Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, September 13, 2021

What Springsteen said, times 20 or 30 — that’s the state of today’s television landscape. With digital acreage so vast that you’d think just about any distinctly-niche channel could find a home, networks are paradoxically more and more indistinguishable from one another, despite the disadvantage that brings when trying to attract targeted ad dollars.

“Cable has obviously changed,” said Harry Castleman, a TV historian and co-author of “Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television.” “In the old days — 10 years ago — cable was niche broadcasting. You had the sports channel, you had the movie channel, you had the women’s channel, the arts channel. Then when all the major conglomerates began buying up all the cable networks, it changed. They said, hey, these are great platforms we can use to be able to deliver our product. They’ve done that.

“So, A&E? Not much arts and entertainment there. Bravo? Not too much high brow. AMC? They don’t even call it American Movie Classics anymore. TLC is not The Learning Channel anymore. The cable channels are becoming interchangeable.”

Even more irony: Reality television, that supposed reinvigorator of televised content, has a lot to do with the industry’s copycat syndrome:

Nowhere does the distinction between cable channels become more blurred than the arena of reality shows, which took off in 2000 when CBS’s “Survivor” became a surprise hit. Viewers of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” (A&E), “American Chopper” (Discovery Channel), “Hogan Knows Best” (VH1) and “Gene Simmons Family Jewels” (A&E) may not identify with the branding of the channels those shows are on, because there’s no reason why any of them couldn’t air on different cable networks.

It’s not like this is new. As they became established and more mainstream, a lot of cable channels adopted broader operating objectives, because that’s what brought in the most money. To this day, MTV — which “used to play music”, as the cynical joke goes — is the poster child for this dynamic.

That was fine last century, when it was still expected that broadcasted television would still occupy the biggest chunk of consumers’ leisure time. Now? The Web, quick-release DVDs, videogames and other media options are starting to cut into viewing time. Advertisers see this and follow the eyeballs; it doesn’t matter to them what the medium is, as long as the audience is there. In this environment, television can’t rely upon being the chief media outlet anymore. The old rules for broadening appeal are changing.

Not that this is an overnight phenomenon. For now, TV is still the big cheese, and that counts bigtime. But the sands are shifting, and the industry will have to shift along with them to stay on top.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/13/2006 06:55pm
Category: Business, RealiTV Check
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  1. WHY THE Y, SCI FI?…

    Scientifictional geeks everywhere are doubtlessly aghast at Sci Fi Channel’s impending rebranding to Syfy.
    Especially when they hear the lame-assed reasons for the name-change:
    One big advantage of the name change, the executives say, is that Sci…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 03/16/2009 @ 9:00 PM

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