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The End of Network TV as We Know It

Posted on Aug 18, 2009
television sunset

Do not adjust your TV sets: The big changes, according to some execs, need to happen on the business side for network television to survive.

The American television industry is in crisis, according to Advertising Age critic Bob Garfield, who figures prominently in The Wrap’s two-part look into the future of the industry. In fact, says Garfield, we’re seeing early signs of “the total collapse of the network television model.”  —KA

The Wrap:

If anything, things could get a lot worse before they get better. Some observers are even beginning to question whether there will ever be a turnaround, predicting that the business model which has sustained broadcasters for close to 60 years has begun an irreversible decline.

The latest blow: A disastrous upfront advertising market that saw revenues plunge an estimated 15 percent from last year, dropping from $9.2 billion in 2008 to around $7.8 billion, according to estimates by several publications.

“This is a turning point,” argues Bob Garfield, author of the just-released media doomsday tome “The Chaos Scenario” and the long-time critic for Advertising Age.

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By battery, September 9, 2009 at 4:54 am Link to this comment
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A television network is a distribution network for television content whereby a central operation provides programming for many television stations. Until the mid-1980s, television programming in most countries of the world was dominated by a small number of broadcast networks. Many early television networks (e.g. the BBC, NBC or CBS) evolved from earlier radio networks.

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By Rodger Lemonde, August 21, 2009 at 11:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Actually we are being sold. Ad budgets are based on CPM
or cost per thousand. That is you and me. The value we
have determines the CPM rate. Off air audiences can
only be guaranteed to have had discretionary income at
the time they bought the set. Cable and satellite
viewers are proven to be spending money every month.
Doesn’t it give you a warm feeling to lnow you have
value to some one?

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By bogi666, August 20, 2009 at 5:26 am Link to this comment

Roger Lamonade, do you thunk we’re being had, that is?

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By LostHills, August 19, 2009 at 11:03 pm Link to this comment


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By WriterOnTheStorm, August 19, 2009 at 11:03 pm Link to this comment

For most of the commentators here, who have used up space to impress us with their superior taste by ranting about
the drivel on television, the point of this article has been completely lost.

But to their point, I wonder how many of them have ever seen a German police procedural drama, or suffered through
a Mexican soap. Bad as it may be, American television is one of the few things we still do better than anyone else -
one of the few things we still export to other countries.

If you think television is bad now, wait another five or ten years, because we have a long, long way to fall yet. Imagine
when the few networks that survive can’t afford to make drama at all. When your offspring are zoning out to all reality,
all the time, learning how to get ahead under wild west capitalism by watching loutish, inarticulate contestants back
stab, sabotage, and lie their way to season-finale glory.

But this article is not about the demise of another golden age of American creativity and ingenuity. It’s about the
demise of an economic model, and its reverberations throughout the country. This doesn’t just threaten some mythical
Astin Martin driving, cocaine addicted, veneer toothed, thirty something living in a case-study house overlooking
Sunset Strip. No, these changes are going to effect every one of us, because all around us, economic models are

The digital revolution and globalization are like the upper and lower jaws of an insatiable parasite eating us from the
inside out, leaving a perfectly mummified outer shell to haunt us with reminders of America’s better days. If you think
burrowing against our homes to buy cheap goods made in China by someone happy for slave labor wages is a
bargain, you got a rough ride coming. If you think the one-percenters give a thousand calorie turd which middle class
they exploit - the shrinking one here or the growing one in India -  your dream world is about to cave in.

So before you download that movie, or fast-forward through the commercials on your tivo, or pass the mom and pop
on your way to Walmart, remember that in an interconnected world, everything has ramifications. Learn to connect the
economic dots, or the day may come when your son’s and daughter’s best shot at a life as good as yours, is winning a
reality show - in Germany.

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By espaz, August 19, 2009 at 8:11 pm Link to this comment
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thank fn god.  let msm die and be gone!  “oh boo hoo boo hoo….i’m not gonna have my reality tv or my corporate news shows “.  the sooner the better i say.

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By Samson, August 19, 2009 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment

Who on earth ever thought that MSNBC is ‘liberal’ or ‘left’?  Christ, its the combined operation of Microsoft and GE.  That’s left?  Are you really surprised that a big anti-union company that is a leading defense contractor is putting right-wing voices on the air?

Left-wing media is very hard to find in this country.  Try, or, or watch Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now ( for audio and video feeds if its not on in your area.)

The one thing for sure is that big corporations like GE will NOT give you ‘left-wing’ media.  They may lie and pretend that they do, while putting lots of right-wingers on the air under that fake label.  But the real question is, why would anyone believe them?

