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Television -- As We Know It -- Is Finished


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#26 OFFLINE   mreposter

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 01:38 PM

I argue that if USA/TNT/Syfy/etc. can air several seasons of a high quality show and be happy with their ratings... why can't the traditional networks be similarly happy?


There are some excellent shows on cable channels, many are equal to or superior in entertainment value to what's on the broadcast networks.

However, most cable shows have much shorter seasons - 22 on broadcast, often only 13 on cable. Cable networks also are chock full of reruns and old series. Look at the typical prime-time schedule for USA/TNT/FX, etc and only about 20% of it is new, original programming.
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#27 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 01:40 PM

@Stewart I think you're putting too much stock in this non-existent concept of happiness your talking about. Happiness isn't relevant or applicable. The issue is simply a matter of what programming fosters the most profit. If less costly programming consistently raises enough revenue to beat more costly programming with higher ratings, then the less costly programming is better, vis a vis the overriding considerations of the enterprise, the best interests of the owners.

#28 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 01:48 PM

Dish Network or DirecTV, of course, because you'd essentially be forcing them to pay a fee that they may not want to pay. Alternatively, if you say that they wouldn't have to pay the fee, then the broadcaster, from whom your depriving a source of revenue that has nothing to do with their civic responsibility to provide broadcast television over-the-air.

I have no problem with them paying a fee. I do have a problem with them paying hundreds of locals a fee to broadcast the same network content when it has been made clear that the locals intend to demand high fees which ultimately will be passed on to me. And that doesn't count uplink and transponder costs. "Must carry" means some poor guy in Bangor, Maine gets 6 channels for the same price I get 22 channels (most of aren't on my favorites). Maybe he'd like one of my 22, but the law says he can't get it.

Most of the time, distants aren't provided because of the desire to use bandwidth for non-duplicative services. For example, cable customers in Bristol County MA recently lost Boston stations because they're in the Providence DMA. They did have the distants, and now they don't, but it was the service provider's decision based on what they felt was the best utilization of the available resource.

If the 7 networks were offered one each in 5 time zones, for satellite providers that would mean 35 channels. That's 35 Conus transponders and 35 uplinks instead of hundreds devoted to a myriad of ill-designed DMA's. Add one local that actually spends money on news and local programming from each DMA for civic/emergency broadcast. That's another 210 spotbeam transponders and uplinks.

However, the main point is that it is the locality's best interest to assert primacy of the local affiliate over distants. The fact that you personally aren't especially locally-minded doesn't obviate the fact that there is a value to the local area to have their local stations supported over distants.

Yeah. I can have distants. At one point in time when Dish played too loose I had Sacramento stations. Two of the Sacramento network affiliates provided weather and occasional news for my County area.

But I now have San Francisco which is my DMA. I had email exchanges with all four network affiliates over the issue of at least providing weather info if no news. In one case I was essentially told they just don't have time because they (KGO ABC) also covered via cable Monterey DMA of more value. Now they sometimes provide the temperature on the fancy map.

In the end, if you don't like retransmission consent -- if you wanted every as free must-carry -- then it is on you to convince legislators to change the law. They didn't overlook something. They didn't make a mistake. People raised the issues you raised and lost the debate. You can try to cast reckless aspersions on the manner in which our nation is governed, to try to make your sides loss in that debate seem unfair, but that's just a cop-out. You might as well just put up your "Anarchy Now" flag and say "Down with the USA" and start burning the flag etc.

I'm not arguing for anarchy. I want the rules changed away from the 1958 model, other than the rules that have already been changed since then to eliminate many of the public obligations.

Let's call that your very biased, anti-government perspective. Let society call it what it is, which is a bunch of companies granted a license to do something with certain obligations attached which they fulfill. Period.

Hmmm. Most consider my political opinions pro-government and leftist. My problems are that:
  • the regulations that "burdened" the networks and locals with civic responsibilities were repealed a couple of decades ago;
  • most of the regulations adopted more than a decade ago regarding distants protect anachronistic corporate interests.

That's what you want. That is not, in any way, a definition of what is necessary to constitute market competition in our economy.

A free market economist would argue there should be no regulation at all. I want anti-trust regulations. It's no coincidence that ABC, Fox and NBC are all invested in Hulu.com while NBC essentially is experimenting with how little a commitment to its affiliates it can get away with.

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#29 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 02:13 PM

I have no problem with them paying a fee. I do have a problem with them paying hundreds of locals a fee to broadcast the same network content when it has been made clear that the locals intend to demand high fees which ultimately will be passed on to me.

