It has been fascinating. Gigantic. Crucial. It may not be overstating it to say it is one of the fundamental elements that kept us on the air. From the seven episodes of the first season to where we are now, it allowed a core audience to begin their viewership rituals and adorations that led to a larger word-of-mouth experience that led to bigger viewership that led to staying on the air—and, in fact, thriving. So it’s been kind of a change that way, and really beautiful that way.
Growing up in theater, word-of-mouth was exactly what you hoped would build your audience because it was the most trustworthy kind of connection. It was bigger than this almost “flavor of the month” or this somewhat evanescent connection that you find through professional critics saying “I love this” or “I hate this.” When it’s more democratic, when it’s more one-on-one between you and the audience, then it starts to become more real. Scandal’s connection with the audience is built on a beautiful, trustworthy way, via word-of-mouth, which Twitter is—a new iteration of something that’s really old. Neighbors calling each other and saying, “Did you see this movie? Did you see this play?”
It’s like if you see each other at the grocery store and say, “Hey, did you see this? I love this.” It’s been gigantic that way. The connection to the artist, with the live-tweeting, that communication is quite funny. The bigger the world gets, the smaller it gets, in a sense. Forty years ago there were about three to four TV channels. Now there are 60, 80, 90, or whatever it is. Now, shows that stay on the air have ratings like 2 million, 6 million, or 10 million at the very most. In years past, that wouldn’t be enough to keep you on the air. But now, the slices of the pie are much more numerous, and you can connect. You can connect with a passionate fan base that is literally much smaller than it needed to be for the economy to work in television years ago, and you can connect in kind of a direct way. It reminds me of a subscription audience in the theater, with talkbacks and getting to know the people who came to your shows month after month. It’s like a version of that in television now. It’s very sweet.
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