Final Project: This Is Media

Television fans are not complicated creatures. It is no mystery that if people are entertained by something, they tend to engage with it. In the age of the Convergence Era, this phenomenon proves to be true more than ever. After all, entertainment is now as simple as a click of a button—a button that can be anywhere at any time. Suzanna Scott reiterates this point in her article, “Battlestar Galactica: Fans and Ancillary Content,” by exploring the growing relationship between television fans and what she describes as “ancillary content.” According to Scott, ancillary content can be found on a television series’ website in the form of webisodes, webcomics, episodic podcasts, blogs/vlogs, alternate reality games (ARGs), and more (321). For the sake of Scott’s argument, she focuses on a series of episodic podcasts that were recorded by Ronald D. Moore, creator and executive producer of Battlestar Galactica, while it was still on the air. These weekly podcasts helped fill in the missing information between episodes that would otherwise leave viewers to “debate potential answers and scribble in the textual gaps and margins to create and circulate answers of their own.” (321) Not to mention, the podcasts also served as Moore’s way of providing context and justification for narrative decisions.

While these functions may sound beneficial to the Battlestar Galactica fan-base, Scott claims otherwise in her article. Rather than innocently providing entertainment to fans, Scott views the increase of producer and creator podcasts as the television industry’s attempt to “maintain interpretive power.” (321) In other words, she is arguing that ancillary content does not allow for audiences to develop their own fan texts before a show’s creators fill in the narrative gaps and ambiguities for them. This could be viewed as what Scott refers to as “ideological control,” because the producers and creators decide what the “intended” and “preferred” interpretations of the text should be. As a result, Scott claims that this shrinks the amount of creative opportunity available for fans, even if the content is inspirational.

In addition to decreasing creative opportunity, Scott also argues that ancillary content facilitates more of a monologic than dialogic relationship with fans. In other words, while audiences may be able to talk back to their television screen online, the conversation is not a back-and-forth dialogue.

I do not doubt the validity of Scott’s arguments when it comes to the ancillary content associated with Battlestar Galactica. However, it is worth exploring whether or not her claims apply when it comes to a different television series. Considering the vast amount of ancillary content associated with the television show This Is Us, it makes for a worth-while comparison in terms of producer and fan-base relations.

Unlike the science fiction media franchise that is Battlestar Galactica, NBC’s This Is Us is a comedy-drama television series. On September 20, 2016, the day of its premiere, the world was introduced to the Pearson family: Jack, Rebecca, Randall, Kate, and Kevin. Throughout its now three seasons of being on the air, the audience has been through a great deal of experiences with the previously mentioned characters of the show. For starters, the adoption of Randall after his birthfather left him at a fire station, the development of Jack and Rebecca’s relationship, and the realistic hardships that seem inevitable for this Philadelphia family. Unlike most shows, This Is Us does not tell its story in chronological order. Instead, the story is told with the help of multiple flashbacks that depict the Pearson’s past and present experiences. This always makes for entertaining episodes that play out the life of a family that may be unique but, nonetheless, manages to be relatable to each of its 10.3 million viewers (Jefferson n.pag.).

Of the 10.3 million viewers that tune in to watch This Is Us every week, 105k of them are subscribed to the “This Is Us: Aftershow” on YouTube. Much like Battlestar Galactica’s producer-made podcast, the Aftershow is hosted by Executive Producer, Isaac Aptaker, and Co-Producer, Kay Oyegun. However, being hosted by producers is not the only similarity between the two podcast-like creations. Both offer commentary, context, and predictions from the producers episodically. An example of this dialogue can be viewed in the video below, titled “Aftershow: Season 3 Episode 18 – This Is Us.”

Just below the video, notable fan-comments can be found:

All of the comments above have one thing in common: fans are trying to fill in the gaps of the storyline and they are making predictions for future episodes. However, according to Scott’s study of Battlestar Galactica’s ancillary content, the ability for fans to make these kinds of comments is difficult because a show’s creators fill in the narrative gaps and ambiguities for them. While this might apply to fans of Battlestar Galactica, it appears that the This Is Us producers leave room for mystery, even when utilizing ancillary content. Ultimately, this seems to leave the fans feeling satisfied, especially when looking at some of the other comments left below the video:

In addition to subscribing to the Aftershow, fans have the liberty to follow This Is Us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. From the looks of it, many fans act on this opportunity, with 3.9 million followers on Facebook, 412k followers on Twitter, and 1.3 million followers on Instagram.




Needless to say, this further suggests that This Is Us has an incredibly strong fan-base across all platforms. While this could and should be viewed as the television industry’s way of furthering their agenda to keep creative power in their own hands, I still think it allows for more of a dialogic relationship than Scott could have predicted. This could easily be attributed to the fact that social media was not as developed at the time of her analysis. Now, social media gives fans the opportunity to interact with and respond to producers of their favorite shows, even if a back-and-forth conversation is only an illusion to make fans feel as if their voices are being heard. Take this interaction on Twitter, for example:

I would also argue that even if there is a strong power-dynamic between the television industry and fans, not all creative opportunity for fans is lost. This is especially evident when viewing the vast amount of fan-made content on the Internet.

