Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Hiatus Fun

I'm headed out of town for the holiday break, and while I'm sure I'll be compelled to post a few things over that time, updates will be sporadic at best. However, unlike Glee, I won't make you wait forever for a full-time return. The blog will be operating at full strength again on January 2nd. In the meantime: Hey Television, I'd appreciate if you didn't do anything newsworthy, m'kay?

To give you some holiday presents to open in the meantime, here's a whole bunch of time-wasting yet enormously fulfilling TV-related montages:
And if that's not enough for you, here are links to a slew of other media montages (I highly recommend the NPR inhaling), from the website that inspired this post (also thanks to Coleman Collins for links).

Where Leno Stands

B&C has the latest look at where The Jay Leno Show experiment stands at the end of the year.

B&C Flips Off 2009

Broadcasting & Cable's Ben Grossman didn't like 2009. Like, really didn't like it. Here's the start of his open letter to 2009: "Screw you. Seriously, die. You can't end quickly enough. Forget silver linings and all that crap, let's be honest: You stunk."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Storm Coverage

As the East Coast braces for a big snowstorm, Mark Joyella points out that there's a major upside to it for local news operations: "Laugh as we may at the reporter being pelted by snow, we feel better listening to a familiar meteorologist tell us when the snow's going to ease up in our 'hood, and whether schools are closed. The local paper can't do that, and so far, neither can a self-crafted TweetDeck column or YouTube channel combining my interests in triathlon, history, craft beer and Arsenal football."

The Wire and Storytelling

Jaime Weinman at Maclean's has a very interesting piece on The Wire's storytelling tactics relative to commercial television and to literary forms (yes, Dickens comes up).

TV's Racial Bias

A Tufts University study finds that television perpetuates racial bias, even in subtle ways.

Prime-Time Ratings: Thursday

Thursday's results: For once, CBS didn't beat everyone with comedies and procedurals. This time it was a reality show and procedurals.

What About the Children?

In piece about American culture going to pot, Peggy Noonan expresses concern that too much content on broadcast TV isn't fit for children: "The big broadcast networks are for everyone. They are free, they are available on every television set in the nation, and we watch them with our children. The whole family's watching. Higher, stricter standards must maintain." Linda Holmes finds this complaint problematic: "In short, what she's suggesting is that all of broadcast television, even what is broadcast shortly before 11:00 at night — even, presumably, what airs on late-night — has to be children's television or family television. This isn't even the old 'family hour' argument. This is the 'every hour is the family hour' argument."

Retrans Wars

Fox is fighting back against Time Warner Cable, at least in the PR department.

Once again, I refer you to B&C's overview of the retransmission battle, if you don't know what all the fuss is about.

UPDATE: Joe Flint reports on the risks Fox is taking in talking tough.

Friday Fun: Modern Family Christmas

The folks at Modern Family wish us Merry Christmas in this video, which includes 20th TV execs Gary Newman and Dana Walden and, best of all, a vertical integration joke.

Friday Fun: Jack & Santa

New Flow Issue

The latest issue of Flow:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

International Viewing Habits -- in CHARTS!!!!

An international communications study by the UK regulator OFCOM reveals indicates that TV viewing is down in some European countries, such as France and Germany, and public service/state-funded programming makes up 37% of what Europeans watch, while in the U.S. that figure is 1%.

You can find the complete results of the study on OFCOM's website, where they have -- I'm not even exaggerating -- the best freaking charts I've ever seen. Simply fantastic charting of technology and usage trends in television, radio, telecom and internet services for as many as sixteen countries, 128 pages of charts in all. Seriously, please, look at these awesome charts. If you've ever wondered how other countries' electronic media and communications systems compare to the U.S., there are no less than 128 intriguing comparisons laid out in these charts. They also appear to have the same info in statistical table form, but I'm going charts all the way.

Nonverbal Racism on TV

A new study by Science magazine finds that nonverbal communication among characters in television shows reveals a racial bias: "Researchers found that in a selection of brief, silent clips from 11 prime-time television shows, white characters were consistently rated as behaving more positively toward other white characters than toward black ones, even when the black characters were deemed equal to their white counterparts in attractiveness, kindness and intelligence."

I Will Not Make a "Tell 'Em" Pun

Nancy Tellem is shifting to a new position at CBS as advisor to Les Moonves, and during a discussion of that move with Josef Adalian, she says that CBS definitely made the right move in not joining up with Hulu.

Prime-Time Ratings: Wednesday

Wednesday night's fast nationals: It's déjà vu all over again; CBS won the night with comedies and procedurals.

What to Watch?

MediaPost's Dave Morgan reports on a study that finds 56% of viewers sit down to watch TV without any specific program in mind: "Clearly, the industry needs to do a better job solving viewers' discovery problem, whether through better navigation tools in TV systems or set-top boxes, or more and better on-air program promotions (still the #1 method for viewers to find shows)."

You Pay YouTube

YouTube might charge for access to premium TV shows. First they have to actually get them, but if they can, it sounds like they could be a Hulu competitor.

3D in Your Living Room

3D DVD is apparently on its way, as Blu-Ray standards for it have been finalized. Add it to next year's Christmas list! You can also add a 3D TV to the list.

UPDATE: TVOvermind questions the viability of 3D on TV.

New Life for Beautiful Life

Ashton Kutcher thinks we'll like The Beautiful Life better when it's online.

Fox News Ratings

James Poniewozik offers an intriguing take on the ratings dominance of Fox News.

