I love television. I’m a student of the media. It was incredibly important in shaping who I’ve become.
TV’s model is broken.
There were seven channels in NYC when I grew up. Most cities had less.
No remote control. No DVR or VCR. You watched it when it aired. If two shows you wanted to see aired simultaneously–tough.
In 1960, Gunsmoke finished the season in first place:
1 Gunsmoke CBS 40.3 rating 65 share
That’s 40% of all homes and 65% of those homes where the TV was turned on!
Last week’s number one entertainment show was “Big Bang Theory.” It had a 5.1 rating.
In those more innocent days you had to be careful not to get hit by the falling bags of money! Not today.
Before WTNH was sold in 1985, Geraldine Fabrikant wrote this in the New York Times:
The jewel in the ABC-Capital Cities package is WTNH-TV, the Capital Cities station affiliated with ABC, that covers the New Haven and Hartford markets. Its 1984 net revenue was $24.9 million, and operating income was $14.6 million. That meant operating profit margins of 58 percent. During the past five years, the margin has never been lower than 58 percent, and it has been as high as 62 percent.
They took in $25 million at 8 Elm Street for an operation that cost $10 million to run!
Those days are long gone. Though the broadcast networks and their affiliates are still the dominant force, their audience is a fraction of what it was.
Technology has been the difference. The pie has been sliced into many more smaller pieces.
Whether they take advantage or not, most people are currently equipped to see shows without benefit of television. We’ve got computers and tablets and smartphones and they’re all very capable of video playback.
I knew Saturday Night Live was going to be good last night because I read tweets from the East Coast. Why did I have to wait to see the show? Only because it breaks television’s business model!
The same with this afternoon’s Cowboys/Redskins game. It wasn’t on in SoCal. I wanted to see it and did… don’t ask. Free and easy access to all the games breaks television’s business model.
We need local TV. We need local news and other local programming (scant as it is), but won’t have it for long unless TV stations find a new business model.
I can see a future where shows will stand on their own without a station or network. Netflix productions are a step in that direction, but why do you even need Netflix?
TV’s current model is broken. The more viewers realize it, the harder it will be to hold back the tide.