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By Purple Girl, August 19, 2009 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

Left wing media is aiding the Right wing agenda.
The Neo Cons never dwelled on the outrage or the antics of the Left Wing for the last few decades.
We never got any traction, because we were dismissed and ignored as irrelevant,by poltical leadership and media.
Yet show after show on “Liberal” MSNBC grants Center stage to these Teabaggers, and pro Lifers, and Religious Zealots and Townhollers.
I’ve been listening to their shit for 3 decades on MSM- I really don’t need to see or hear them throughout their collective mental breakdown, now.The Hypocrisy,corruption and lack of deductive reasoning in their doctrine was bound to collapse under the weight of the well foreseen catastrophe. Review the Lefts Screams about Trickle Down, industrial & financial deregulation, Tax Breaks of Corps and the Rich. How much air time or print can you find covering these protesters point of view in their contemporary media?
If anyone should know how to marginalize the poltical effects of the Right Wing- it should be the Left.
The Rightwingers have decided any publicity is good publicity- much like Celebrities and groups like PETA. Unfortunately history has proven repeatedly not all publicity is beneficial to their image.
Their archilles heel lies within the chasm between their words and their actions.
Instead of discusssing the ‘Birthers’ we should be discussing Cheney’s Presidential Coup.
Instead of covering the claims Obama is going to ‘Kill Granny’ we should be exposing how Insurance co have been.
Instead of covering Pro Life Rallies, we should be investigating why 7 out of 100 births ends in death in the US under this current healthcare system.
The Left wing Media is allowing the Right wing to control the ‘topic of the day’. FYI over half the country does not give a shit about the right wings thoughts- reason we rejected McCain.
The Left wing media is lapping up this elixer brewed by the Rightwing ‘dog waggers’ by even mentioning their pawns and puppets.

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By Rodger Lemonde, August 19, 2009 at 8:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Small loss. Broadcasting has evolved, life happens things change.
Now can anyone explain this?
When TV was free for all advertising picked up the tab. Now most of us pay for TV but the advertising is still with us.
Could it be that we are being had?

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By Rabbit, August 19, 2009 at 7:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When military propaganda masquerades as The History Channel and PBS takes ads promoting mountain top removal mining, it’s time to turn the knob to the left.

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By Anarcissie, August 19, 2009 at 6:53 am Link to this comment

As with newspapers, people seem to want to complain about content in order to explain the decline of television.  I think the problem has more to do with the economic model and the rise of new technologies which compete with the traditional mass media.  I still see television screens flickering in people’s windows, so they’re watching something, but it could be Netflix DVDs, games, or material from the Internet.  Or maybe the televisions are just playing to empty rooms.

Actually, though, it’s been several years since I read a daily newspaper or watched network television, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.

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By Allan Krueger, August 19, 2009 at 6:46 am Link to this comment

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I bet the programming

Narrow casting (cable) is a great idea if it offered something worth watching! And the monthly tab required to watch SPIKE TV (Pimp My Ride) and rest of the content aimed at trailer park residents! C’mon!

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By photoshock, August 19, 2009 at 6:35 am Link to this comment

To all of this, add the cost of the cable! Living in an area of the country that does not receive any signal from the major network’s tv stations, I am locked into the cable model.
This is shocking enough, but when the rates for cable are raised without input from the consumer, then it becomes highway robbery.
The programming of the cable and notwork companies is abominable to say the least and at worst is completely moronic. I, personally cannot stand the idea of ‘reality based programming.’ I did not watch and enjoy television on the basis of reality, I wanted and watched tv for the fantasy and science fiction based programming as well as the situation comedies.
Now, there are hardly any sit-coms available on the ‘big four’ and less and less dramas and good programming available.
To say that the notworks will survive until the middle of the next decade is at best a pipe dream and at worst delusional. The notworks cannot survive on reality based programming much longer, because there are only so many reality based programs that can be produced and watched, before the public rebels at the idea.
My answer to the raising of the cable tv rates and the horrific programming of today’s model, was to cut off the cable and watch live streaming programming or programs on the internet, I am 51 years old and remember tv like it should be, not what it is today.

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By The Old Hooligan, August 19, 2009 at 6:28 am Link to this comment

Crap like “American Idiot” and “Jon & Kate = Fake” dominate the ratings, while quality programming like Discovery and National Geographic usually go begging for ratings share.

“America the Beautiful” could also be called “America the Stupid.” Works for me.

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By Fat Freddy, August 19, 2009 at 4:19 am Link to this comment

TV sucks! Plain and simple. The only new shows worth watching are on premium cable like Dexter and Californication. Watered down versions like The Closer and Leverage are just that, watered down. Then there’s the movies. It’s the same old movies over and over and over again. And don’t get me started about “Reality Shows”. But the thing that really gets me is all of the advertising. It’s not enough that between 1/3 and 1/2 of the time allotted is commercials between programming, now, they have to advertise during programming with banners and pop-ups. Last year I sprung for a 50” Pioneer plasma. I bought it mainly for live sports, and that’s about all that is good for, except maybe Blu-Ray movies and video games. Network and cable TV are responsible for their own demise. Sub-par programming and excessive advertising make TV unwatchable.

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By Jeff Postal, August 19, 2009 at 3:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s a hellish combination of worthless newsertainment, police dramas, and reality aggression. Pure Crap!

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By ChaoticGood, August 19, 2009 at 12:24 am Link to this comment

If you have tried to watch broadcast TV in the last few years, this failure is no surprise.  Broadcast TV relies on passivity of the audience.  The younger and “younger thinking” audience is being pulled away by ever more active TV experiences.  First the 500+ channels of Cable TV, next the Internet/Interactive TV via twitter or something like it.
In a few years after the passive TV generation are dead, then the passive TV will die with them.  No surprises here. I don’t see why we should mourn their passing.

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By redspades, August 18, 2009 at 10:50 pm Link to this comment

What’s next?

The end of paper money, perhaps.

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