Olympics Programming

Futon Critic looks back at how the networks counter-programmed the Winter Olympics last time around and kindly provides some charts of the daily ratings trends for the last two Olympic Games.

Music Branding

BrandWeek interviews Steve Yanovsky, a music and emerging media strategy consultant, about how music can be used as a framework for brand marketing.

The Future of Reality

In 2010, American Idol and So You Think You Can Do guru Simon Fuller will launch If I Can Dream, a next-generation reality show (or is it a post-reality show?), "which will rely on streaming, mobile and social media to dramatically enhance audience engagement."

Program Reviews

A couple of engaging program reviews: Todd VanDerWerff takes a close look at his guilty pleasure, Man vs. Food, while Myles McNutt uses the So You Think You Can Dance finale and recent discussions of Lost and The Big Bang Theory to consider what it means to be "wrong" about a show's outcome.

TV Critic Chat, All Parts

The three finest television critics in all the land (the Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan, Time's James Poniewozik and the Newark Star-Ledger's Alan Sepinwall) got together for a chat back in October, and Ryan previously posted part one of their conversation transcript. The rest of it is now up.

Year in Review

TVNewsCheck provides a lengthy review of 2009: Part I covers business, management, Washington, technology and, well, deaths (they had to fit them in somewhere); Part II looks at programming, journalism, sales/advertising and new media.

Super Bowl Snubs

Neither FedEx nor Pepsi will advertise during the Super Bowl this year. However, the Census Bureau will. You wonder how the Census Bureau will work into their commercial one of the required elements of Super Bowl ads: hot chicks, cute animals, pathetic celebrities and excessive violence. Maybe they'll have Jessica Simpson and Jon Gosselin approach the home of a big furry bear and get mauled after an argument about the undercounting of forest creatures.

Year-End Results

Fox News just had its highest-rated year ever, MSNBC will finish a distant second and CNN will end the year third in the news channel ratings race for the first time ever, while sports, ESPN, and even Notre Dame football on NBC had a strong year, and comedy made a comeback.

Transmedia Defined

You hear the word "transmedia" more and more these days. Not sure what it is? Let William Uricchio and Xiaochang Li fill you in.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Colbert's Cover Bump

Vanity Fair considers why Stephen Colbert keeps getting on magazine covers.

Recommended Blog

Thanks to Alex Epstein and his film and TV writing blog Complications Ensue, I've learned of the existence of another great blog, Hollywood University, which is run by Jessica Butler and directed toward those trying to break into the TV industry. I highly recommend you look over the whole thing and put it in your RSS feed, but I'll just highlight a few especially pertinent posts: she breaks down the comedy development calendar, delineates the various producer credits on a show, interviews a Colbert Report writer, answers questions about relocating to LA to get a TV job, and gives suggestions for how to make industry connections.

Most Watched

Some random "most watched" achievements: Food Network just had its most watched year, "The U" was ESPN's most watched documentary ever, and a recent episode of Bad Girl's Club was Oxygen's most watched non-finale telecast ever.

Good Interview

GQ has a group interview with the members of what it dubs Geekdom's Council of Elders: JJ Abrams, Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Bryan Burk. Some great stuff here about the narratives of Lost and Fringe especially.

UPDATE: Part Three has now been posted.

Prime-Time Ratings: Tuesday

Tuesday's fast nationals: CBS kicked some serious behind last night.

No Medals For NBC

NBC hasn't even started broadcasting the Olympics yet, and they've already been declared losers: "General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt said Tuesday that NBC Universal will lose an estimated $200 million on the February Olympics. GE is 'counting on having tough economics around the Olympics,' Immelt said."

Another Soap in Peril

Sara Bibel suspects ABC's One Life To Live might be the next soap opera to be given a pink slip (which would simply break my heart; that one's "my story." And let me point out that Snoop Dogg loves it too, so take that, all you out there who think soaps just aren't cool). But God bless her, Bibel points about why that would be a bad move by ABC right now and offers ideas to save it. Also, ABC is at least putting all its soaps online now, so they must still matter at least somewhat to bother with that.


WOM: That's word of mouth, if you didn't know. And Ed Keller at MediaBizBloggers has tracked TV's WOM, or the fall shows that generated the most chatter. Glee is only #7 and House is #1? WOW. He's got very cool breakdowns (not charts per se, but tables at least) by gender and age too. Glee jumps to #3 among the 13-17 set, but House is still #2. 13 year-olds are twittering about House?

Media Life Predicts

Media Life Magazine says the big story of next year will be NBC, its future under Comcast, and the continuation of the Leno experiment. Speaking of the latter, Media Life also highlights how basic cable has benefited from Leno, as 10pm has become the hottest hour on cable. So at least someone's getting something out of this.

Comcast Everywhere

Comcast rolled out its online viewing service for subscribers yesterday; the New York Times, AdAge, and LA Times had it covered, while Will Richmond at VideoNuze offers a review of the service, best called FXTV for short: "While there's plenty of room for improvement, overall FXTV is off to a respectable start."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Program Access Loophole

The LA Times' Joe Flint writes about another of those boring yet extremely important regulatory issues that could come to a head early next year. This one ties in with sports so it's actually much more exciting than the typical boring regulation.

Prime-Time Ratings: Monday

Monday's fast nationals: CBS was far ahead of the competition with its comedies and procedural.

Nielsen Predictions

Nielsen analysts take a crack at the future, predicting next year's media trends and cross media trends.