For example, there are six podcasts created by fans alone, one of which is shown below, titled “This Is Us Podcast with Kei & Clyde.”

Furthering this point, the website “Vulture” has an entire webpage dedicated to a This Is Us blog.

Among other fan-made content consists of social media pages, like the ones pictured below.



After reading about Scott’s analysis, viewing This Is Us ancillary content, and analyzing This Is Us fan-made content, I have come to a final conclusion. My conclusion is as follows: Scott was correct to claim that producers create ancillary content as means of maintaining power in the television industry. However, it does not hold true that this always takes away interpretive power and creativity for all fan-bases. This is demonstrated perfectly in my analysis of ancillary content associated with This Is Us. While producers are creating ancillary content for fans, its point is not to interpret the show for them. Instead, it appears that the This Is Us producers participate in its creation to keep fans connected and engaged in their community. Therefore, the This Is Us fan-base is tightly bonded not only because of their love for the show, but because of their trust in the producers to value them as fans. While the end goal here is still money and power, it is accomplished in two different ways (i.e. filling in gaps for fans vs. leaving room for questions). Not to mention, the Internet still allows for a great amount of creativity from fans that wish to express their thoughts about shows in the form of social media posts, art, writing, or otherwise.

While it might not be a surprise that the power of the television industry is alive and well today, it is worth noting that ancillary content does not necessarily have to affect the interpretive and creative power of fans, especially when it comes to This Is Us.

Television Programming Activity

Network Name: Yes Stalgia

Programming Executive – Anderson Bradshaw

Social Media Executive – demilynn

Advertising Executive – peanut4

Streaming Content:

  • Drake and Josh

Recommended: Hannah Montana, Suite Life of Zach and Cody, Suite Life on Deck

  • Hannah Montana

Recommended: Victorious, iCarly, Zoe 101

  • Wizards of Waverly Place

Recommended: Merlin, Big Time Rush, School of Rock

  • Jimmy Neutron

Recommended: Fairly Odd Parents, Invader Zim, SpongeBob

  • Lilo and Stitch

Recommended: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Danny Phantom

Clip (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody):


Social Media Posts:


Social Media Posts Explanation:

Our streaming service, as the name implies, is a service that promotes former hit TV shows from the 2000’s such as Disney, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network content. Our social media posts would want to draw on the nostalgia of our now grown audiences and remind them of the fun they had watching when they were younger. Therefore, we have retweeted old stars of some of our more popular shows such as Ariana Grande and Josh Peck in order to promote our shows or new content on the service.

Advertising Explanation:

Spotify and Amazon will be partnering with our network. These two companies cater to the 18-23 years age group, and so does our network. What’s great about Spotify is that they recently released Ariana Grande’s new album “Thank U, Next”, and she stars in one of our network shows “Victorious.” Other actors and tv shows have their albums and soundtracks out on Spotify also. Amazon is also great because viewers of our network can buy merchandise that’s inspired from the shows we stream. Such as clothing and posters. These ads will play in the middle of the streaming content as “commercial breaks”. This forces the viewers to the watch the ads, instead of having the option to skip it.

Post-Network Era: Nothing Kompares to Reruns

“Goodnight, Mary Ellen. Goodnight, Jim Bob”

On September 14, 1972, in coherence with the Broadcast Era, these words echoed in living rooms across the United States for the first time. This was the sound of The Waltons’ bedtime routine, a fictional family that Americans tuned in to watch for a subsequent nine years after the airing of the first episode on CBS. The show was set in the midst of the Great Depression and World War II, spanning from 1933 to 1946. More specifically, the show follows the struggles of The Walton family to make a decent living during such hardship, but they never fail to end the day with their famous goodnights.

I remember the first time I heard about The Walton family. I was staying in a hotel room with my mom and siblings when we turned out the lights, said goodnight, and shut our eyes in hopes of a good night’s rest. However, my mom seemed to have a different plan, as she proceeded to recite the closing scene of The Waltons. She began, “Goodnight, Mary Ellen…” and my siblings and I questioned, “Mom, what are you doing?” Sure enough, she was nostalgically recalling the days when she would rush home from school to watch The Waltons with her family.

However, they were not watching the original nine seasons of the show, as was characteristic of the Post-Network Era. Instead, my mom and her family were the perfect example of a “family-orientated slate” audience that The Family Channel hoped to attract to their reruns of The Waltons in the 1980s. Originally, these reruns aired with the intent to seek familiar and popular programming that The Family Channel could afford, as pointed out in Derek Kompare’s article, “TV Land: Cable and Satellite as Boutique Television.” Not to mention, this increased the amount of income from advertising and their subscribing base, meaning the channel could meet distributors’ prices.

Additionally, the hopeful intentions of The Family Channel were met with even more successful results. One of which was that reruns served as a large component in the formation of cable networks’ strong identities. These identities were the result of The Family Channel being a boutique, meaning it had specialized audiences that were dedicated to their shows. This audience included those such as my mother and her family, proving that even forty years later, the boutique function of The Family Channel sold itself to its family-oriented audience quite well.


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