In chapter 3 of Spreadable Media, Jenkins, Ford, and Green discuss “The Value of Media Engagement”. Fans of TV shows, movie franchises, and comic books aren’t what they used to be; they are much more engaged in what they view through online discussion and media sharing.
Faithfully watching a show every week at the same time is no longer the standard of being a fan (or, at least, a “true” fan). Now those who are truly dedicated to a show or other type of media must be actively engaged in the online community surrounding the show.
Honestly, tuning in to a show when it airs doesn’t even matter anymore. Millions of people find pirated versions online so they can watch their favorite show when it convenient for them. Although watching shows illegally like this doesn’t help their ratings and sometimes is a contributing factor to their cancellation, some in the industry are defending these illegal downloaders while others are saying they’re ruining the industry. Those who don’t mind or even encourage users of illegal download sites like Torrent argue that although they aren’t helping the traditional Nielsen ratings, they are garnering a larger (and probably more committed) fan base which, once caught up to the current episode, might start watching it on the channel it airs on.
The authors also compare many-layered shows to those with not so many, calling them “drillable”. Soap operas and wrestling may have a lot more content because they air much more than twice a week, but shows like Lost and The Walking Dead are more “drillable” because fans can interpret them and continue the conversation in a complex fashion.
“As Mittell demonstrates, drillable texts become spreadable through fans’ collective intelligence-gathering and meaning-making processes (e.g., Lostpedia)” (p. 137).
AMC’s The Walking Dead is the perfect example of a drillable text. First of all, it started as a comic and was wildly popular then, but now that it has become a TV show it is even more popular. After the first season aired and the network saw how popular it was they decided to make a talk show, aptly named Talking Dead, where host Chris Hardwick and guests (usually cast members and producers from TWD and superfan actors) delve through the many layers of the shows for the fans’ benefit. Fans even get to call in live and ask the guests questions about the meanings of different scenes.
These days fans play a large role in the media even though most of them aren’t employed by it. When people love a show, they really commit. They want to know everything about the show- what the creators opinions are, what the actors think their character would do in a situation, etc. It’s quite amazing how dedicated they become and how heartbroken they get if their beloved show (God forbid) gets cancelled. Fandom creates a community of people that shares not only their theories and opinions, but also fan-created content which can increase the popularity (and spreadability) of a piece of media.