I don’t know whether the CW is right in its decision not to put the new episodes of “Gossip Girl” online. But the concern they’re bringing up is an interesting one, and a real one:
This will change eventually, but as of right now, the Nielsen numbers are still the most important factor in whether a show is a success or failure. Being popular in streaming and downloading which Gossip Girl is, is a nice bonus, but it doesn’t compare to the impact of people watching it on their TVs. And there is a concern that if a show is aimed mostly at young people, and young people are mostly watching it online, the ratings may be low even if the show is actually popular. On the other hand, it may be that the people who watch Gossip Girl online don’t want to watch it on regular TV, so depriving them of the next few episodes on the internet may not help the ratings at all. It’s a tricky thing.
It’s a little ironic that networks were claiming that online streaming of episodes is a “promotion” rather than an actual broadcast, and now they’re starting to realize that the presence of episodes online might hurt the regular broadcasts rather than promoting them. (On the other hand, you can sort of see why the “promotion” claim came about in the first place: online streaming will eventually be part of what makes a show a hit, but right now, it isn’t.)