Thursday, May 31, 2007

Why network ratings are down this year

The current TV season is over and viewership is down, even for hit shows. Needless to say the networks are concerned. A lot of theories have been bandied about as to why – long hiatuses, reruns, DVR’s, lack of quality shows. In an attempt to really get to the bottom of this I spoke to several network executives who spoke candidly but would not give their names, either to me or to each other.

They only agreed on one thing: the problem wasn’t the programming itself. Every show they put on the air was good. Their testing proves it. They concede that sometimes it’s hard for audiences to immediately connect with a show. For instance, not many people it seems are familiar with the concept of BINGO and might need a couple of viewings to pick it up. But once they do, wow, are they in for a wild ride!

These however, are the factors that have resulted in diminished ratings:

SUNSPOTS – Dark spots, some as large as 50,000 miles in diameter, move across the surface of the sun, contracting and expanding as they go. When they expand they tend to cause interference that effects reception, specifically during comedies.

McANGUS BURGERS – Consumers are spending more time in Mickey D’s enjoying this new sensation. As a result they’ve gotten out of the habit watching prime time television earlier. Networks are confident there will be enough blocked arteries to eventually reverse this trend.

NO WINTER OLYMPICS – Viewers flocked to this special event. Networks are concerned it’s only in the winter and only every four years. To rectify, they are considering THE FALL OLYMPICS for November and the SPRING OLYMPICS for May, and staging them annually. A February WORLD SERIES is also on the drawing board. Major League Baseball just has to be convinced it’s better to play the WORLD SERIES before the season. But knowing MLB, if you pay the owners enough they’ll agree to it.

CARS – It has always bothered the networks that viewers are distracted by having to watch the road. They are getting automakers to install more TV’s in cars and developing shows disguised as GPS systems.

TIVO – Viewers program their own “Wish Lists” and networks are realizing “George Lopez”, “Forced Single Camera Comedies”, “Katie Couric”, “Behind the Scenes at SNL”, “Complicated new dramas starring Kim Raver”, and “British Import Game Shows” are not on them.

JANET JACKSON – Her wardrobe malfunction at the Superbowl means Evagaline Lily and Elizabeth Vargas have to keep their clothes on.

YOUTUBE – Networks have discovered that viewers like their programs in two to five minute bytes. Trying to make that work to their advantage they’re experimenting with five minute shows coupled with 25 minutes of commercials and promos to fill a half hour. “Thinking outside the box” is how they’re putting it.

TIME WARNER CABLE – It’s down as often as it’s up.

EMMY CONSIDERATION DVD’s – Academy members would rather watch DVD’s of their favorite shows than the shows themselves. When reminded that Television Academy Members comprise only .000000000001% of the American public, networks are quick point out they’re the most important viewers.

PEOPLE HAVE LIVES – This threw the networks big time. They were shocked that viewers did not have seven-week attention spans and would focus on something else besides HEROES or JERICHO if they were on hiatus for two months.

And finally, the chief cause of viewer defection:

BLOGS – Viewers would rather come to blogs like this one and read about television than watch it. And unlike the networks, I can show THIS!

29 comments:

Lane Q said...

Hey Ken -- there was someone who sounded JUST like you being interviewed on the Angels' pre-game radio broadcast tonight. Obviously their producers can't take a hint. After you practically pleaded for an opportunity to do some more play-by-play, we learn that Rory Markus is ill and unable to do the game. But did they ask you to stick around for a couple of hours? NOOOOO. They stuck Gubicza (can I buy a vowel, Pat?) in the booth instead. Next time you gotta MAKE SURE that Terry Smith's fajitas contained more than just chicken, onions and peppers.

--- Lane

RAC said...

Umm… is that Michael Jackson's new breast implant?

Rory L. Aronsky said...

That looks more like a diseased McAngus burger.

Willy B. Good said...

I've had to put this blog on seven seconds delay after that nipple pic gave me very impure thoughts about Janet Jackson mmmmmmm

benson said...

I see the picture and think, Ken, will you play "Here comes the Sun"?

John said...

Viewers were just afraid this season they'd tune into prime-time network shows and wacky special guest stars Rosie O'Donnell and Elizabeth Hasselbeck would show up (though if they had shown up on "24" to be Jack Bauer's latest torture victims, cumulative prime-time ratings would have gone through the roof).

Anonymous said...

