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Heroes Case Study

Nick Lacey | Friday April 24, 2009

Categories: Key Concepts, Television, Television Drama

One of the first lessons media students get to attend is ‘What are the key concepts?’. Then the rest of the students’ Media Studies life is spent applying them to media texts, issues and debates. Here we investigate what they can they tell us about Heroes (series 1, 2006-07).

Most media texts are commodities; that is they are produced to make money. This is probably most evident in American television where shows exist only if they get sufficient ratings.

The first ‘scripted’ (drama) cancellation of the ‘fall’ (autumn) season in 2007 was CBS’s Viva Laughlin, which lasted just two episodes. The first series of Heroes was NBC Universal’s top scripted show of 2006-7 and so the production of season two was inevitable.

Season one premiered in the UK on the SciFi channel – owned by NBC Universal – with impressive ratings; it also beat BBC1 in the 9pm slot, on its first showing on BBC2, in July 2007 (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroes_%28TV_series%29), accessed October 2007).

Sequels and spin-offs are favoured as they trade on successful properties. These don’t have to be in the same medium; in November the official Heroes magazine was published by Titan Magazines, who specialise in tie-ins with TV shows.

This institutional perspective focuses on, amongst other things, the business and in order to make money, in its home market, NBC Universal needs to sell the Heroes audience to advertisers. On NBC peak time audiences are sold to advertisers at a rate of $330,000 for 30 seconds. (according to Media Week cited at http://www.dingorue.com/2007/09/30/30-second-commerciacosts/, accessed October 2007).

However when considering the concept of audience properly we also need to examine how audiences use the text as fans.

Whilst fandom has been with us since at least the 18th century in Britain, when prostitutes were feted, the internet has enabled fans to communicate with, and create shrines in honour of, their...


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