It's The Web Again For 'Gossip Girl': Will Viewers Find Show On TV?

For the CW, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Again.

After pulling "Gossip Girl" off the Internet airwaves in the spring -- all with the hope of steering potential young viewers from their computer screens, and off illegal Web sites -- the CW has put the show back on and other affiliated sites, offering free streaming ad-supported episodes of the popular show. (It has continued to be available through iTunes, as an advertising-free, paid download).

Now CW can hopefully claim some of those young viewers who will interact with the network's own Internet area -- rather than some other non-affiliated site from which CW gets no online advertising revenue benefit.

The problem for the CW remains that of other young-skewing networks, like MTV had has over the years: How do you keep up with a fickle audience who now ricochets around the Web with little loyalty, and/or finds other diversions like online games and social networking sites?

Well, the first thing you don't do is keep them from anything they want. College and high school kids are constantly on their laptops, all while CW was trying to steer them to TV.

Sure, they watch TV. But CW violated the first rule of the digital age -- not giving viewers programming "anywhere, anytime they want it." How many times have we heard this mantra in presentations from TV programmers? It turns out they are right.

We are told TV drives viewership on the Internet -- TV being the marketing vehicle, or in ABC's way of thinking, the "start" place. The good news for the CW is viewers want "Gossip Girl." The bad is that CW may still not get many of the show's core viewers to watch the show on the big video box. All that hurts the network in the pocket -- a trend that could continue starting in September's fall season, a crucial period for the network's survival.

In five years time, all types of viewers young -- and old --- may be reacting the same way as "Gossip Girl" fans did. Those networks and programmers will then have a similar decision to make. Maybe by then advertising pricing for those shows on the Web will offer up some meaningful dollars



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