Elegy for Soap Actors

The Daily Beast presents a thoughtful reflection on the status of the soap opera actor by a former soap news editor: "The soap-opera actor is a divided creature. So grateful for something that seemed so unlikely—stable acting work—he is also ambivalent about this. Though he is afforded a very good salary and the ability to get home in time for dinner, he is also stuck playing the same not-too-dimensional character for years on end." There's also a great photo gallery of later-famous stars who started out on As the World Turns.

Marketing Design Breakdown

A marketing company called Capacity has posted descriptions of the design process for a few of their recent jobs: NBC's More Colorful campaign, Cartoon Network's 2008 rebranding effort, and CourtTV's switch to truTV.

HDTV...Sort Of

Multichannel News has a look at the current state of HDTV usage, including the lamentable fact that some people haven't figured out the HD part yet.

TV Still Strong

According to a recent study, people still like TV. That's pretty much what it boils down to. Which is cool.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Top Time-Shifted

Chart Alert!!! Silicon Alley Insider's Chart of the Day is the Top 6 most time-shifted shows. It's only six shows, so it seems like a stretch to make a chart out of it, but even a merely adequate chart is still a chart.

UPDATE: AdAge has an article (but, sadly, no chart) about the top time-shifted network shows of this fall. The winner is House.

Network Report Cards

The TV Addict has been posting mid-season report cards for the networks; here they all are: CBS (A-), NBC (D), ABC (B+), Fox (A-), The CW (C+).

Reality for Reality

Wayne Friedman at MediaPost wonders if reality TV's stained celebrities will start to hurt the bottom line: "Now, almost 10 years after a new program genre hit TV airwaves in the form of CBS' Survivor, the off-air antics of some reality TV folks might be lessening the value of the category -- perhaps back to original discount pricing. "

Prime-Time Ratings: Sunday

Sunday's fast nationals: Simple formula for NBC: football = high ratings. Maybe they can have Leno strap on a helmet and some pads. I think many would tune in to see him against the Eagles defense.

In other ratings news, Dexter drew a big number for Showtime, becoming the most-watched original series episode in the channel's history.

Comcast's Market Share

I'm now extending my love of charts to maps. And Cecilia Kang at the Washington Post has a sweet one, depicting Comcast's market share of pay video subscribers, as well as the placement NBC's O&Os, in order to call attention to the additional big-market dominance Comcast would obtain with the NBCU takeover.

Fallon as TV's Future

Offering analysis more extensive than the premise might indicate, Steve Krakauer at Mediaite points to Jimmy Fallon's Late Night as a model for what broadcast TV has to do to succeed in the future.

Quiet Down

The delightfully named CALM Act has been introduced in Congress (though to get that nice acronym, they had to awkwardly call it the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act), which would force advertisers to keep the volume of TV commercials below a set standard. The Sham-Wow guy will not be pleased.

Warning: Rant Ahead

I don't usually post articles I don't think are good, but this is instructive as bad TV criticism (imho). In a Boston Globe op-ed, Steve Almond tries to make us feel bad for watching TV, but first of all, the article opens with the inevitable admission that he doesn't actually watch TV (would a newspaper let someone write a serious op-ed on, say, politics if that person doesn't actually follow politics? No, they wouldn't. But TV? Sure, go for it!). Second, because he doesn't watch TV, he's limited to grounding his points in a few episodes of 24 (one shouldn't conclude anything on the basis of just a few episodes; it's a long-form medium) and magazine advertising of CSI (yes, he saw something about it in a magazine, not on TV). And third, he writes this -- "The traditional rap against television is that it’s an energy sucker that sells us products we don’t need. But these days TV seems to be fulfilling an even more insidious role: It’s selling us the psychological myths we need to believe." -- apparently without realizing that those two aspects (TV's commercial base and its storytelling myths) are wholly fused together and that they always have been, on TV and really anywhere else there's ads (which is, well, everywhere). So yeah, this won't end up on my top ten list of the smartest things said about TV this year. Not that I'm doing one, but it would be fun to do one, if only to not put this on it. /rant

Retrans Explained

I've been posting about the retrans wars, trying to make it sound as sexy as I can since it's yet another one of those boring topics that's actually hugely important. Broadcasting & Cable's Melissa Grego does us the huge favor of clearly laying out what's at stake and in operation with this issue. Seriously, read this. It's important: "Broadcast television is fighting for its life, and one massive battle taking place now could define how the war may be won...The deal is playing out on one of the biggest fronts in what insiders describe as TV's 'holy war.' It has precedent-setting power over the many showdowns that are already underway or are scheduled to take place over the next two to three years across the broadcasting and cable industries." And as Grego helpfully explains, this isn't just a broadcasting versus cable war, it's a civil war within broadcasting too.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Israeli News Concerns

We've read plenty about the problems of TV news in the US (in fact, I had a post on that earlier today), so I thought some would find it interesting to see what concerns an Israeli newspaper columnist has about its country's television news coverage. It's more war than Tiger Woods at issue, but there are similar laments about the rise of ratings-driven, sensationalistic broadcasts.

Hey NBC, Read All of This

Brian Steinberg at AdAge offers some advice for fixing NBC. Previous entries in this burgeoning genre include Paul William Terry's "How NBC can get its groove back" and Josef Adalian's "5 things Comcast must do to save NBC."

Companies to Watch

It's the time of year when everyone makes lists. This one from Mashable is eight companies that are reinventing online TV. So they'll be important in 2010. Which justifies making up the list now. I guess.

Prime-Time Ratings: Saturday

Saturday night's results: ugh.

Possible Spectrum Fight

This is the kind of issue that makes most people fall asleep after reading the first few sentences about it, but that belies its actual importance. Broadcasting & Cable has been tracking the battle between the FCC and broadcasters, with the former possibly taking spectrum space away from the latter to use for broadband services. (Hey, you there -- wake up!) Today, the trade has a good look at the current state of this issue: "Broadcasters are hoping to maintain their status as an over-the-air medium. The FCC, however, sees the future of TV moving to broadband video delivered via set-top box, and last week the commission opened an inquiry into the matter."

Total Viewers vs. Demo Viewers

Christmas has arrived early for me: I've just stumbled upon a website that has charts, charts, and more ratings charts! The site's editor (all I can piece together is that his name is Ed and he's from Virginia) is currently exploring the relevance of the difference between total viewers and 18-49 viewers in ratings numbers and ad rates. It's automatically assumed today that it's the 18-49 rating that really matters to networks and advertisers thus total viewer ratings are largely irrelevant. TV By the Numbers just discussed this, in fact, which prompted Ed from Virginia to set out to see if he can prove that with hard data. And yes, he's doing it with the help of awesome charts.

As he notes in his introduction to the investigation, this is also a great TV Ratings 101 education. The first follow-up correlates ad rates to the viewer categories, the second one factors in shows that skew younger or older, and today he has looked into CBS's claim that total viewers really do matter and the myth that total viewers matter on Fridays. Conclusion to all this: If you're over 49, TV simply doesn't care about you.

Reinventing the TiVo

Multichannel News discusses TiVo's challenge to prove that it's more than just another DVR, before it hemorrhages too many subscribers to be even that: "Recording linear TV for later playback will continue to have its place, [TiVo president and CEO Tom] Rogers said, but as more Internet-delivered video comes to TV screens, Tivo will be the front-end TV portal through which subscribers access linear TV, video-on-demand, broadband content, interactive services and advertising."

UPDATE: Janko Roettgers at NewTeeVee questions if even this will work.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Network News

Reuters looks at Diane Sawyer's upcoming move to evening news anchor. There's a lot of talk that the network newscast is on its way out, but USC journalism professor Martin Kaplan points out that big money is still at stake: "More people go to the bathroom during the commercial break on network evening news than are watching cable news. Compared to other niche audiences, the evening news packs a wallop." (If you want to see numbers on that, here's some recent network news ratings, and here's some recent cable news ratings.)

The Christian Science Monitor's Walter Rodgers doesn't care about numbers; he believes content is the problem, and the maladies killing off network news are self-induced.

Prime-Time Ratings: Friday

Friday's results: a season-best for Law & Order, a Tiger Woods-focused Dateline, and a second-place timeslot finish for Leno helped NBC win the night.

In other ratings news, college football on CBS and ESPN reached decade highs this year.

The People's Online TV

Some recent studies find obstacles with the future of online TV as we know it today: people don't want to pay for it and people don't want to wait for it to load up. But B&C's Ben Grossman suggests that you can't always let the people dictate.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Social Media Impact

Diane Mermigas looks at the impact of social media, including on television. Elsewhere, Simon Dumenco tracks the Twitter love for Glee.

Fall Finales

Jaime Weinman discusses the seemingly new phenomenon of the fall finale.

UPDATE: Variety has looked at this too (good luck with the paywall roulette wheel), and in response, TV By the Numbers mocks the trade for not considering the obvious in terms of the unusually long hiatuses being taken by numerous shows.

Local News Challenges

A couple of notable pieces on local news: echoing a growing trend, two Cincinnati stations will henceforth share news resources, while reporter Mark Joyella argues that local news really needs to start taking advantage of new technologies.

18-49 & Overall Viewing Charts

It may be time to change this blog's name to Charts for TV Majors. TV By the Numbers features one that illustrates nicely how cable's share of 18-49 viewers has increased at the networks' expense over the past decade, while another shows that overall TV viewing has grown over the decade.

Leno #1 Shill

James Poniewozik highlights The Jay Leno Show's status as the #1 ranked show in terms of product placement: "From the get-go, The Jay Leno Show has been a business strategy first, an entertainment program second. And while its business success is debatable—it's certainly cut costs for NBC, but often pulls no more viewers than Jay got at 11:30—Nielsen has released an interesting year-end list that finds the show has succeeded at one of its aims: becoming an attractive venue for in-show ads."

Prime-Time Ratings: Thursday

Thursday's results: In familiar news, CBS won the night. But in new news, NBC's comedies improved.

In other ratings news, Nielsen has released its top ten ratings lists for the year; of most interest to me is the top 10 timeshifted shows, with Battlestar Galactica at the top.

Cable's Fight

At Huffington Post, Marvin Ammori instructed us a few days ago to cut the cable cord and replace our cable subscriptions with a range of online services. Now, he points out how cable is fighting back against just that possibility and calls on consumers to be vigilant in response.


The Wall Street Journal dissects why NCIS is the most watched show on TV: "NCIS is proof that even if the economics of the business are in upheaval, large swathes of the audience still want traditional storytelling, righteous heroes, and reality that's not offensively gritty."

Time-Jumping TV

Amanda Ann Klein at judgmental observer writes about the most annoying TV trope of 2009, episodes that start with their ending and then jump back in time: "It seems that ever since programs like Lost started with playing with time, placing the viewer in the present, then the past, then the future, television writers realized the dramatic potential of narrative time travel. Unfortunately, this approach to plot, much like the overused mockumentary style of the contemporary comedy verité, loses its efficacy with too much repetition."

