Schrödinger’s Nielsen Box

The last three episodes of The Wil Wheaton Project (105, 106, 107) are pretty much what I wanted this show to be all along. I feel like it’s a good blend of irreverence, silliness, cleverness, and actual information that’s entertaining and interesting. We’ve had some great guests drop in, and our original creations (our silly TV theme songs, games like How Will They Bite It?) are landing on the audience exactly the way we hoped that they would.

As far as I can tell, the people who watch the show are having a good time with it, and the feedback I’ve been getting has been overwhelmingly positive. This makes me happy, because I’m making the show that I want to make, and the people who are watching it seem to enjoy that.

So, creatively, I’m very happy.

Our ratings are okay, but not great. We are building on our lead in, which is good, and people are watching the whole show, which is also good, but it’s discouraging that more people aren’t watching something that I’m really proud of.

I’ve done just about everything I can to convince the network to make it easier to watch online, but I’m just getting a runaround that ends with a whole lot of audience that probably would add to our ratings just going to YouTube or Pirate Bay to watch us. I’m happy that people are finding and enjoying the show, but I’m disappointed that our network isn’t making it easier for those people to be counted in a way that would help us get renewed for more episodes.

I made a decision two weeks ago, after 106 didn’t do as well as I hoped it would, to not care about the ratings any more. They matter only because it’s part of some inscrutable formula some people in a building in New York use to determine if we get to make more than 12 episodes, and those numbers are a distraction from the creative process for me.

As it stands right now, we’ll get to do at least five more episodes. After that, my long range sensors can’t get  a signal. I could spend a lot of time worrying about our ratings, but the fact is that people tune in or they don’t. The network has to promote the show in a smart way that gets people interested in us, and we have to make a show that those people enjoy enough to stick around and watch.

So I’m going to stay focused on the creative side of things, and work with an incredibly talented, smart, and funny team of writers and producers to make a show that we are proud of, that we can stand by.

Whether that’s for five more or thirty more is currently in Schrödinger’s Nielsen Box.


122 thoughts on “Schrödinger’s Nielsen Box”

  1. I love the show! The schedule works perfectly for me and Im able to tune in every week. I adore Tabletop and was really excited to see you on Scyfi. You had me hooked once I saw the Neil Degrasse Tyson drunk/stoned bits. Hilarious! Dont let the ratings bring you down. You’ve got a wonderful show and I believe the network will realize what a great thing they have.

  2. LOVE the show and you! I totally watch it On Demand and haven’t missed an episode. The last one was the best yet!

  3. I’m really enjoying the show. It’s one of the few Syfy shows I’m still watching. I have to say I feel like you are more you when you aren’t wearing a jacket. I think it’s great that the audience can tell how much fun you are having too 😀 Keep up the great work!

  4. I’ve been a fan of yours and follower of your blog for many many years. However, I only watched the first three episodes of your show then canceled the series recording from my DVR. I genuinely liked the show and thought you were funny and really looked comfortable doing it but I only enjoyed it enough to watch if there was nothing else on and there are lots of other things I’d rather be watching right now.

    I’m not saying this to be a dick but I do want you to know where at least one of your previous viewers went. Part of the reasons are that I just don’t watch a lot of the shows you are talking about so I had no interest there. I do love me some sci fi (and syfy) but I’m just not your target audience as a 48 year old male.

    Good luck and I hope the show runs for years.

  5. Another suggestion (although this may cross over the creative/business line too much): right now, the advertisers only care about the live SyFy viewers because they only advertise to those people (DVR viewers probably skip the commercials, and Pirate Bay users probably never even see them).

    BUT – if TWWP was “Looney Labs presents The Wil Wheaton Project,” or if there were ways to mention relevant sponsors during the show, then those advertisers would very much care about DVR viewers and Pirate Bay viewers (especially if they made up a large percentage of the total viewing audience). They would then, I hope, bring pressure to bear on the network to keep the show in production, as they’d be getting more for their advertising dollar.

