Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan wants ABC to remove episodes of the Emmy-nominated comedy from Hulu and ABC.com so that the Nielsen ratings might better reflect how many people are actually watching the show. Levitan told reporters at TCA, the annual gathering of the nation’s TV critics, that he’s unsuccessfully lobbied Disney-ABC TV Group president Anne Sweeney to make Modern Family a test study. “We’re making it far too easy to watch it on other mediums and not getting proper credit for it. If we weren’t on Hulu and ABC.com, why don’t we try that?” The Hollywood Reporter quotes Levitan as saying. He believes Modern Family, which he estimates gets another 2 million views online each week (Hulu does not release numbers), could be a Top 3 show if people had to watch it on TV. “The idea isn’t to remove ways for viewers to find the show,” he added, “but to see what [would happen to the ratings].”
I’m torn: I’ll admit that it’s jarring to see that Modern Family, which garnered 14 Emmy noms, averaged only 9.5 million viewers its freshman year (which placed it down in the thirties for the TV season). And I’m sure bigger numbers would make it easier for ABC to justify special episodes like the trip to Hawaii — and who doesn’t want to see more family vacations? But 1) I’m just not sure all the people watching Modern Family online are watching it for the first time — I headed to Hulu most morning-afters to rewatch scenes in the office. And 2) I’d really hate not to be able to do that. Especially when season 2 storylines are expected to include an earthquake, Cameron and Mitchell contemplating whether to expand their family, and some of the characters getting caught up in a flash mob/dance sequence in a public place.
Yes, whether a show is viewable online the morning-after does factor into my decision about whether or not I watch or record it in its regular time slot — but only when there’s a TV traffic jam. Is Wednesday at 9 p.m. so busy that you had to resort to watching Modern Family online? The only time slots that I found routinely excruciating last season were Thursdays at 8 p.m. (I recapped Bones and The Vampire Diaries, which meant I had to catch Parks and Recreation on Hulu) and Tuesdays at 10 p.m. (when I would watch The Good Wife and Justified and leave Parenthood for Hulu, until I realized FX was kind enough to repeat Justified at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., which meant I could record all three shows that night.) FX and USA will make Hulu wait eight days to post episodes of some shows online, which is frustrating as a writer who wants to embed scenes from them in timely posts, but makes sense because the cable channels repeat those episodes that week and want to catch more viewers that way. How would you feel about Modern Family going offline completely, or episodes being available eight days after they air?