First, what's the difference? And second, on what basis, other than your own personal preference not to have to pay more, do you base an implication that they don't deserve a cut of what cable and satellite companies get from subscribers, given that such a large percentage of what people watch on cable is from broadcast stations? It sounds to me that they have more right to want to be paid as you have a right to not want to pay, since the law is deliberately on their side.

Add one local that actually spends money on news and local programming from each DMA for civic/emergency broadcast.

You're focused only from your own perspective. You'll never understand the reality you're encountering that way. You need to understand where the localities are coming from, where the broadcasters are coming from, where the networks are coming from, where other viewers are coming from. If you just look at the world from your own perspective you'll always be bitterly disappointed with what you experience.

I'm not arguing for anarchy. I want the rules changed away from the 1958 model, other than the rules that have already been changed since then to eliminate many of the public obligations.

Like I said: What you want other people put forward into the debate and lost. It wasn't a mistake. It wasn't an oversight. It wasn't corruption or conspiracy. Reasonable people disagree and your side lost. Sorry.

#30 OFFLINE   mreposter

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 03:22 PM

Part 2 is available. Here's an excerpt:

The language is stark, the message is unmistakable: The future is looking bleak for network TV.

That's the verdict from Time magazine, which paints a bleak picture of what's to come for the big boys of broadcasting.

"In network television, nothing adds up," according to the newsweekly. "The networks are still scrapping with one another for ratings supremacy, but the days when they dominated the airwaves so thoroughly are just a 'Wonder Years' memory. (The) companies that have virtually defined American television...are sick and fighting for survival."

"As the network audience dwindles," Time continues, "one of the Big Three may be forced to close down or sharply curtail its operations."

Scary stuff.

One caveat, though: Time's harsh warning about the state of network TV was written back in October ... of 1988.

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#31 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 03:24 PM

You're focused only from your own perspective. You'll never understand the reality you're encountering that way. You need to understand where the localities are coming from, where the broadcasters are coming from, where the networks are coming from, where other viewers are coming from. If you just look at the world from your own perspective you'll always be bitterly disappointed with what you experience.


Like I said: What you want other people put forward into the debate and lost. It wasn't a mistake. It wasn't an oversight. It wasn't corruption or conspiracy. Reasonable people disagree and your side lost. Sorry.

My "reality" has to do with what I believe will happen to the local stations outside major markets. It's speculative, but not unreasonable, to foresee the time when most local broadcast stations will simply disappear in the economic free-for-all being discussed in the article in the original post.

If you look at what happened to radio stations between 1948-58 (and perhaps even what's happening to newspapers, though they are less comparable), one can anticipate what will happen to broadcast tv between 2008-18.

None of what I said here what I want. It is what I think ought to be examined within the broadcast-industry-related public policy arena without the protectionist bias. But I'd be the first to admit that I don't know what should be done. I do think maintaining the regulatory status quo so favorable to local broadcast stations is an error that will ultimately harm the local broadcast industry.

But my interest is advocacy for scripted programming. And as I admitted in post #8, in 2007 I didn't foresee the 2009 rise of the cable channel scripted shows. I thought the internet would become a bigger player. Now I'm beginning to think that when NBCU threw the spaghetti made up of its web efforts and its cable channels against the wall in 2008, cable channels stuck while the web efforts need to cook longer.

What I wrote in November 2007 included the following:

Yes, that ad supported NBC channel you watch now may degenerate into only news, sports, and televaudeville.

But I continued:

But there is something you need to know about that TV station - it has gone digital. Over-the-airwaves local TV stations are now broadcasting as many as four digital channels. A digital signal can be encrypted, meaning you could be charged for access to the signal.

We could begin to see subscription-based over-the-airwaves TV following the HBO/Showtime model. NBC-Universal may figure this out and may help their affiliate local stations by distributing scripted programming for subscription-based TV, perhaps with shows having a sponsor like the PBS model. And if the NBC/Universal thinks of it, you could start seeing the cable USA and Bravo channels on those sub-signals, attempting to capture that remaining 15% of the TV market not served by cable or satellite. The FCC will allow all this in the name of competition.

In major metropolitan areas, the subchannels could mean a lot of revenue for local broadcasters doing what they are supposed to do - broadcast content viewers will want to watch over the airwaves.