Friday Fun: Minimalist Posters

Just in time for your Christmas list, minimalist TV posters by designer Albert Exergia are now for sale.

Zucker Extended

Jeff Zucker has re-signed (not resigned) and is now under contract with NBCU til 2013. I would like to link you to the Hollywood Reporter article that broke this story, but I can't get the article to load up. Poor NBC -- nothing works right for them. Here's my favorite comment from the article I did link you to: "This is like the Detroit Lions signing Matt Millen to his extension in 2005."

NBC Still Wants ND

The New York Times reports that NBC still thinks Notre Dame football is a good value: "If Notre Dame is no longer a national power — and it hasn’t been for quite a while — is the NBC contract losing what once made it distinctive? Not yet, it seems. Notre Dame is still a big name and whatever happens there, good or bad, is newsworthy."

Casting for Reality

In light of recent controversies, the LA Times looks at the problems of casting for reality TV: "One of the major appeals of the that it offers characters with outsize personalities, robust egos and sometimes breathtaking exhibitionism. As viewers have grown more jaded, producers have sought to cast more outrageous personalities. But the extreme behavior of some reality show cast members and wannabes in recent months has forced those behind the camera to confront uncomfortable questions about whether they bear any responsibility for giving such volatile personalities a platform.''

UPDATE: The New York Times now has a piece on this issue.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Retrans Shore

In last night's installment, Time Warner Cable told Fox in no uncertain terms to get outta its bidness with affils. B&C has now updated its article to include Fox's response: "You best step off, bitches."

DVR Impact

TV By the Numbers has some DVR usage charts (charts!!!) put together by CBS for a UBS conference presentation: the percentages of live versus DVR playback viewing for broadcasting and cable and a nightly timeslot breakdown of DVR usage.

Glee & Transmedia

Speaking of the Futures of Entertainment Conference, it inspired attendee Alex Leavitt to write a great essay about how Glee's successful business model has taken advantage of transmedia storytelling opportunities that fuel fandom: "Glee's business model succeeds because it caters to the fan experience. It builds loyalty to the Glee franchise by immersing the audience in a continual story that extends beyond a weekly visit to the television set."

Futures of Entertainment Conference

I posted a few weeks about about the Futures of Entertainment Conference at MIT, which brought "together scholars and key thinkers from television, advertising, marketing, and entertainment industries to discuss the unfolding future of the entertainment landscape." Here is the program again, and each listed session has now been posted online.

As the Trades Turn

The LA Times and the New York Times fill us in on the upheaval this week in the world of entertainment industry and ad trade publications.

Hulu Doomed

So sayeth MediaBizBloggers' Jonathan Bokor.

Prime-Time Ratings: Wednesday

Wednesday night's results: Glee pulled in a great number, but in a familiar story, more viewers were watching CBS's comedies and procedurals.

In other ratings news, USA Network is on its way to winning the yearly ratings race for cable channels for the fourth consecutive time.

TV Everywhere Stumbling Block

VideoNuze reports that the TV Everywhere dream might not move forward until Nielsen can figure out a way to effectively mesh together all the potential ratings data and hook enough service providers, before the industry-backed CIMM beats them to it.

Year in Media Survey

MediaLife is running a survey about the highlights and lowlights of the media year. Filling it out is fun, but it's also just a nice reminder of the media-related events of the past twelve months.

New Gadgets

Everyone talks about how broadcast TV is in trouble, but cable should also worry about new technologies, such as those the New York Times discusses and Boxee, which is courting the industry that has tipped many a new media technology toward success in the past: porn.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Oh, It's On

The retrans battle heats up. According to B&C, Fox was like, "Here's how it's gonna work, affiliates." And Time Warner Cable was all, "Oh no you didn't."

Glee Review

Myles McNutt has been doing stellar Glee reviews all season, so I'd like to feature his review of the finale tonight. Great episode, great review: ""Sectionals" works as a finale precisely because it has no romantic notions about what "Sectionals" is: this is not a simple celebration of musical talent, nor a simple culmination of any one character’s journey. It’s a neon band-aid that makes a wound look a whole lot prettier, capable of healing those wounds but also capable of being ripped off and leaving scars that no neon band-aid will ever be able to fix. It’s an hour of television that highlights life’s futility while celebrating its transcendence, never once suggesting that one will ever cancel out the other. And it’s a rather fantastic end to what has been a fascinating (if not quite consistently amazing) first thirteen episodes for the show they call Glee."

Myles has followed that post up with one on the questions Glee should deal with moving forward.

And James Poniewozik's review of Glee is also excellent.

The Sublime & The Ridiculous

Funny or Die takes on Glee and Jersey Shore hits a low point in content and in ratings.

UPDATE: MTV's programming president defends Jersey Shore, while the New York Times looks at New Jersey as a reality TV setting.

Nielsen's Kids

Nielsen reports on the results of a study into media usage by 2-11 year-olds. There are some fascinating numbers in here (and more awesome charts!), and be ready to see some of them in articles trying to scare you about how much TV our kids watch: "Older kids (age 6–11) clock in more than 28 viewing hours per week, primarily watching TV, but also spending close to 2.5 hours watching DVDs or playing video games, with an additional hour dedicated to the DVR and 18 minutes set aside for the VCR. Younger children age 2–5 log close to 25 hours of TV time each week, more than 4.5 hours watching their favorite DVDs, about 1.5 hours viewing DVR offerings, more than an hour competing at video games and 45 minutes with the VCR." Yikes, that is a lot.


Forbes looks at how the plans for Oprah's OWN cable network foretell future developments in broadcast and cable TV, while one of the future developments for the network itself will be a documentary film club.

