Nielsen Losers Can Still Be 'Hits'! Case Study: Gossip Girl

Jessica Shaw of Entertainment Weekly wrote that on paper Gossip Girl is not very successful, drawing a relatively lame 2.6 million viewers and languishing near the bottom of the Nielsen chart. (It’s at No. 105, to be exact.) But in a season with few new breakouts, Gossip Girl is redefining what it means to be a TV hit.

The generation watching Gossip Girl doesn’t do appointment television. They are masters at using the latest technology to watch TV when and how they want. So it’s significant that Gossip Girl is consistently the most downloaded show on iTunes (it edged past The Office soon after it premiered in September), and it gets about a 14 percent hike in female teens and 30 percent in 18- to 34-year-olds when DVR viewings are factored in. It’s also the most-watched new show by teens.

Being obsessed with a teen show — from 90210 to The O.C. — has long involved reveling in the problems of beautiful people from snazzy zip codes. But Gossip Girl is especially racy, full of casual sex and unapologetic pot smoking. Perhaps that’s why some Manhattan kids say that their schools have discouraged them from watching the show or even talking to the media about it. (Multiple schools did not return calls to EW.) ”We’re not trying to make a documentary about the life and times of the Upper East Side,” says the 22-year-old Crawford. ”People should know the show has been embellished.”