ATX: Ratings, Recaps, Reviews

Austin Television Experience (Photo:
Austin Television Experience (Photo:

Perhaps the most important panel at the Austin Television Experience, “Ratings, Recaps, Reviews” brought together experts from the interwebs to discuss online TV criticism.

The Blurb

Kyle Killen knows more about ratings than he cares to, and he’s going to break it down for you starting with who, what, when, where, or IF watching matters. Dissecting Neilsen, DVRs, live viewing, social media, and streaming, he’ll answer questions like: What’s a share? How everyone you know can be talking, tweeting and watching a show, but it still gets canceled? And why do ratings equal cancellation on one network but a hit on another? Tune in to find out how it all translates into keeping your favorite show on, or its eventual demise. Following his 15 minute presentation, Killen sits down with top critics Alan Sepinwall (Hitfix), Matthew Zoller Seitz (Vulture), Todd Vanderwerff (A.V. Club) and Tara Ariano ( to discuss TV’s growth in the past decade, where its going, and their contributions to a show’s fate.

The Panel

You guys. Seriously. This panel.

Okay, so it started with Kyle Killen (AwakeMind Games, other shows that did not survive a full season) giving an overview on how ratings work. Two important items came out of this portion:

  1. C+31, the standard advertisers use to negotiate ad rates, does not vary much from the Live+Same Day ratings determined by Neilsen.
  2. There are over 200 original dramas produced and broadcast across 35 networks.

In short, the networks need to follow the money to get advertisers so that those of us without HBO and Showtime can get shows with some quality to it.

Part two of the panel featured Sepinwall, Seitz, VanDerWerff, and Ariano espousing their theories on modern TV criticism. So much truth came out of this panel, y’all. For instance, we are beyond Peak Recap and need to find a new way to engage and talk about television.2 Also, the distinction between TV and film can be described in terms of commodities. Film is viewed as art while TV is still viewed as a product, hence the way we talk about the two media differing. Since television is viewed as a product, the approach many readers take to criticism and discussion is more in the Consumer Reports mould. “It’s not about the rating,” Seitz said, adding, “No one knows how to read a mixed review.” The goal for readers can be paraphrased into “should I buy the product?”

The Experience

Each person who purchased a Weekend Badge was given the opportunity to “Fast Pass” three sessions as a way to guarantee a seat. Although screenings are usually the smart option for fast passing, this panel was my first choice. I do not regret that decision for a second. To sit in a room to listen to masters of the craft discuss how we do what we are trying to do here at WEIO was nothing short of inspiring.

  1. those who watched ads on a show within three days of original broadcast  
  2. Hi guys!  

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About Mike McComb 669 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: