'Chuck' and the Future of Television

Posted in The Gnovis Blog

It’s no secret that I’m a TV geek. (Evidence: here, here, here, here and here.) But even those who aren’t narrative nerds who love to watch serials in expectation of the next big plot twist have plenty of reason to love Chuck.


For those who don’t know Chuck, Chuck is the only quirky hour-long comedy about a Stanford flunky who works at a Geek Squad-style entity while solving top secret CIA investigations. Chuck is also unabashedly for the children of the ’80s. Guest stars include Scott Bakula of Quantum Leap and Chevy Chase of the SNL and the Vacation franchise.

For those of you not obsessively following the story, Chuck was slated for the chopping block earlier this year. The niche television show faces the same conundrum that killed Arrested Development and has threatened both LOST and Gossip Girl–tons of web viewers, tons of iTunes downloads, low ratings in their broadcast slot.

What saved Chuck? Hint: Five Dollar, Foot-long. Yep, thanks to special sponsorship deal with Subway, Chuck will be getting another 13 episodes–not a full season, but hey it’s still breathing. What could this sponsorship deal look like?

According to the New York Times:

Chuck1_03Chuck’s girlfriend, Sarah, is a top CIA agent but she works undercover at the mall in different eateries. It is no leap to think she could be selling Subway sandwiches next season. An NBC executive said that discussions had been held about the specifics of the Subway tie-in and that the idea had been considered, though the terms were not formally decided yet.

NBC’s president of ad sales, Mike Pilot, said the deal validated what NBC had called its “infront,” process, in which it presented its lineup to ad executives two weeks before the other networks and sought ideas for tie-ins like the one developed with Subway.

What does this mean for the future of television? Well, NBC claims that Chuck will get more than 13-episodes if it improves it’s ratings. This sponsorship deal leaves open the possibility of similar partnerships between advertisers and other television shows that lack ratings, but don’t lack viewers. For advertisers, the right kind of product-placement in such shows could help prevent the death of niche shows. This sponsorship deal is dry run for such partnerships. Here’s hoping that Subway will save Chuck.