Mobile TV

The Wall Street Journal reports on a study indicating that more and more young people would be perfectly happy watching TV on their phones. I'm just waiting for when I can get a TV set embedded into my hand.

More Retrans Plans

A day after Les Moonves praised Comcast and News Corp. for pledging to fight for retrans fees, word comes that Disney too will be looking to negotiate on compensation in 2010.

More Great Charts

Boy, do I love me some TV By the Numbers charts. Here are network ratings versus last year, with Fox doing particularly well season-to-date.

Variety Going Pay

In a move that will certainly affect this site, Variety is going behind a paywall tomorrow. After a phase-in period, non-subscribers (a category which includes me) will only be able to look at five pages each month. I do have my university's subscription to Variety to get at it anyway, but many of you do not have such a luxury. As a result, I probably won't link much to Variety anymore (or at least more than five times a month). It's not exactly Rupert Murdoch kissing off Google, but there it is.

Here's a New York Times piece on the change.

Prime-Time Ratings: Tuesday

Tuesday's fast nationals: NBC's Biggest Loser did well and even boosted Leno, but CBS's reruns still drew more eyeballs overall.

In other ratings news, Variety notes that there's been some good results for cable lately, and TV By the Numbers has recent syndicated ratings, while B&C has some good analysis of those syndie ratings.

More Soap Sadness

Ed Martin chimes in with a nice elegy for soaps in his assessment of the ATWT cancellation: "This would seem to be the perfect time for me to state the obvious, as I have so many times before: Daily daytime drama is virtually the only form of ongoing programming that remains unique to broadcast television. With the exception of big-ticket sports events, and a couple of awards shows, there is simply nothing left that broadcast can call its own. There are no daily soap operas on cable networks, and while there are a host of new serials on the Web (many starring unemployed actors from daytime dramas), these mini-soaps are a long way from the television variety."

Midseason Report

USA Today offers its midseason assessment of network TV, including an overview and network reports.

Comcast-NBCU Deal

I'll keep adding new articles to this post and bump it up as long as it still seems new enough.

Notable recent analysis:

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    Soap Obit

    The New York Times article on the cancellation of As the World Turns gives some good info on the catalysts behind the genre's decline: "Soaps typically cost around $50 million a year to produce. CBS replaced Guiding Light this fall with Let’s Make a Deal, which costs about half that amount, and the network has seen increases in total audience and among the younger viewers that most advertisers seek."

    UPDATE: Time's James Poniewozik has written a similar piece, though from a more cultural angle: "The whole world is now a soap opera."

    Jersey Shore...Wow

    Kind of a slow news day (outside of the soap world), so that's left room for some Jersey Shore news. As James Hibberd reports, the show is gaining protesters and losing advertisers, but more importantly, he ends his post with an upcoming clip from the show that I can scarcely believe.

    Moonves Disses Soaps

    During a CNBC interview today, Les Moonves was asked about the cancellation of As the World Turns (4:30 into the video). His response (which I find irritating, given that he seems to be enjoying saying it): "The days of the soap opera have changed very much. Guiding Light left earlier this year and As the World Turns will leave later next year. They've had long and distinguished runs and their day is over." Also, turns out that the CNBC interviewer's mother-in-law is employed by ATWT. Gawker writes, "Nothing like telling a guy his mother-in-law is a dinosaur on live TV. Faber didn't make much of a reaction on-air, but what he told Moonves when the cameras turned off probably depends on how he feels about his mother-in-law."

    Moonves also says a bunch of interesting things about the state of the TV business in the interview, so you might want to watch it for that.

    Moonves Optimistic

    LA Times' Meg James reports on Les Moonves' cheery talk at the UBS media conference today: "Moonves was characteristically upbeat and confident (The Wall Street Journal once noted that Moonves sees the glass as half full even when it's lying on its side). He reminded investors that despite what you might have heard from some other top TV executives, broadcast television is not a dinosaur." Moonves also praised News Corp. for getting on board with the retransmission fee fight.

    Ratings Roundup

    A number of ratings stories: NBC football won the weekly prime time ratings, ESPN football topped the weekly cable ratings, ESPN led the weekly cable channel ratings, while CNN reached a historic low in prime time.

    Local News & HD

    TV Week reports that many local newscasts still can't be seen in HD: "It’s estimated that roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of TV stations nationwide have not yet converted their local news to HD — and may not in the foreseeable future."

    Prime-Time Ratings: Monday

    Monday's fast nationals: CBS's comedies dominate; ABC's Castle improving

    ATWT Cancelled

    As the World Turns has been canceled. I'm sure that's ho-hum news for most, but I'm bummed. I don't watch ATWT, but I watch other soaps, and the genre seems to be doomed (as indicated by the fact that this is ho-hum news for most).

    In Variety's report, they note that producer Procter and Gamble will try to find another outlet for the soap, but given the state of soaps, success is not likely.

    If you're looking for a good academic take on the current state of soaps, I recommend Elana Levine's "Like Sands Through the Hourglass: The Changing Fortunes of the Daytime Television Soap Opera," in Amanda Lotz's great anthology, Beyond Prime Time: Television Programming in the Post-Network Era.

    In-House Production

    Tv By the Numbers offers a look at the number of network shows produced by a network's corporate production partner (a relationship allowed since the folding of the fin-syn rules over a decade ago). Nifty charts are also involved.

