One of my favorite shows (of all time) is probably going to be cancelled because network executives want high ratings so they can charge expensive ad rates so their 3.1 million dollar apartment in Manhattan is paid for.
The show is Studio 60. I enjoy Aaron Sorkin's writing and storytelling ability. The West Wing, A Few Good Men and The American President, are all very good entertainment. I never got into Sports Night, I only caught a few shows.
Studio 60 is pulling low numbers for some odd reason. Heroes is a hit, yet S60 doesn't carry the audience into its show. Viewership takes a nosedive. That is because the audiences the shows are geared at are completely different.
While I don't have the data, I'm assuming Heroes has a majority of viewers under the age of 30. S60 probably has a majority of viewers over 30. I think it might be explained better if you compared Smallville followed by Dynasty and expect the same audience size.
I hypothesize another factor in viewership lag. The Internet. I think a nice size chunk of Heroes fans run off to Internet message boards, fan sites and chat rooms after the show and discuss the night's episode.
Another factor is Monday night time slot. The first day of the work week. I think some viewers just want to go to bed and forget the day they just had.
S60 is not for everyone. Television is so compartmentalized in content, fighting for huge numbers will only result in seven nights of train wrecks and violence. The show isn't poorly produced or written. Storylines carry over week-to-week and some things are not resolved in 40 minutes.
There have been many great shows cancelled because of low advertising money. Maybe studio executives need to change their model for ad sales. Waste money on a broad audience or invest in a target audience? Support quality television or feed into the dumbing down of America?
Man it would suck if all we had to choose from was Survivor:Azores/Canary/Kodiak American/Canadian/Paraguay Idol, CSI:Fargo/NY/Miami/Vegas/Chicago/Boise, and whatever "new" game show from BBC the networks steal.
Side note: Yeah, let's have Survivor in a really worthwhile place. Like Siberia, Alaska, or Antarctica. Guaranteed not to have any nekkid folks running about.