Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Where Viewers go Advertisers Follow

Where Viewers go Advertisers Follow

Technology has given the big networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS a wake up call. During the early years there was little competition or diversity in television programming. Coverage was limited. A lucky viewer had access to the three networks and the PBS station. Viewers at few options and little control over what they watched. Modern technology in the form of cable, satellite and the internet revolutionized the television industry, changing the balance of power; however, there are still network executive who don't realize that ship has sail. They were left waiting on the docks, wondering what happened to their revenues.

Broadcast transmitters had limited range and were easily obstructed. Signals were transmitted by line of sight or by occasionally being bounced of the atmosphere. Taller broadcast towers or home antennas received better reception from greater distances. Over air signals simply didn’t travel well. Back then the mail man might deliver in rain, sleet or hail, but most viewers saw mostly snow on their screens. Satellite technology and later cable not only expanded a station’s coverage area, but it also made the signal stronger and more reliable. Computers and the internet built an entertainment highway that carried traffic both ways. No longer were viewers limited to just receiving; instead, they have become active participates not long by voicing their opinions but in creating their news and entertainment as well

The three big networks originally had more control over the content and availability. With the limited access, the network executives knew they had a captive audience. The viewer had few options: ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS or nothing. With the pie sliced four ways, with PBS stations receiving the smallest piece, the networks were insured a steady income. Using their own measuring sticks, the network execs control which programs were aired and when. News, entertainment and sports programming was decided not on quality, but on sponsorship. The networks had a monopoly and they liked it that way.

Technology was a double-edged sword for the networks. It increased the quality of their signal, thereby increasing the number of their affiliates and revenues. However, it also further divided the advertising dollars and viewers. Revenues dropped. In the 80’s and 90’s, the response was to invest in quality programming. The networks that kept their production standards set high both on and off the screen kept their audience; those who chose to cut costs and lower their standards also saw their profit margin decline.

In the early years, the networks were known for their big-named stars and elaborate specials, while the independents stations were left with sloppy-second programming and cheaply produced shows. Now, the networks are the one who are unwilling to pay for quality entertainment. Cheesy reality and talk shows have become the main course on the networks’ buffet. Instead, well thought out entertainment with professional talent, they chose to air every day people humiliating themselves--The Gong Show goes prime time. The cheaper the better--quality be damned has become the motto. Yet, quality entertainment is available; it is now found on the independent stations and cable networks. Big named stars in well written series have move quickly to the networks that are willing to pay for them, taking with them both the viewers and the advertising dollars. The original networks still have control over their programming, but the viewers have control over the remote. With the hundreds of channels at their fingertip, they don’t have to settle for the updated version of the Gong Show. There is quality entertainment, news, and sports just a click away.

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