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Network TV's Iridium Moment

By - November 05, 2003

nav_logo.gifReading the TV news this Fall, it’s hard not to believe the sky is falling, or at least several iridium-laced meteors have hit the networks, with more on the way. It’s like watching an entire ecosystem fail in real time: Networks cancel major shows after two or three episodes, TV execs wring their hands at terrible ratings losses (“Where Are The Young Men?”), finally declaring, after trying to lay the blame at Neilsen’s feet, that it must be a programming issue.
WELL OF COURSE IT’S A PROGRAMMING ISSUE! Jesus! Who are these people? The programs not only suck, they are completely out of touch with how this generation of viewers – better to say media consumers – want to interact with their entertainment. They don’t want to sit at some huge communal campfire, watching the same crap as 20 million other people (especially the young men!) And yet, the networks continue to tart up old formats like the sitcom or reality TV (yes, it’s tired too), then sit back agahst when they don’t pull in Superbowl numbers. They lurch after every possible “hot” idea that worked on cable or with a smaller audience (Gays! Reality TV! Buffy!), then try to force it into the mass media superstructure. Memo to the networks: there’s a reason shows like Buffy, or The Daily Show, or Queer Eye have non-network numbers – they’re NOT NETWORK SHOWS. They have natural audiences that do not scale to expectations of Thursday night primetime. It’s amazing to see a show like Coupling, which had a cult following in Britain, being canceled because it only pulled an 8.1 – my god, that’s huge by any standard other than network. Networks are slow to realize it, but the days of Big Audiences With Nothing In Common are over, save possibly news, awards shows, and sports. And good riddance. The pap these networks are putting on the air in an attempt to not offend anyone is getting simply indefensible .

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  • http://battellemedia.com John Battelle

    More info on where the young men are from comscore via e-marketer:“comScore finds that the average time a man in this age range (18-34) spent online last month was 17% higher than the average Internet user.”