Opinion: The network’s big, live social experiment just served to disenfranchise West Coast votes
ABC’s big, live, social singing competition should’ve been fun for all who viewed it. But after airing live in three time zones, the West Coast was left feeling like just a spectator rather than an engaged voter.
The show, (we know you’ve heard this before) an adaptation of a successful Israeli format, is doing something no other singing competition in the U.S. has ever done. It is allowing viewers to vote live as the singer performs. Results are known as soon (and sometimes way before) as the performer sings their last note.
If they successfully win 70 percent of the votes — skewed a bit since experts Ludacris, Brad Paisley and Kesha’s votes are worth 7 percent each if they choose in favor of an artist — the performer moves on in the competition.
If, like me, you tuned in to take part in this wondrous new level of engagement, then you had already downloaded the necessary “Rising Star” app. As of last night’s East Coast airing, the app reached one million downloads. It’s unclear how many more were downloaded before the West Coast airing, but doesn’t that mean that only a fraction of the premiere’s 5 million total viewers actually took part in the live voting?
And, then like me, you checked in with the first few performers and participated in the vote only to find out that the West Coast vote was not being tabulated live and what we were watching was the pre-taped East Coast, Central and Mountain votes coming in. We also saw how slowly or quickly the votes were coming in and how the experts voted — all before knowing how our votes were shaping up, probably influencing the way we’d vote, as well.
Congratulations or sad goodbyes were made to the performers and still the West Coast vote was yet to be shown. Finally, as the experts weighed in on the performance, the West Coast votes began to show on the left side of the screen. Would we save that poor eliminated singer? Of course not. Our votes would pretty much reflect what happened on the other coasts and maybe even less so as we realized it didn’t matter what our votes were, the previous vote had already advanced or eliminated them.
I haven’t even talked about the large “Rising Star” wall with screens on it –possibly one of the coolest aspects of the show. The contender performs behind this two ton wall, unable to see the experts or the studio audience. What they do see are photos of the viewers that voted in their favor. Cool, right? Unless you’re on the West Coast. It’s pre-taped, remember, so those photos are of the show’s original voters. We can’t even take part in the possibility of our 3 seconds of fame on “Rising Star.”
ABC would argue that the West Coast has the ability to change the course of the show through saves. But, I soon realized that it didn’t matter whether I watched “Rising Star” live or not. My coast would rarely vote differently than the rest of the country and knowing their results and how the experts voted live certainly shaped our own votes. At one point, I just stopped voting altogether. Here’s what I tweeted on Sunday night:
I don't feel like I need to watch #RisingStar live at all. West Coast feels very left out of the action.
— Jethro Nededog (@TheRealJethro) June 23, 2014
One executive producer at Dick Clark Productions, who produced the show in a joint venture with Israel’s Keshet productions, acknowledged the West Coast voting results.
Wow the West Coast votes were almost identical to the East. No saves tonight! Thanks for watching #RisingStar everyone!
— Mark Bracco (@markabracco) June 23, 2014
ABC sold this show as a revolutionary way to conduct a TV singing competition — all live, viewer-decided and no waiting for results on another day. But, in the end we at least feel our votes are counted by “American Idol” and “The Voice.”
I wasn’t alone in my feeling of disenfranchisement during “Rising Star.” Here’s what others were saying about watching on the West Coast:
— Robert Scott (@iheartcarrie) June 23, 2014
I'm considering turning this off. It's so boring and the west coast votes don't even count.
— Philiana (@insidethetube) June 23, 2014
— Daniel Fienberg (@HitFixDaniel) June 23, 2014
"West Coast, we're only pretending you matter." #RisingStar
— Carrie Raisler (@TVandDinners) June 23, 2014
— judijo (@judijo) June 23, 2014
Not excited for #RisingStar Producers should realize that the west coast doesnt get the live feed-Our votes wont even count most of the time
— Kaitlin Ragland (@KaitlinRagland) June 18, 2014