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December 22, 2008
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I am so immature. Today My Sexy Fiancé Veronica ™ and I stopped off at McDonalds on the way to a Xmas family thingy. Whilst there I was getting a refill of my Orange Lava drink and a small 5 year old boy with both his parents was saying “I want a fruit drink! I want a fruit drink!” so I says to the kid “Oh yeah, well I HAVE a fruit drink….” And walked away. Moments later, as I sit back down with My Sexy Fiancé Veronica ™ I hear that same kid screaming at the top of his lungs in protest. Apparently he didn’t get his fruit flavored beverage. Well kid, it sucks to be you because I got another refill after that. I so rule and the only thing that kid did better than me was suck and go thirsty.

Last night I wrote four chapters of my new book. It’s a dissertation on multimedia today, how we got here, the affects of it all, and the influence of popular culture upon itself. I have thoughts, and I want to get this out there too. Some of my writing about television have been picked up and read. I was surprised to get a phone interview over a blog I wrote about the state of television today (several months ago) and it was printed in Media Biz’s last issue.

Speaking of which, several events in the world of Television need to be addressed. First off with NBC’s announcement that Jay Leno will move to prime time will have ripple effects on the traditional TV business model. A little backstory, a few years ago Jay Leno discussed with NBC a possible retirement date of Spring 2009. NBC, in the interest of saving money decided not to revisit the conversation with Jay to see if he was still going to leave and just pretended it was a done deal and announced it. Conan O’Brien is set to take over the Tonight Show as was pre-ordained. That is until Jay Leno decided he didn’t want to end his run.



Combine this with a completely altered landscape of network television. Execs fully acknowledge that the business model has been changed permanently. The Internet is not just a fad. If last year’s writer strike proved anything, it’s that people have a lot of alternatives to the old reliable network TV. DVR’s and Tivo ™ have also reshaped the landscape in a way that even VCR’s didn’t do with 90% saturation in the market in the United States from the 1980’s to the last few years.

Jay Leno is going to be Monday through Friday, but at 10:00PM, thus eliminating 5 hours of programming… and their production costs. One hour dramas, which typically play the 10:00PM timeslot and have for decades, these cost a lot of money, somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million per episode. In some cases, the shows are not owned by the network themselves, so DVD sales and syndication returns belong to someone else. Warner Brothers produced E.R., the 10:00PM slot holder for NBC for 15 years, and NBC (now NBC Universal) doesn’t see a penny from DVD boxed sets or the repeat airings on TNT, or whatever Turner cable network airs the syndicated episodes.

So what does this mean? NBC is cutting down their programming and annual production budget by a significant percentage next year. If they are successful, the other networks will follow. With the recession in full swing with little sign of let up anytime soon, expect cable networks to similarly cut back.



And now for some MORE bad news in Television. SAG, the Screen Actors Guild looks to be promoting the idea of a strike for all union actors in January-February 2009. Last year’s writer’s strike was crippling to the industry and it has not fully recovered from the aftershocks. One of the things it revealed is that the current crop of the most coveted demographic of 18-35 year olds are a fickle bunch. Take away the shows they like, they are more likely to replace them with something else than demand a settlement. Everyone loses.

So if SAG goes on strike, it’s my belief they might hurtle the television industry into a more permanent loss of viewership for the future. If shows like 24 or LOST get interrupted by a strike, the fan base might just hang up their spurs and call it a day. There is a chance that since the majority of the membership of SAG is day players and the people who need the minimum wage for union actors, the strike might not go through. These are the people who cannot survive the current economic climate without a regular payday and hopefully don’t want to cut off their nose to spite their face.



Everyone can lose in this scenario. It’s the wrong time SAG. I understand that they are fighting for revenues of the future, but they aren’t there with the Internet yet. Fight for them when everyone can afford the struggle, not now. The tactic of trying to squeeze right now won’t work and the studios deep pockets will get lean soon enough.

This isn’t even taking into account the basic idea that the entire system of television has been eroding for decades. Once advertisers figure out that they are not getting their money’s worth from commercials because less and less people are watching, but they are paying more and more money – watch out. Television’s business model is outdated and crumbling before us.

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