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April 28, 2009

Will swine flu help TV ratings?

Arnold My Bible recall is pretty hazy, but doesn't the fifth sign of the apocalypse go something like: "And the Terminator shall rise, declare California to be in a state of emergency and sayeth: 'There is no need for alarm?'"

Arnold Schwarzenegger did just that this morning in the latest head-turning plague-fear headline. He's Austrian, sure, but you'd think he'd realize most English-speaking people have a tough time mentally prying apart the word "emergency" from the phrase "need for alarm."

I don't know about you, but if Los Angeles starts to look like the first 15 pages of The Stand, I'm gonna work remotely for awhile. Unabomber-level remotely. Though should that happen, daily posting will continue since no blogger would dare miss Tweeting Armageddon. And just because we're all worried about the latest colorfully named strain of influenza, that doesn't mean science-free entertainment publications can't hugely benefit from media-fueled hysteria.

Like yesterday. Both Hollywood trade dailies jammed out stories on the potential pandemic's impact on the weekend box office chances of Wolverine. The article achieved the insanely search-engine friendly feat of combining "swine flu" and "Wolverine" in the same headline. Bravo! Now if only there was a way of using both "Susan Boyle" and "Battlestar Galactica," we'd all hit our traffic goals for the week.

So in the interest of continuing to find ways to focus our beats to the latest online news phenomena, The Live Feed asks: "Will Swine Flu Help TV Ratings?"

Swine flu panicAs with the Wolverine stories, this is a legitimate question -- which is the secret to these types of stories. Since nobody knows what's going to happen, anything is possible. And since anything is possible, anything on this hot-button subject is newsworthy.

With swine flu headlines everywhere, many health-conscious, Purell hand-sanitizing North Americans are going to be wary of leaving their homes for an evening of entertainment. If just one out of every 100 viewers decided to stay on the couch and watch TV instead of doing something else, why ... heck, it still wouldn't save The Unusuals, but it might boost overall viewing levels.

Swine flu coughAnd media reports say swine flu is hitting people between the ages of 25 to 45 the hardest. That's right: The super flu is actively targeting the core of TV's coveted adults 18-49 demographic.

So depending on the severity of the flu outbreak, we're looking at either a potential short-term increase in viewing ... or a long-term decrease.

Right now, this ratings outcome is still too tough to call. But once reports start trickling in from Mexico about the first swine flu victims coming back as zombies, all bets are off.


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