    Of course, you’d have to be comfortable that the sponsorship didn’t degrade the content of the show or get in the way of what you’re trying to do, but hey – that’s why they call it “talent,” right?

    1. Sadly, most people I know don’t watch live tv at all anymore, but opt to record via DVR or watch online to avoid commercials. Advertisers need to figure out a way to catch up with the times.

  6. I work for a communications company, and it’s common knowledge in the business that there is no money to be made in cable anymore BECAUSE of all the cutters, and ever-expanding services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime. All the money is in high speed data and interfacing the customer with on-demand content. I have no idea why, if it’s common knowledge to cable providers, and has been for a while, I don’t get why it is taking network executives so long to realize that the old cable ratings system just isn’t going to cut it. You would think that they would have motivation to create a new system because it means they can boast a wider audience for potential sponsors.

    Just really don’t get it, but I hope your ratings are sufficient enough for them to keep letting you make the show until you’re ready to move on to something new. Even if it doesn’t, it’s not like you don’t have contacts and access to do something similar with Geek & Sundry if you really wanted to try it.

    1. It isn’t cord cutting that is reducing margins for cable companies – the net decline in TV subscribers in 2013 was .1%. It was primarily the increased costs of carrying more channels and maintaining infrastructure.

      And the reason why “network executives are taking so long” is because they have different incentives. Cable companies pay networks to carry their channels and so have far less reason to want the system to change.

      As others have said, until network and ad agency executives have an incentive to do so, the system won’t change. And even in a world with Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc. they don’t yet have a reason to change – yet.

  7. I haven’t had cable in a while thanks to Netflix and YouTube. I watch TWWP on youtube when I can find it. However, it is discouraging when I cant find the next episode or the quality is low. Unlike TableTop where I can power watch the entire canon of the show (even some of the extended editions) over 1 weekend without having to go through the incredible inconvenience of even clicking the “next” button….. that happened IRL! Just because I don’t spend my money on cable doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to contribute to the entertainment industry as a consumer. I click ads, I buy things online, I spend money on things I want (I don’t spend money on software but… who can afford to). I am glad to see that you are fighting the good fight and trying to bridge the gap. It seems like doing what you do has worked pretty well for you so far. I say, for what its worth, keep doing it!

    1. Pretty much where I’m coming from. I haven’t had cable TV for years, and laugh (maybe a little too loud, a little too long…) every time the cable company tries to sell it to me. There are so many things that I’d rather see than most of what’s on TV… I just don’t watch it anymore.
      If I could get your show via something on my Roku, I’d totally be there. Sorry… :(

      I had the Hodoround commercial running through my head all day yesterday (to the point that I had to go find the clip and watch it to get it to stop!), so it’s not like I don’t dig the content (even the goofy stuff). I love that you’re out there, doing your thing, making your show. It’s inspirational… I’m just not in your target demographic.

      Thank you for doing what you do, though.

  8. I’m glad you’re doing what you want, and able to focus on what you love rather than get bogged down in the systemics.

    Let’s face it: TV sucks. It has ALWAYS sucked. It sucks for EVERYONE. Networks are ridiculous, executives are ignorant, Nielson is BS, and the entire system is archaic. Some are worse than others, and honestly syfy is probably second only to Fox.

    I wish I could support you better in your endeavor, but frankly I gave up live TV a LONG time ago and will not return until the entire system is scrubbed from the Earth.

  9. Hey Wil! I like your show a lot, and I watched the first episode on the SyFy site, even though their player was wonky. I haven’t had a TV since 2008, though, so I had to watch the rest on YouTube. Is there a place to watch online where SyFy can see that I’m totes binge-watching?

  10. Dude, there is no rational reason for the things the Networks do – a network cancelled FIrefly, a network cancelled FarScape, and a network cancelled Babylon 5.

    There is nothing you can do (short of simulcasting Kardashians or Honey Boo Boo, apparently) to impact the ratings. So take a deep breath, realize that these things are sometimes like a slapshot that ricochets off a skate, and make the BEST show you can. Not the MOST POPULAR show; you just might hate yourself for caving to that. Make the BEST show you can. We will appreciate it, even if it only last for 13 episodes.

