'Modern Family' exec producer knocks Hulu on Twitter

Modern-Family-HuluImage Credit: Kevin Parry/Getty ImagesLate Wednesday night, Steve Levitan, the co-creator and exec producer of Modern Family, set off a Twitter dialogue (tweet-alogue?) that’s still burning today. The topic? Reports of a future IPO for Hulu, which seem to have Levitan none-too-pleased. Levitan wrote “Some estimate Hulu IPO could bring in $2Bil. What will the content providers get? Zero. What is Hulu without content? An empty jukebox.” This isn’t the first time Levitan has spoken out against online television: At TCA earlier this month, he told reporters that he’d lobbied unsuccessfully for Modern Family episodes to be removed from Hulu and ABC.com so the Nielsen ratings for the show would better reflect total viewership. Yesterday, Levitan followed up his original tweet to clarify that he wasn’t dissing Hulu viewers: “To be clear, I value every single one of our viewers, no matter how you watch, I just want you to be counted…. We need a ratings system that counts all viewers on every format: TV, DVR, Hulu, iTunes, iPad Player, network websites, etc.” Bones creator Hart Hanson chimed in, “If I see @stevelevitan today I’m going to find a step-ladder and kiss him on the lips,” while TV By the Numbers’ Robert Seidman wrote that Levitan was “ignorant” about how ratings really work. It’s easy to get lost in the technical thicket of ratings and viewership, but I, for one, find the intra-party arguing kind of fascinating, if only because we really are waiting to see the future of television play out. I’ve always watched Modern Family online, and it would be a drag if it was suddenly unavailable, but I also understand Levitan’s view that the series doesn’t get all the credit it has coming. Do you sympathize with him at all? Or do you think you deserve your online experience and that the television industry just needs to catch up?

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  • Ceballos

    “We need a ratings system that counts all viewers on every format: TV, DVR, Hulu, iTunes, iPad Player, network websites, etc.”

    I 1,000% agree with this. I thought his idea of taking the show off of Hulu as an experiment to “force” people to watch it on TV was severely misguided, but, as you say, the guy just wants the numbers to accurately reflect how many people watch the show, and for the people who put the show together to be fairly rewarded. Can’t kill him for that.

    • Monty

      My tv doesn’t count anyway for Neilson ratings as i don’t have a neison box. I would think Hulu would at least allow them to keep track of how many online views a show is getting. Now, if I watch the show on tv I won’t register as a viewer at all.

    • Ak

      So then he should just ask for a better way to measure the numbers. I watched Modern Family almost always on DVR but what about if the power goes out, or since I have the dish, it rains or it’s windy, I’m assed out. That’s when I turn to Hulu.

      • Ceballos

        I believe that’s what I said at the start of my comment (and Levitan said that in his quote)…we NEED a better way to measure numbers that takes the various ways people watch shows into account.

      • Ceballos

        …oh ok, I see what you’re saying…and I agree that his mini-crusade against Hulu (which bails out lot of people like you) is silly.

        Still, the bottom line is that we’re all basically saying the same thing…the way ratings are measured now is ridiculously outdated and wrongheaded.

      • Ceballos

        …by the way, is it ok if I borrow “assed out” and try to work it in with my friends?

      • Neilsens Suck!

        fyi, i’ve used and heard the term “assed out” for years. pretty sure it is fair game…

      • Ceballos

        Neilsens Suck-

        Much like the Nielsen system, I’m apparently behind on the times…it was the first time I’d heard it.

      • Jason S.

        He makes no sense. The reason ratings don’t count Hulu is because they show different commercials. Why do the people paying for airtime care if another 50000 watch the show online when their commercials aren’t being shown online? It doesn’t matter how manuy viewers the show has. It only matters how many people watch the commercials being shown during the show.

      • BA

        Ceballos, I have never heard of that term either….

      • Sara (other one)

        “The Middle” isn’t on Hulu, and usually airs within an hour of “Modern Family”. Couldn’t they use that as a comparison? “The Middle” is a good show, but it doesn’t have nearly as much notoriety as “Modern Family” – while I don’t dispute that there may be some drawbacks to having shows available online, it would be foolish to overlook the benefits as well.

    • Tv Fan

      What irked me about the “force” comment was that this experiment has been done. CW tried this with Gossip Girl only to put it back online. I also can understand the goal of improving a shows numbers, but maybe Levitan should do a little more research. If this is such a problem, why not see how this issue has been dealt with in the past?

    • limonaise

      Well, taking it off HULU won’t solve the problem or give accurate numbers. Not every home is a Nielsen home. So, those numbers have never really been completely indicative what the nation is watching. Maybe 30 years ago. But now everything is so diverse. TV ratings have not been accurate for years.
      I can’t believe that HULU, network websites can’t do a counting system for how many times a certain program is watched. Heck, YouTube does that.
      DVR’s ARE counted. I was a Nielsen rater for a while. We didn’t get a box on our set, but we had a form we had to fill out for 2 weeks (I think, maybe a month). We wrote down what we watched live, what we watched recorded.

      • Dav

        Of course HULU and other sites can do a count for how many times a program is watched. The problem is the advertisers don’t care. Anything that can be watched without commercials (or with a bare minimum) doesn’t matter one bit to them. So, Nielsen ignores it, advertisers stay away from it and many viewers don’t get counted as a result.