It's a fun time to be a viewer if you like change and don't mind looking around for scripted programming. It's not a fun time to be employed in local news and programming at your local broadcast station even in the major metropolitan areas. Nor is it a fun time to be a Hollywood veteran writer of scripts for scripted tv.

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#32 OFFLINE   mreposter

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 03:39 PM

Analysts and forum members here have picked on NBC, in part because of the Jay Leno at 10 move that eliminates 5 more hours of prime time traditional dramas. But it's clear the network is trying to "right-size" itself for the future. It wouldn't surprise me if NBC did the following in the next 2-3 years:

- Fully merge NBC news into MSNBC and axe a huge number of people
- Hand Saturdays over to local affiliates
- And eventually do the same with 7pm Sundays
- Better exploit their Weather Channel purchase (bye, bye Al Roker)
- Import more programming like Merlin from the UK or maybe co-produce
- Run daytime (aka the 6-hour Today show) more like CNN/FOX/MSNBC
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#33 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 03:42 PM

Analysts and forum members here have picked on NBC, in part because of the Jay Leno at 10 move that eliminates 5 more hours of prime time traditional dramas. But it's clear the network is trying to "right-size" itself for the future. It wouldn't surprise me if NBC did the following in the next 2-3 years:

- Fully merge NBC news into MSNBC and axe a huge number of people
- Hand Saturdays over to local affiliates
- And eventually do the same with 7pm Sundays
- Better exploit their Weather Channel purchase (bye, bye Al Roker)
- Import more programming like Merlin from the UK or maybe co-produce
- Run daytime (aka the 6-hour Today show) more like CNN/FOX/MSNBC

Those all seem like smart moves from a bottom line viewpoint and lord knows GE is very profit growth oriented.

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#34 OFFLINE   bidger

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 04:17 PM

- Hand Saturdays over to local affiliates
- And eventually do the same with 7pm Sundays


The fly in the ointment for the second proposal is Sunday Night Football's Pre-Game show. I, as a hardcore NFL fan, stay with whichever network had the the 4:15 game and watch their post-game show. That's because there's too damn many people in the SNF Pre-Game show (NBC could save some money there).

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#35 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 04:54 PM

My "reality" has to do with what I believe will happen to the local stations outside major markets. It's speculative, but not unreasonable, to foresee the time when most local broadcast stations will simply disappear in the economic free-for-all being discussed in the article in the original post.

And let's be clear: I don't disagree. They are not sacred.

None of what I said here what I want. It is what I think ought to be...

"What I think ought to be" == "what I want"

I do think maintaining the regulatory status quo so favorable to local broadcast stations is an error that will ultimately harm the local broadcast industry.

That assertion seems internally inconsistent to me. Local broadcast stations very likely will be hurt, but not because of DMA-related restrictions and retransmission consent -- quite the opposite: Those things will forestall what you've indicated is the likely inevitability.

But my interest is advocacy for scripted programming.

Yet you haven't hit on anything that will actually foster scripted programming. Indeed, you oppose retransmission consent which is likely to have only positive impact on scripted programming.

#36 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 05:08 PM

"What I think ought to be" == "what I want"

Not really. What I want is a premium cable channel group devoted exclusively to new quality scripted programming and the opportunity to not pay for anything else.:sure:

That assertion seems internally inconsistent to me. Local broadcast stations very likely will be hurt, but not because of DMA-related restrictions and retransmission consent -- quite the opposite: Those things will forestall what you've indicated is the likely inevitability.

Well, yes and no. Yes they will forestall the likely inevitability. But they also facilitate the slow decline when the lack of protection might (and yes, this is a doubtful "might") cause them to innovate creating a new economically successful role for broadcast locals.

Yet you haven't hit on anything that will actually foster scripted programming. Indeed, you oppose retransmission consent which is likely to have only positive impact on scripted programming.

Since I didn't anticipate the growth of cable channel scripted programming, I'd have to admit I don't have a feel for that issue. But keeping the independent Channel 50 in Santa Rosa, California, on Dish, DirecTV and Comcast isn't going to help with that unless residuals for really old writers of really old tv series and movies somehow helps.

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#37 OFFLINE   mreposter

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 05:41 PM

Phrelin, on your comparison of broadcast TV to radio in the 40's and 50's... I'm not really up on radio history, but was radio during this era dominated by national networks feeding full programming schedules? And so, over time, all these national radio programming networks faded away and were replaced essentially by independent stations.