    Key West got cancelled in 1993, but I still remember it with love. If it turns out the same for your show, so be it. Don’t bother chasing the Dragon – it will turn you into Snooki.

  11. I was going to leave a comment about how terrible networks are for not getting with the times and figuring out how this whole interwebs thing works. But I decided I didn’t want my first comment on your weblog to be a negative rant against the Sy Fy network, who let’s face it, no one really takes seriously anyway.

    So Instead I will leave it at good job so far. I’ve been enjoying the show. But stop wasting your time on your TV career and go make more Table Top.

  12. I couldnt agree more that your last few have found a sweet spot. I was a little concerned at first at what i perceived to be snarkiness. Now, the show feels like a fan show, but still retaining the WTf factor of the weird clips. how will they bite it is an instant classic. My only complaint now is the announcer calling you stud and dreamboat etc lol.

    Thats extremely impressive you found the balance so fast ( say episode 4). Some shows take 13 episodes.

    Im Viggling the bejeesus out of you if that helps. wow theres a sentence that would have gotten me arrested 10 years ago.

    1. i forgot one thing – especially with 106 and 107, i found myself going ‘wow, thats good info i didnt know’ a lot. i never expected the show to be so informative about upcoming sci fi, and its a huge plus.

  13. The network is at the mercy of cable subscribers. In order to distribute it online they have to get cable companies to agree, and usually they end up making users enter their subscriber info to access the program on the network website. It penalizes those of us who may not want to subscribe to an increasingly overpriced service.

  14. I would watch but Syfy doesn’t locks it on Hulu for non-tv subscribers. I have no interest in Cable and until there is a proper avenue for online viewership it’s hard to show I support the show.

  15. I think your show is awesome. It’s funny, it’s accurate, and it’s just the right amount of silliness, as you put it. However, I’ve only been able to watch the first two episodes. I’m Deaf and so I need the captions to watch it. I was using to watch the show, but the captions are so badly delayed that I can’t watch it (anywhere from 15-30 seconds behind the audio, making it frustrating when I know that what I’m reading isn’t what I’m seeing on a person’s lips when they speak) and I don’t have the option of going to YouTube/Pirate Bay to watch them either for the reason that subtitles are not available for your show. I do hope you can get the network listening and see the wisdom in keeping your show accessible and also, hopefully, get captions going.

    In the meantime, keep it coming! Looking forward to the DVD releases of “Tabletop” as well!!!

  16. I hope your show gets picked up for more episodes. I don’t know how mindless, irrelevant shows run ad nauseum and the smart/clever are so often dropped long before they can get any traction. But each of these shows is a part of your growing body of work and projects, and whatever happens next will be built on the foundation of these productions that you truly can be proud of. Best wishes,thanks for not just adding fodder to the lowest common denominator.

  17. I rather enjoy the irreverent nature of your show, and I may have to find a copy of MegaPirahna now just because OF your show! Keep it real, Wil!

  18. Interestingly noone form my boardgame group can watch it. Noone gets it, we all find it silly and annoying. This isn’t a slight at you, at all, but the most common phrase heard in conjunction is “I love WW, his writing, videos, everything… but… I don’t get this show”.

    What do we have in common?

    We are all English.

    Make of it what you will!

    1. However myself and my friends that watch the show (all English) think the show is awesome. Some of us watch Tabletop, some don’t but we all enjoy TWWP.

  19. For me, the first few episodes (I stopped at #2) felt too much like Tosh 2.0 for my liking. It felt to me like they were trying to do the Tosh 2.0 thing with sci fi fans and were hoping your notoriety on its own would bring the eyeballs. And I’m just not a Tosh 2.0 fan. I don’t care for that style of TV.

    So that’s why I stopped watching. To me it felt forced. I am happy that you are enjoying it though and I hope that it continues.