    Lost University

    Seriously, there's a Lost University. The LA Times describes, "As the famously perplexing and mysterious series heads into its final season, its creators have launched Lost University, a multimedia experience that delves into the fields of study touched on in the show's five years. Real university professors will teach short video courses on a variety of Lost-related subjects -- and it's not exactly a light curriculum either, with philosophy, physics and hieroglyphics, among others."

    Predictions for 2010

    NewTeeVee's editors offer some predictions for where they see TV and online video heading in 2010, including toward a graveyard (Hulu) or greater prominence (CNN's iReport). They also predict that Boxee will be a bust. If you don't know what Boxee is, here's a look at its unveiling and the company's future plans to fill you in.

    Elsewhere, MediaPost says TV Everwhere will be the big deal next year.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Biggest Loser Shenanigans

    The New York Times reported some nasty truths about NBC's Biggest Loser last week. Now comes word that ABC's 20/20 tried to do an expose on the show too, but was done in by NBC threatening former contestants with the confidentiality agreements that most reality participants have to sign. Not a good portrait of one of NBC's few hit shows.

    TV Guide Interviews...Everyone

    TV Guide has a great set of interviews with, in the magazine's words, "the men and women who made the decade's best TV." That list includes J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Shonda Rhimes, Shawn Ryan, David Simon, Aaron Sorkin, Matthew Weiner, and Dick Wolf. So it's really the men and one woman who made the decade's best TV. Just sayin'.

    Zucker Comments

    Hollywood Reporter recaps the statements made today by Jeff Zucker at a media conference, including: "We have underinvested in development (at NBC Entertainment) over the last few years. That has been a mistake."

    Dollhouse Essay Contest

    Have you worked up a great essay on Dollhouse for a class? Or just love it enough to go on about it for 3000-4000 words? If so, Jane Espenson wants to read what you've got to say. It's a Dollhouse essay contest!

    News Corp. and Retrans

    You've seen Time Warner's side of the debate on retransmission consent; now here's the other side: "Noting that ESPN gets almost $4 per subscriber per month from distributors and that Fox has the World Series and a Super Bowl every few years, [News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey] said Fox could 'probably justify $5 per subscriber.'"

    Gervais Meets David

    Cinematical has resurrected footage from a 2008 Channel 4 special, in which Larry David and Ricky Gervais have a lengthy chat. I haven't watched it yet, but I have no doubt that it's a slice of awesome.

    Friday Night Lights

    Anne Peterson debates Peter Holter about why you might not be watching Friday Night Lights and why you should be (and trust us, folks, you really should be).

    Too Gleeful?

    Salon's Heather Havrilesky wishes Glee and Sons of Anarchy would dial it down a notch.

    Over at Wired, Glee co-creator Brad Falchuk explains and defends certain aspects of the show.

    Ads With Indie Cred

    Slate's Seth Stevenson looks at the recent bevy of commercials featuring indie film stars: "My editor has always claimed she's not fazed when celebrities hawk products. But then a pair of indie sweethearts showed up in ad campaigns this fall—Ellen Page for Cisco; Zooey Deschanel for Cotton Inc.—and suddenly my editor started wringing her hands. 'It's a whole different breed of people selling out,' she fretted in an e-mail. 'Those on the upward rather than the downward trajectory.' She felt vaguely embarrassed for these starlets. And she wondered: What could they have to gain?"

    Misc. Cable News

    Cable ad sales are up this year, March Madness may move to cable, and Bravo is hoping social media will get you even more involved in the Top Chef finale Wednesday night.

    Report Cards

    TV Addict gives NBC its mid-season report card (Zucker will want to hide it from his mom), while at the Daily Beast, Jace Lacob pinpoints the winners and losers among new shows.

    Prime-Time Ratings: Sunday

    Sunday night's ratings: football beat out the plane crash, the wedding, and the finale.

    In other ratings news, viewership for Monk's finale skyrocketed, making it the most-watched basic cable drama series episode ever.

    Screening Times

    The latest quarterly Nielsen study of the amount of time we're spending watching TV in its various forms: "For the first time this quarter, Nielsen reports how much time the average American spends in a typical week with TV, Internet and mobile devices. Without a doubt, consumers of all ages spend the majority of their video time (nearly 99%) in front of the television, while DVR and online video are becoming more widely used."

    For Your Christmas List

    Arrested Development, the entire series, for only $28.99 at Amazon!

    When TV Become Art

    A must-read: New York Magazine's Emily Nussbaum looks back on the past decade and says its lasting legacy will be that it let us finally feel justified in calling television an art form: "For anyone who loves television, who adores it with the possessive and defensive eyes of a fan, this was most centrally and importantly the first decade when television became recognizable as art, great art: collectible and life-changing and transformative and lasting. As the sixties are to music and the seventies to movies, the aughts—which produced the best and worst shows in history—were to TV."

    TNT Trying

    The Hollywood Reporter covers TNT's attempts to find its next hit: "TNT might know drama, but does it remember how to launch a hit show?"

    White House and Reality TV

    NYT's David Carr proposes that Barack Obama is experiencing the downside of being so darn telegenic.

    Internet TV

    The Chicago Tribune reports that the FCC is pushing to integrate the internet with your television set: "If federal regulators have their way, the next big thing on the tech horizon will be a brave new world of Internet-ready, work-with-any-network set-top boxes, offering consumers unprecedented multimedia options through their TVs, not just their computers. And if this plays out as the Federal Communications Commission envisions, the world as cable companies know it will radically change, making the potential synergies of the Comcast-NBC deal all but obsolete."