      • Neilsens Suck!

        and you couldn’t fudge that all… it’s complete bs. and i have yet to meet someone in person who has been a nielsen rater. and as someone said, viewership is so diverse nowadays that i fail to believe that they can extrapolate from a small sample the varied tastes of so many americans. my tastes, for example, don’t follow a rhyme or reason. i’ll watch a cary grant/hepburn movie and follow it up with the boondocks and futurama… i think lots of people have random viewing habits.

      • MelindaB

        I’m with Neilsens Suck, both in name and in message. In our house, we’re just as likely to watch a classic movie on TCM and then follow it up with Dirty Jobs on Discover. The Neilsen system hasn’t been effective since the advent of cable tv. Removing the show from Hulu won’t fix that, though.

    • jay

      He acts as if his show is the ONLY show that gets watched on Hulu. The world is changing, and he is just being stubborn. You dont hear other producers of shows complaining about this…?

      • The Real Johnification

        No, he’s acting like it’s a major issue affecting viewership for many shows and is trying to take action with the one he can control. I for one would love to be counted as a viewer no matter how I watch (or really, AT ALL, since I don’t have a Nieslen box), and he’s trying to strong arm a push into the future of ratings. I support that.

    • Neilsens Suck!

      the ratings system has always been the problem. lots of good series with viewers have gotten cancelled because of an outdated model for judging a show’s popularity. scrap the whole system and start from scratch i say with a whole new model that accurately judges viewership. Either that or find a a different way to set ad prices (which is the only reason to need ratings in the first place, really…)

  • Clay

    Clearly the studios were correct during the writers strike: There is no money to be made on the internet.

    • jj

      then why am i stuck watching ads before and during hulu airings as well as during OnDemand viewings with my local cable provider. Someone is getting the money from those advertisers. Who?

  • Thomas

    I don’t see the logic in removing video from online so that the archaic Nielson ratings can better reflect actual viewership. Viewership will be reduced. Better to change the way we count ratings than take steps backward. That’s just silly.

  • retirednotdead

    not quite sure how watching online works; i’ve never wanted to. if a program is cancelled because they don’t know how many are watching, that would be unfortunate.

  • two cents

    I agree, they need to figure out a way to count viewers online. But I don’t think keeping the show off of Hulu is the answer. Big Bang isn’t available there, but that doesn’t make me watch live, it just makes me watch other ways that may not be entirely legal.

  • Heather

    I think the ratings system needs updated. With all the technology out there it should be possible to count all viewers for tv/dvr/on demand/online

  • Allie

    I pulled this from Variety’s summary of the WGA strike resolution:

    “Television Ad-Supported Streaming (Library): Ad-supported streaming of television
    programs produced after 1977 (and a small number produced prior to 1977) are payable at 2%
    of distributor’s gross receipts.”

    Am I on glue, or doesn’t 2% mean 2%? It still seems like a small number to me, but that’s what they agreed on, so…what gives?

  • Just another greedy executive. Figures.

  • anonymous

    I hold a grudge easily against most entertainment mediums, seeing as I don’t have much time to devote to shows. I’ve not been back to Hulu since that ridiculous Best in Show finals fiasco (and I won’t give Ken Tucker’s columns the page view, either, so congrats on contributing to the fail, EW.)
    …More on topic, TV ratings need a serious overhaul. You have to wonder who it is fighting tooth and nail to keep an outdated system.

  • Hunter

    The current viewer measurement system doesn’t count “all viewers” anyway so why the Hulu hate?

    • Devin Faraci

      Boo hoo! Millionaires crying about not making even more millions. Get bent.

  • Dan

    While I agree ratings systems are outdated, he should be happy that people have more ways to see his show. He says he appreciates every single viewer, but lobbied against ways to view the show online?

    I somehow think this is less about counting viewers and is more about him thinking he’s entitled to more money from the Internet.

  • briguyx

    Producer Ed Bernero has said in interviews that he believes ratings for “Criminal Minds” broadcast repeats are higher because the show isn’t available online on Hulu.

  • Amelia

    In the case of Modern Family, I started watching it on Hulu and its the only way I watch it. If I were to buy the dvd set, it would because I saw it on the Internet.

    I was also under the impression that viewership online was definitely tracked and reported the ABC studios. Watching television online is the norm illegally or not. To me hulu is a remedy to find the true viewership. I mean how else would hulu make it attractive to the various studios to put their content on their site without any results.

    In my mind the way it works is that Hulu pays a licensing fee to have this content and generates revenue through the ads it has between breaks. If you notice the commercials are getting longer and more numerous. I think Levitan irritation is misdirected and maybe he’s misunderstanding the situation.

  • Sara

    I really wish that someone would develop a system in which ratings reflected online viewings. as for removing Modern Family from Hulu all together, i feel like that would be a huge mistake. I watched the entire first season of Modern Family this summer, mostly through illegal websites, but also partly through Hulu. When fall roles around, i’ll be watching the show on television this fall, thanks to the convenience of the internet.

  • Jen

    If it wasn’t for Hulu I wouldn’t even watch Modern Family. That’s how I got into it, I was bored one weekend and marathoned the first few episodes on there. Ever since I have been hooked and watch it on TV (either live or recorded.) But as I said, if I hadn’t had the option to watch it on Hulu that weekend, I probably never would have watched it. (Which is unfortunate because it really is a great show.)

    • kelsey

      Same for me. I discovered more than a few good shows that way. Mostly that’s because I’m a poor grad student nine months out of the year. I kind of think this guy is being a stick in the mud. If other creators would speak out, I’d probably take this a lot more seriously. Right now, it’s just annoying.

      Don’t take my Modern Family away. Don’t punish me just because I can’t afford a TV.

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