’t big enough? I did send an email so hopefully there will be a change. My work schedule means I have to be up really early so I see almost no prime time TV. I have to depend on cable re-plays or online to see shows. If they want to accommodate advertisers they could leave in some of the ads like some other programs do. It’s not my preference but something is better than nothing.

  7. Well now I know why Hulu+ didn’t put the second ep in my queue – they’re requiring authentication from your TV provider. First time I’ve run into this on Hulu. :P

    They do have an option to request addition to Hulu+, so I did that. Hopefully I’ll get to see it sometime…

  8. I thought your second show was leaps and bounds better than the first. And I loved the first episode. The Gallagher bit and the weird ass 70s foreign spiderman thing was hysterical. Keep up the great work man!

  9. I have a package of cable channels that came with my broadband connection. One of these channels is SyFy. But I can’t watch it either, because I live in Australia, and SyFy Australia is more interested in showing repeats of Red Dwarf. And, of course, forget watching it on syfy.com if you’re in another country even if you legally have the channel.

  10. We cut the cord long ago and have had a computer connected to the TV for years and that’s how we watch TV. This of course breaks the commercial TV business model. The show is funded by ads and I just won’t waste time watching ads any more. There needs to be alternate funding which is not absurdly priced. (I’m really curious – how much revenue does one ad-funded viewer provide?) What about taking voluntary contributions? I’d be a lot of torrent viewers would be willing to kick in and support something they like.

  11. Hi. I like the show. I watched both on demand so I hope that counts for something. I really like the clips of what is scify-ish going on, on tv and in the films. It would be cool to see clips about cons going on too maybe? I think the drop in guests are great-seriously make those Big Bang cohorts show! It feels like a Edgy Sci-fy talk soup. Good job. Form Alpha in Las Vegas

  12. Who controls the rights to your show? SyFy.com? How expensive is it to make? Did you consider crowdfunding it and retaining the rights so you could sell public performance rights on your own terms?

    It seems likely that the tv providers are the ones preventing it from being shown anywhere else for a certain period of time, and given that your show is about current events, the longer that period of time is, the less relevant your show will be except maybe in a historical sense.

  13. I watched the first episode. I think they ran something like four 30 second spots just before it aired… so I almost got another whole ‘spot show’. :)

    They (SyFy channel) ran the premier episode the next week, then all the Heroes of Cosplay stuff, then the second episode and then the premier episode afterward. Seems like (1) either SyFy had nothing to compete with whatever was going on last Tuesday or (2) they are gonna kill you with over exposure… not sure how that helps the show ratings though.

    Spent all the first episode with finger crossed and chanting (silently) “Don’t be a dick”. Not sure it that ‘spell’ worked. :p Only ‘complaint’ (and it’s not really — just lame opinion) — a little less slapstick talking and more lame ‘weekly clips’… for a ‘weekly review of science fiction (and fantasy) on TV and the movies — there is very little ‘review’… and more build up for 3-4 quick skits. Okay.. maybe that is a complaint… I’m old (at least a bit older then Mr. W — and a rabid, life long Science Fiction fan… so grumbling… even about the craptastic stuff that’s ‘out there’ these days.

  14. You’ve mentioned cord cutters several times in talking about your show’s ratings. I’d like to point out that you can’t be a cord cutter if there was never any cord there to begin with. I live in a neighborhood in North Florida that still, in 2014, does not have cable. We don’t have DSL either. I was on dial-up for internet service until a couple of years back when I got a MiFi and was able to pay $10/Gb for the privilege of a faster internet connection.

    Yeah, there’s satellite now and that’s how most of my neighbors get their TV signal, the rest use tower antennas to get broadcast TV, but it’s much more expensive than cable would be, doesn’t carry local stations, and I can’t afford it AND internet. At least internet is social.

    I was watching Agents of Shield the legal way on the network site, even though it meant going somewhere with free WiFi so I didn’t run my internet bill up too much, when the rules changed and you had to also subscribe to a cable provider in order to see it. Can’t subscribe to something that doesn’t exist so off to Pirate Bay I went.