    I feel you on the web thing, though. I don’t think cable companies have caught on to the fact that people like to watch the stuff they watch when they want to watch it, and frequently the delivery vehicle is the internet (their pcs / tablets / phones) than it is the TV. That is how it is for us. Our TV is more of a large monitor for our consoles than something we watch stuff on.

  20. I would happily watch via or Hulu.

    If they allowed people without pay-cable to watch.

    But I’m not willing to pay $60+ a month to watch the two pay-TV shows I care about. (Sorry, you’re not worth $30/week.)

  21. Sorry. How do I say this? I watched an episode or two. It didn’t hold my interest. Then it annoyed me. It seemed too derivative of other similar shows. There were some good moments, but overall the humor felt forced and the presentation smug and formulaic. Plus, I felt in a backhanded sort of way the show (and the host) was laughing at me for not being part of this circlejerk geek squad. Wow–don’t intend to sound mean. The show has potential but…yeah. it needs a different flavor.

    1. Admittedly, the first two episodes were a little….forced, imo. But I think people should give the show another chance – the chemistry has gotten a lot better, especially in the last two.

  22. I can solve this.

    You need to get a chainsaw for a hand.

    Don’t explain why. Just show up next episode with a chainsaw for a hand and stick with it. Also, an eyepatch couldn’t hurt.

    You’re welcome.

  23. If the show doesn’t get a pick up Will, you should set up a kickstarter to fund producing more for the internet. You’ve got a great show,great concept and fun to watch.

  24. I’ll admit it, I was surprised I liked your show. I shouldn’t be since I’m a fan, but I didn’t think it would be so funny. I’ve started recommending it to my nerd friends so I’m doing my part. Good luck for both you and my viewing enjoyment!

  25. I really started liking the show a lot after the third or fourth episode, and the last episode was my favorite. I do watch via my DVR, recorded off Dish Network, so I hope that counts in the ratings!

  26. I want to be honest here, I have watched every episode of The Wil Wheaton Project that has aired. I watch the show wanting to laugh and I watch it wanting it to succeed. After each episode I can honestly say I laugh maybe once or twice. I honestly do not think that the show is playing to its strengths. The Announcer guy with the deep voice is used in waaaay too many bits, it doesn’t make it funny just having a real announcer guy talking about some fake product like the Hodoround (which wasn’t funny). This show needs to make fun of the plethora of awful shows that are on Syfy and other cable networks, there needs to be more of that (Why isn’t there a weekly Defiance bit or Falling Skies? two Science Fiction shows?). Sometimes I feel pandered to, watching the show, ‘Hey fellow nerds!’ and ‘Check it out we have a guy from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s great to have guests and it was great seeing Andy Serkis but it looked like he didn’t know what the hell he was doing there. Yes, the ‘How will they Bite It’ game works marvelously but you could do more with that like ‘How they Kill it!’ some ridiculous manner the hero uses to kill the monster. The musical bits I understand most likely exist to become some type of viral marketing for the show, people will share it on twitter or what-have-you but they are generally not funny. The Brady Bunch Game of Thrones bit was embarrassing and wince inducing as well as the awful Cheers/True Blood bit. The thing that hurts it the most is the audience laughter, Now I know that it is real, it isn’t a laugh-track but all I can think while watching these bits is that no one can think this is that funny, can they? Please make fun of more awful tv shows and bad movies! Look, I’m not trying to be mean or a dick but I don’t want to simply say, ‘Great show, I love it!’ I wanted to say ‘I am watching and I want it to get better and I want you to succeed’, I know the show is in its infancy and I know it can only get better and I wish you good luck, I’ll be watching!

  27. You should get Jessica Negri on as a fall guy/sidekick/copresnter trolly dolly type.

    She would play into your target market, can send herself up in skecthes and if the network is not promoting then has enough followers online to give a boost

    She also has bewbs…. which would stop it becoming another wil wheaton sauasage fest :p

  28. I think the show is great! I have been recording on the DVR, rather than watching live (does that also hurt ratings?) so the wife and I can have a Wil Wheaton-athon now and again! Whether the show goes 1 season or 10 you are doing something that people enjoy! And hey, Firefly only made it one season but people still talk about that!!

