Mention the 1960s and 1970s to broadcast TV execs, and you probably get sad sighs, as they reminisce dreamily about a time before the internet; before TiVo; before VHS; before original cable programming; before the remote control; when people would turn the TV to one single network and leave it there all night, watching the commercials and everything. It was the “Golden Age of TV,” for sure. Because TV got all of the gold.
Those days are gone, of course, but it doesn’t stop the broadcast networks from devising plans to once more grab, trap and have their way with a mass audience. Last week, ABC reportedly wanted to disable the fast-forward buttons on DVRs, and this week, CBS has announced their bold new marketing strategy: they are going to advertise on eggs.
ABC, the network that has been at war with DVR owners for the past several yearrs may be going nuclear. According to at least one report, they are in talks with cable & satellite companies to disable the fast-forward button on future DVRs. Somehow, I doubt this is one of the features that Kirk had in mind when he wrote about his ideal DVR.
Even better, they claim that consumers will be OK with this, that people don’t actually want to fast-forward through the commercials. That the only reason they use DVRs is for the time-shifting aspects. And that we’d all be willing to put up with commercials to continue to time-shift, so there would be no backlash whatsoever.
Holy Jesus Frack! Do these people even use DVRs? There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to begin.
Once upon a time, the TV networks gave a rats ass about Saturday nights. It almost seems apocryphal, but there was a fabled season long ago that had this Saturday night lineup: All in the Family, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show and The Carol Burnett Show. Three solid hours of comedy all-timers.
Slow-forward about 35 years, and what do we have on Saturday nights? As Al Swearengen might say, a huge bag of shit. Sports. Reality. Magazines. Not a single scripted comedy or drama. Saturday night has become a major TV casualty of the overabundance of entertainment choices, and the networks aren’t even bothering to address it.
But isn’t there *anything* they could do? Maybe. But it would involve taking a gamble on some programming concepts that they’ve been slow to embrace, and actually taking advantage of what I will dub “The Spinal Tap Paradox.”
ABC, who once was blind, now can see.
ABC has announced that Lost, a show that is either (take your pick):
- intricately plotted by insidious masterminds
- completely cobbled together by panic-stricken monkeys
will air next season with no repeats, the plethora of which this season has taken some of the wind from its sails.
Good! Of course, FOX has been doing this with 24 for a couple of seasons now. However, unlike 24 — which derives at least part of its adrenaline rush from the fact that the airing of its episodes is as relentless as the beep-boop! beep-boop! beep-boop! beep-boop! that powers it — next season of Lost will air in two disparate chunks.
Some people see that as a problem. I don’t.
Last week Fox announced it plans to make 100% of its prime time programming available online within the next three years. While this is the most ambitious move yet by a major network to embrace online programming, what sets Fox apart from the other networks is the way it has dealt with its local affiliates.
While NBC, ABC, and CBS have been selectively testing limited programming downloads (to the dismay of their local affiliates), Fox has been working to obtain affiliate buy-in before making any moves online. The result is an agreement that has Fox sharing online revenue with local affiliates in exchange for the right to eventually make all of its programming available on the web.
Presumably the other networks are in similar negotiations, but one has to wonder whether those negotiations will be any easier now that the networks have made their initial move without first consulting their affiliates.
While Fox’s approach might look like a win for local affiliates, the nature of online programming raises questions about the very concept of network affiliates. In a world where consumers can obtain programming from the web, iTunes, cable, and satellite, do networks still need local broadcast affiliates?