    Please, please point out to the network that not everyone who watches their shows online is making a choice because they are too cool for cable and they are losing ad money by penalizing us.

  15. The real question.. how do we get to see a taping of said show?? We had to promise Craig Ferguson actual Irish Cadbury handed to him by a topless Welsh pony… guess we pretty much do anything living in Las Vegas.

  16. I don’t get to see the show, as I can’t watch it legally. But I will also refuse to torrent it, I want things to change.

    I will watch as soon as I legally can!

  17. Unfortunately, I am one of those viewers who can’t watch it legally, as I’m living in Kuwait at the moment. Wish there was a way that I could watch it that would help the ratings.

  18. Just curious, Wil – Why go with SyFy to begin with? As net-savvy as you and Felicia are, I would think that you would self-produce this and have it available through all the outlets online that are available to you. Or, use the Cordkillers way and fund through Patreon.

  19. My email to SyFy:

    I would like to watch The Wil Wheaton Project, but I do not subscribe to the SyFy channel (frankly, I find most of your programming to be poor).

    I would like to watch it on HuluPlus, to which I do subscribe. Being a paid subscriber, I still have to watch commercials.

    Which means that you and I can both be winners here: I get to watch a program I (think) I like (based on the clips on Hulu.com) and you get paid via commercials (that is how it works, right?).

  20. My email to syfy:

    Good afternoon,

    Where can I legally watch episodes of the Wil Wheaton Project online?

    I watched the first episode of the Wil Wheaton Project via Hulu+.
    It is fantastic! Funny, self-aware, sarcastic but still fully embracing our love of all things geek.

    It is too bad that the second episode is not available on Hulu nor via Amazon on Demand.

    I am one of those people who doesn’t have a television and watches everything online. So the request for my cable provider’s info on your website is no help.

    I know I could just torrent it, but my personal rule is to NEVER pirate music, tv shows, books, or movies.

    I would not shoplift a DVD from a store, so I won’t steal via the internet either.
    On top of that, it is vital to support the people who work so hard to create this content.

    What can I do to support the show and view it legally?

    I feel a little like Jerry McGuire here, but help me help you.

    I’m not a unicorn – rare and almost unheard of in today’s world. The vast majority of my friends don’t have traditional cable. We all watch everything via our phones , tablets, or computers.

    There must be a way for this untapped market of tech savvy geeks to watch your show in a way that ensures Syfy makes some money either from advertisers (via Hulu) or directly by purchasing the show on a platform like Amazon or iTunes.

    Thank you,

  21. I’m in the UK, found out about your show via Trakt – http://trakt.tv/show/the-wil-wheaton-project

    Hulu and etc aren’t an option for me so I’ve been COUGH (torrenting them) COUGH

    Anyway just dropping a line to say love the show :P

    So going by the standard lifetime of good shows on SyFy you’ll be cancelled in about 2-3 more episodes >.>

    Seriously can you get those higher up’s to look at another stat than the american rating’s service? Just because 10 of 100 people didn’t watch a channel thats a drop of around 50,000 viewers? No… thats a drop of 10 people who were probably off frying their brains on reality TV.

  22. Reply from Syfy UK :(

    “Many thanks for your email in relation The Wil Wheaton Project, currently showing on our parent channel, Syfy US.

    We love Wil also and would have absolutely loved to bring The Wil Wheaton Project to Syfy UK. We instigated proceedings to acquire the UK rights, but a number of legal complications surrounding differences in UK and US clip clearance legislation, have unfortunately prevented us from doing so.

    We can understand how disappointing this is – as we’re really disappointed too – but the circumstances were very much beyond our control on this occasion.

    We’re sorry not to have been able to bring you a show you’d like to see on Syfy UK, and hope you find other shows to enjoy on Syfy.”

  23. I’d love to watch the show, but living in South Africa where we don’t even have a sci-fi channel on satellite, well…

    I hope it comes to iTunes or DVD at some point

  24. Will, I know it’s a little late for this, but next time when you start a new show why not bypass the whole network network monopoly thing and get funding directly from fans. I purchase all of my TV legally through iTunes, and would happily prepay for a season of your show.