  29. Count me in the list of people that would totally watch the show if the show were more accessible.

    Take ‘Bates Motel’ as an example: My wife and I could have watched it live through our standard def. basic cable package with long commercial breaks, or A&E has a Roku app that allows you to watch recent episodes of shows on-demand in HD with minimal commercials. Guess which one we picked.

    Syfy’s Roku app? It has a few preview clips…

  30. I work on TWWP as an Assistant Editor and I can easily say that — as a long-time nerd — this is the best gig I’ve had in my three years working in the industry since I graduated from film school. The show just keeps getting better and funnier every week. The people here are great to work with and we’re all really proud of the show and of Wil.

  31. Hey, I love this show dammit!! Of course this endorsement will mean so much to you, especially since you probably have no freakin’ idea who I even am, but there is the endorsement nonetheless.

    As a fellow blogger on pop culture and the like, though one of a much lesser “being known by people” quality (we can’t all have been on Star Trek ya know), I know how difficult it is to get people to read/enjoy/comment upon your blog, and I am pretty sure that doing a TV show is something like 544% more difficult. So there ya have it Wil, someone who can sympathize and understand your worries.

    But no need to worry, as the show is a blast, and deserves recognition and ratings and renewal. If you build it…well, you know the rest.

    Keep on keepin’ on. Maybe I’ll see you at my blog (oh so cleverly linked in the heading of this comment), until then, see ya ’round the web.

    The Wil Wheaton Project forevahhhhhhh!!!

  32. I would love to be able to see all of them on HULU. Sorry Wil – I don’t have normal cable or would watch it every time.

  33. With 1000% of my being, I LOVE YOUR SHOW!! If the idiots at SCIFI, don’t know a good thing when they see it, please consider making the show online as you suggested!

  34. Hi Wil – would love to watch, but cut the cord a while ago. Heard from Eddie McClintock at DCC last year that WH13 got cut for the same reason – 50% of audience wasn’t officially watching the show (even us day after air paid-on-iTunes folks didn’t count). Sounds like SyFy only cares about advertising $, not total revenue, but I have to believe that $1.99 per episode is more actual cash than the equivalent advertising revenue for a single viewer. Someone needs to get that company a new accounting department.

  35. Maybe it’s been said above, but I don’t have time to read all the comments. Maybe you could follow the example of Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show and put up clips of everything on the website. I think it’s a brilliant idea to have every bit and interview available, and that makes it easier to share them on the various platforms.

  36. If they cancel you, take your marbles and go to you tube. There is some money there, not as much, but it can be done. Plus you never know what can happen. Exhibit A: Web Therapy

  37. I’ve enjoyed your new show. I’ve seen every episode. I believe that after the nervousness of the first few episode went away the show just keeps getting better and better….. Until episode 8. A fellow geek and I watched your show with his teen/preteen kids. This was his first time seeing your show. He was uncomfortable with your use of “god damn” and “fuck” so many times. I understand you are an R rated person and the show is not on during the primetime slot. There are, however, geeks out there grooming a younger generation of geeks that don’t actually talk that way around their kids. He said he wouldn’t watch your show and can get all the language he wants watching Tosh.O. I explained your earlier episodes didn’t have as much “heavy” language but he was put off enough by episode 8 that he will not watch any more, at least with his kids.

    Every viewer counts and if this tiny change can help you gain or keep viewers then maybe it is something to look at.

    With that said I have to say I enjoyed episode 8 and hope to see many more episodes in the future. Good luck with the show.

    1. Its hosted by wil wheaton, not wesley crusher =)

      while i understand your sentiment, the material he is covering, such as game of thrones, is often r rated. youre basically asking him not to cover any horror movies, anything on HBO or a cable channel, etc. that doesnt leave a whole lot of material.

      which brings up a (serious) question – what kind of material does your PG geek friend enjoy, and/or what was he expecting?

  38. Very cool show. About time there is someone on TV that tells it like is . So food for thought , Battle of the Damned how the **** do zombies take down a robot?

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