    Executive Decisions

    Plans for industry growth: Discovery Channel hopes to become a bigger player in Hollywood with a new chief operating officer, while Univision launches a new studio to produce more of its own programming in the U.S. and build on its lead over Telemundo, a property owned by NBC Universal that Comcast said it hoped to expand.

    Variety also profiles the new Discovery COO, Peter Liguori.

    Intervention Interview

    Futon Critic's Jim Halterman offers an interview with Intervention Executive Producer Dan Partland.

    You can find an earlier interview with Partland on the WGA's YouTube channel; there he talks about how Intervention's writing process qualifies it for Writer's Guild coverage.

    Atwitter About White Collar

    I haven't been watching White Collar, but I hear its first season just ended with a stunning and, some say, problematic twist. Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan has reviewed the episode, but more importantly, later in the review she highlights an intriguing pattern of twittering, and tweet deleting, by showrunner Jeff Eastin that presents a pretty fascinating example of the impact of viewer reaction and the role of social media.

    Comedy Central Web Development

    Comedy Central is using the web to develop new programming and talent: "[The Web] is one of the key development resources we have at our fingertips," says Comedy's programming president Lauren Corrao (who leaves the network at the end of the month). "It offers us the opportunity to see whether [potential talent] can write, act or direct. It is almost like they can walk in the door already having proven that they can do certain things."

    Sunday, December 6, 2009

    More Reality Angst

    The New York Times looks at the outrage being stirred up by two new reality shows, MTV's Jersey Shore and ABC's Find My Family.

    Last week, Zap2It linked to some of the choicest reviews of Jersey Shore, like from the Star-Ledger: "This season on Jersey Shore: Fists are pumped. Tears are shed. Punches are thrown, including one that apparently knocks Snookie off her bar stool, which leads to an arrest. Bodily fluids are exchanged. Our collective I.Q. is reduced." And the comments section generates some reactions that would James Wolcott cry: "I can say that this was one of the most offensively stereotypical pieces of trash that MTV has ever aired. But it was still funny."

    Prime-Time Ratings: Saturday

    Saturday's results: Football was dominant, Fox a distant second.

    Spanish Lost Promo Analyzed

    Ryan McGee at Zap2It gives his take on the Spanish promo for Lost that has made the rounds recently (including here): "I've really wrestled on whether this promo is actually brilliant or completely misses the point of the show entirely."

    Pundits and Politics

    Matt Bai in the New York Times Magazine discusses the increase in TV news personalities who become politicians and politicians who become TV news personalities: "The door between politics and television news now isn’t merely revolving; it spins so fast and so continuously that a fair number of people no longer seem to belong neatly on one side or the other...This blurring of the roles played by our elected officials and our cable-news personalities is beginning to redefine our notions of political leadership."

    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Iranian Repression

    Wish this was from The Onion, but it's from the legit Washington Post (though the WaPo had an Onion-y moment itself recently): Iranian state television "will ban makeup for women, 'abnormal' music and unruly children, an Iranian newspaper reported Wednesday."

    Memorable Moments

    Matthew Gilbert explains his selections for the most memorable TV moments of the decade.

    "News" Animation

    You surely came across the Chinese news hypothetical animation of the Tiger Woods mess this week. The New York Times covers the creators behind it and their defenses of its techniques, thereby "perhaps offering a glimpse at the future of journalism, tabloid division." You also have to smile at this line: "Attempts to reach Mr. Woods for this article were unsuccessful."

    Suspect Inequalities

    Dame Helen Mirren, star of ITV's Prime Suspect and many, many other great works, expressed frustration with industry inequality while accepting a Women in Film and Television award: "I'm looking forward to the time that at least there's a balance. Women represent half of the population and I want to see as many female roles as there are male roles, because at the moment the balance is very unfair."

    Incidentally, NBC is developing a remake of Prime Suspect, and those who have seen Mirren's captivating performances in the original know that the only way this will work is if they can cast the lead role right (which, of course, makes one question remaking it at all, but there's the practical issue that American network TV needs more episodes than British TV usually produces). EW's Ausiello Files has proposed some candidates, and the names in the list and comments section echo Mirren's concerns by reminding me how many great actresses are out there who simply don't get enough work.

    Prime-Time Ratings: Friday

    Friday's fast nationals: Only result worth noting, "Dollhouse drew fewer viewers than The CW's encore of Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." Oy.

    Rise and Fall of MySpace

    This isn't about TV, but the news always slows down on the weekend, so that will give you time to read this interesting Financial Times report on how Rupert Murdoch's investment in MySpace went sideways.

    European Program Donations

    In an attempt to help out struggling Eastern European public broadcasters, better-off Western European broadcasters will be donating programming to them. The New York Times reports: "Under the assistance plan announced Friday, no money will change hands directly. Instead, public television providers like RAI in Italy and ZDF in Germany will donate drama, documentary and children’s programming, which normally would be sold to broadcasters who request it."

    Friday, December 4, 2009

    TV and Music

    Variety has a handful of music-related articles today, including a profile of the music supervisor for Glee, a story about the popularity of the TV musical among teen girls, and a look at music licensing for TV shows.

    Saving Saturday Night

    Saturday night network TV barely exists anymore. Boston Globe's Matthew Gilbert proposes some ideas to resurrect the night: "Saturday may never gain ratings momentum or become a magnet, like Thursday night, for advertisers hoping to reach viewers before weekend shopping and moviegoing. So why not invite the more passionate programming execs to let their imaginations take flight without commercial concerns? Why not make Saturday into a night of TV designed for TV lovers?"