    You know what’s never going to be an option? Paying a dime directly to a cable company.

  25. Hi Wil

    I sent an e-mail to Syfy UK asking them whether they were going to screen your show in the UK, here’s what they said:

    From: Syfy Team (NBCUniversal) [mailto:[email protected]]
    Sent: 12 June 2014 15:33
    To: Andrew
    Subject: RE: Wil Wheaton project

    Hi Andrew

    Many thanks for your email in relation The Wil Wheaton Project, currently showing on our parent channel, Syfy US.

    We love Wil also and would have absolutely loved to bring The Wil Wheaton Project to Syfy UK. We instigated proceedings to acquire the UK rights, but a number of legal complications surrounding differences in UK and US clip clearance legislation, have unfortunately prevented us from doing so.

    We can understand how disappointing this is – as we’re really disappointed too – but the circumstances were very much beyond our control on this occasion.

    We’re sorry not to have been able to bring you a show you’d like to see on Syfy UK, and hope you find other shows to enjoy on Syfy.

    Best regards

    Lindsay
    Viewer Enquiries

    You fancy kicking some complicated differing legal clearance butt?

  26. Wil,

    Last night I watched the WWP non-time-shifted. It probably marks the first time in years that I have sat through commercials on first-run TV. Hope the ratings keep going up.

  27. hello,
    i ditched cable well over decade ago. what i want to watch i watch online.

    if you REALLY want to watch something? you’ll find it somewhere online. just make sure your antivirus, anti malware and what not are up to date!

    i love the show. it's a hoot & getting better!!

    finally a show where there are 80's jokes that i get that leave my kids going "huh?" though they are 80's brats simply by being around me.

    not to go GRANDPA on anyone but damn i miss the 80's!! i mean LIVE AID!! the music, the clothes which was great because it could be whore wear *cough* madonna *cough* or the TLC look, or any decade from the flapper girl look on to futuristic stuff..

    just anything! saggin wasn’t around!! the top 40 actually had songs that GASP sounded different!! i miss HAIRBANDS!! guy’s with great voices & great hair in rocker gear belting out good tunes & actually playing the instruments!! HA!!!!

    gah…getting old sucks, specially with crap music around.

    ah..hmm, guess i did go GRANDPA on everyone..eh well..

    great show! cheers y’all!!

    PS: i had seen the axe giant movie advertised on netflix and gave it a miss, but when i saw the clip on your show? i bout laughed myself into a hernia! definitely gonna watch it now..just for the sheer hilarity of it! i even called my son into the room an told him to watch your show and then showed him the clip. he started laughing then we looked up the axe giant movie on netlfix..LOL

    TY!!

  28. Loved the first show, wanted to watch more, couldn’t because I don’t have TV and hopefully never will. I’d say the potential majority of your audience is cord-cutters, and if syfy doesn’t realize it or isn’t willing to do anything about it, you’ll have to ditch them to get anywhere. It makes sense that syfy gave you a good offer since they’re hurting for decent shows, but I’m guessing you’ll be able to show your material to a more open-minded network (comedy central?), and give your show a much better chance at success.

  29. I would always rather pay for a good product than find other means, but often here in Canada networks that is difficult content blocked through legitimate means until a ridiculously long time later. Networks are hurting themselves since the content is available for those looking for it almost instantly for free. Until recently the BBC was like that airing work like Sherlock far ahead in the UK and not making it available in Canada on tv or disk until months later. I would go through this dance of downloading it when it aired and then ordering the discs later to sit on my shelf unopened to show my support with my purchase. I have yet to find a legitimate way to watch the Wil Wheaton Project in Canada, and since it references specific times/events, it is not likely to be picked up and shown a year later by our version of the SyFi network as often happens here. It’s a shame. Networks need to find a way to tap into those who want their product and are willing to sit through commercials or pay for it.

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