If broadcast tv were to follow a similar path, then the stations would survive, but their programming would be dominated by reruns (Gilligan's Island) syndicated fare (Legend of the Seeker) and some locally produced shows. Since TV is generally more expensive, there might be a loss of some stations.

With more independents, it might actually lead to a re-birth of the syndicated shows, like back in the early 90's when there were a dozen or more like Star Trek TNG, Hercules, Xena, Highlander, etc.
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#38 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 06:27 PM

Phrelin, on your comparison of broadcast TV to radio in the 40's and 50's... I'm not really up on radio history, but was radio during this era dominated by national networks feeding full programming schedules? And so, over time, all these national radio programming networks faded away and were replaced essentially by independent stations.

If broadcast tv were to follow a similar path, then the stations would survive, but their programming would be dominated by reruns (Gilligan's Island) syndicated fare (Legend of the Seeker) and some locally produced shows. Since TV is generally more expensive, there might be a loss of some stations.

With more independents, it might actually lead to a re-birth of the syndicated shows, like back in the early 90's when there were a dozen or more like Star Trek TNG, Hercules, Xena, Highlander, etc.

I'd like to see a re-birth of syndicated tv. The big question is whether local stations could come out of The Great Recession with any advertising revenue to support that.

Regarding radio, yes the major networks all provided programming. My uncle was a producer of "Fibber McGee and Molly," a comedy show on NBC. What happened is that economically successful radio shifted in the 1950's to the local DJ playing records (think Alan Freed and payola and The Big Bopper and Wolfman Jack) and then evolved into what it is today.

Now defunct radio networks such as the Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS) are part of my life's memories as the network of "The Lone Ranger," "The Adventures of Superman. and "The Shadow."

NBC, which was the top national radio network of the 1930's and 40's, survived as a corporation in the entertainment industry mostly because of its early TV efforts. And in the summer of 1987, NBC Radio's network operations were sold to Westwood One, and the NBC-owned stations were sold to various buyers. The same occurred with the Mutual Broadcasting System and CBS Radio, which Westwood One acquired and essentially merged with NBC Radio.

My uncle, like a lot of others in network radio didn't make the transition to tv and ended his career as a recording engineer. He had an incredible collection of recordings of various NBC radio shows on 78 rpm records. I always wondered what happened to them, but I wasn't in the area when he died and haven't broached the subject with my cousins.

But there was a "Golden Era of Radio." And that's me saying I'm old.

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#39 OFFLINE   Stewart Vernon

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 06:35 PM

@Stewart I think you're putting too much stock in this non-existent concept of happiness your talking about. Happiness isn't relevant or applicable. The issue is simply a matter of what programming fosters the most profit. If less costly programming consistently raises enough revenue to beat more costly programming with higher ratings, then the less costly programming is better, vis a vis the overriding considerations of the enterprise, the best interests of the owners.


But if that were true... wouldn't ALL the networks be moving in the same direction? That being less and less scripted TV?

What I'm seeing, however, is while the networks are trying to cost-reduce with non-scripted TV... the cable networks are actually increasing their original scripted programming.

IF truly the answer was to reduce cost to increase profit, I submit that the other networks on cable wouldn't be increasing their new scripted content.

I think this is simply a case of networks using the old 3-network ratings plateaus to set their expectations without regard to how the landscape has changed.

NBC, for example, makes a big deal out of being in "5th place" with regards to the other broadcast networks... when I think they should be more concerned with their place as compared to ALL cable channels.

In the "Syfy" thread we were all talking about how being in the top 20 was a good thing for Syfy... but it seems like the networks are ignoring all the other channels and trying to operate as if broadcast is the only competition.

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#40 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 06:58 PM

Not really.

Huh? You must be speaking some strange dialect of English that I'm unfamiliar with.

#41 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 07:02 PM

But if that were true... wouldn't ALL the networks be moving in the same direction? That being less and less scripted TV?

As I pointed out earlier, one (and a half) of the networks is closely-held by people who have made it clear that they are intent on imposing their own perspective of how television should be on their network. Besides that, the networks are indeed all moving in roughly the same direction, though perhaps taking different paths and at different rates.

What I'm seeing, however, is while the networks are trying to cost-reduce with non-scripted TV... the cable networks are actually increasing their original scripted programming.

Cable networks are trying to establish themselves. I think we'll see either per subscriber fees for cable nets doubling, or quality halving, in time.

#42 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 11:53 PM

Huh? You must be speaking some strange dialect of English that I'm unfamiliar with.

