Maintaining a friendly online feud with the ursine mascot of a television ratings website is not something I necessarily imagined for myself, but it’s happened gradually over the past year or so. Every now and then, someone asks me why I have such an issue with TV By The Numbers’ Cancellation Bear (@TheCancelBear) on Twitter, and I’ve had a half-finished draft explaining why that I finally got around to finishing.
"My objection to the Cancellation Bear is not about whether the Bear is right or wrong when it predicts which shows are “certain” to be canceled. It’s not even about whether it’s possible for anyone outside of the closed loop of broadcast television can ever speak with certainty about network decision making on the level the Cancellation Bear chooses to (a point we disagree on, but a point where their record makes such claims viable in and of themselves). Rather, it’s the underlying condescension within that certainty: rather than simply proving its authority by offering comprehensive and conclusive predictions, TV By The Numbers has used the Cancellation Bear to pronounce its superiority above anyone else who deigns to analyze television ratings.”
That’s the long version. The shorter version is that rather than letting data and interpretation speak for itself, the Bear transforms the site into an attack on those who read the information differently, whether through affective lenses of fandom—the lens that drives many to the website in the first place—or through more patient lenses of journalism. TV By The Numbers has such potential to serve as a resource for ratings information, but The Cancel Bear—in between providing useful information—performs a contempt that obscures and undermines that potential.
Which is unfortunate and regrettable for the future of ratings culture.