There are many things that I have wanted that I knew were not what ought to be. "Ought" is an auxiliary verb generally involving duty, propriety, or moral obligation (See Dictionary.com) In my life I have wanted much that did not fall within the meaning of those terms.;)

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#43 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 04:00 AM

There are many things that I have wanted that I knew were not what ought to be.

However, your clarification still leaves your assertions in the category of your personal beliefs and values, which was my original point.

If you want to move away from what you think ought to be to what generally ought to be, then you have to tie your assertions back to a practically undisputed prevailing consensus, such as the law, or declarations by those providing what you want saying that they promise to provide specifically what you're saying they ought to.

Let's be clear! It is okay to want things, eh? Don't think that what you want is so inconsequential so as to not deserve an airing. The point is just to keep it in the proper context.

#44 OFFLINE   SamC

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 05:07 AM

IMHO,

- Fortnightly was rightly decided and all that came after is an example of why people are not looked out for by government.

- That does not mean that I think people should be able to get Boston ABC when they live in Wichita. What I do think is that Wichita ABC should be free to people living in Wichita, and that the 10% of Americans who have an OTA situation other than being freely able to receive the "big four" networks OTA from the same city should be accomodated in a meaningful and fair manner, as a conditon of their liscenses.

- People have been predicting the death of OTA TV for decades. One of the lies the OTA liscense owners told to get Congress to overturn Fortnightly was that they had to have the retansmission money to survive, and that was in the 80s.

- Faux-reality competiton shows are just a fad, as were game shows, wrestling, and whatever. The backbone of OTA TV is, and will remain, scripted shows, news, big and little sports, and the local connection to the viewer that no national network, nor DBS, can provide, and cable is too cheep to.

- The ad based model for financing TV has a lot of holes. Nielsen is inaccurate, people don't watch commercials, nobody remembers what product is being sold, ads do not change habits, etc. All true. But Madison Ave. is full of people who are selling big companies on TV as is, and they are vested in continuing the myth that it works.

- The fact that a cable channel can do a scripted show just shows how much money the networks were making back in the day. If you can make money with a scripted show on USA or TBS, or on Canadian TV only or AustralianTV only, imagine how much money they were making in the three channel world.

- NBC, which is to say GE, is just cheep. That simple.

#45 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 05:17 AM

What I do think is that Wichita ABC should be free to people living in Wichita

That's what antennas are for.

Faux-reality competiton shows are just a fad, as were game shows, wrestling, and whatever.

There is no rational basis for such an assertion. As such, it is just wishful thinking, which a lot of us share with you, but just hopes all the same. Beyond that, everything is a "fad" until it isn't anymore, and reality shows are probably already beyond that point. Remember that prime time used to be littered with game shows. Today's reality shows are just an outgrowth of that. And also remember that prime time used to be littered with "variety" shows: The Jay Leno Show indicates a return of that long-well-established genre to prime time, not necessarily a fad.

The backbone of OTA TV is, and will remain, scripted shows, news, big and little sports, and the local connection to the viewer that no national network, nor DBS, can provide, and cable is too cheep to.

Working backwards, cable already fosters more significant local programming that OTA ever had, with NECN for news, NESN for sports, and Local on the 8s on the Weather Channel, not to mention PEG providing local access to broadcasting to a degree that OTA never provided. Cable is the premium source.

Moving on... there is no rational basis for your assertion about what the backbone of OTA TV is. That's wishful thinking, which I share with you, but wishful thinking doesn't make it true.

- NBC, which is to say GE, is just cheep.

On the contrary, they're responsible. They have a fiduciary responsibility to their owners to maximize long-term ROI.

#46 OFFLINE   trainman

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Joined: Jan 09, 2008

Posted 19 August 2009 - 09:44 AM

- Run daytime (aka the 6-hour Today show) more like CNN/FOX/MSNBC


This actually might not be a bad idea for a change to the "Today" show -- as it is, not all of their affiliates carry the entire current 4-hour version between 7:00 and 11:00; some of them delay one or both of the 9:00 and 10:00 hours in order to fit in syndicated programming (e.g., "Regis and Kelly" at 9:00). The affiliates might be happier if it were instead a live 6-hour or 8-hour block that they could join or leave for certain hours.

And that's actually a format that has a history at NBC, with their "Monitor" radio show that ran on the weekends from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s. I'm assuming nobody currently at NBC remembers "Monitor," though -- or even that they used to have a radio network. :D
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