"Can" and "should" are two different things. I'm very happy that blogs are not under FCC control, but in the interest of not grossing people out, maybe a smaller version of that pic would have been a better call. Yuck!

WF said...

I still give thanks that Ms. Jackson's breast popped out JUST as anti-Timberlake Ninja assassins unloaded with the throwing stars.

Heckuva catch, Jackie

RAC said...

Anon,
How exactly are nipples gross in the slightest in our enlightened day and age?? Except for Meatloaf's character of "Bob" in Fight Club, I mean?

OTOH, everyone also has an anus, and the only way I want to see one of those is on my doctor's colonoscopy monitor. Maybe not even then!

Another thought (my apologies - my major in English is forcing me to post this):

Before the New World became quite so prudish in its tastes, Jonathan Swift (in Gulliver's Travels, 1726) gave us a practical, earthy reason to be grossed out:

I must confess no Object ever disgusted me so much as the sight of her monstrous Breast, which I cannot tell what to compare with, so as to give the curious Reader an Idea of its Bulk, Shape and Colour. It stood prominent six Foot, and could not be less than sixteen in Circumference. The Nipple was about half the Bigness of my Head, and the Hew both of that and the Dug so varified with Spots, Pimples and Freckles, that nothing could appear more nauseous: For I had a near sight of her, she sitting down the more conveniently to give Suck, and I standing on the Table. This made me reflect upon the fair skins of our English Ladies, who appear so beautiful to us, only because they are of our own Size, and their Defects not to be seen but through a Magnifying glass, where we find by Experiment that the smoothest and whitest Skins look rough and coarse, and ill coloured.

Did that make it into the Ted Danson mini series? The FCC would just faint away…

tb said...

Ken, why do the Angels helmets look like they've been blow-torched? I'm serious, this has been bugging me for a long time, I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

>>I must confess no Object ever disgusted me so much as the sight of her monstrous Breast, which I cannot tell what to compare with, so as to give the curious Reader an Idea of its Bulk, Shape and Colour. It stood prominent six Foot, and could not be less than sixteen in Circumference. The Nipple was about half the Bigness of my Head<<

As we used to say in college, "anything over a mouthful is wasted". However, it looks like if you tried to get Janet's in your mouth, you'd need a surgeon to remove it. Thanks for the pic, Ken.

Alaskaray

Louis Castaing said...

Should we take it that none of the suits mentioned 500 choices on cable and DVDs of the same shows without the commercials, watched on your own schedule? Network viewership is becoming increasingly meaningless.

The business model is moving away from commercial support to subscriptions-only or a combination of both. I already pay to watch programs with commercials via cable, although with my DVR, I don't actually have to watch the spots.

Obviously, it's possible to produce good programs profitably for small cable network audiences, both commercial and subscription. And you don't have to what until Saturday night to see a re-run.

One of these days, the four major broadcast networks will be thought of as cable channels just like USA, A&E, and ESPN.

With the cable penetration growing, are broadcast stations and networks still necessary?

Michael Zand said...

Here's another way to look at the picture:

The star is a deadly spider that has latched on and bitten a man's nipple causing massive swelling in the guy's breast.

Tom Quigley said...

Thought since this year's shows were so bad, and next year's don't seem to be much better, I'd offer my own suggestions on what I'd like to see (Fox, take note):

THE AFTERVIEW – Rosie O’Donnell and Star Jones team up to show just how obnoxious they can be on their own talk show dealing with women’s issues by continuing their boorish habits and bitching about Barbara Walters, Donald Trump, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, and any other thing they can think of on the face of the earth in this fun-filled “Hari-kiri, I’ve killed my Careeri” talkfest…

CELEBRITY STRIP SEARCH: Each week, host Geraldo Rivera takes us to a different holding cell at a Los Angeles County jail as we watch the latest Hollywood glitterati get booked and undergo the standard procedure. Ratings are almost guaranteed to spike any week Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton get nabbed; the weeks they haul in Nick Nolte and Gary Busey, not so good…

A WHALE OF A TIME – Two care-free and adventurous talking humpback whales surf up and down the west coast of America, exploring our nation’s inland waterways, generally causing chaos and tossing insults at observers on the riverbanks… Tim Conway stars as the frazzled Coast Guard commander who is forever trying to chase them back out to sea, aided by his not too swift crew played by Ashton Kutcher and Matt Le Blanc, with Judd Hirsch as the single-minded marine biologist who only has the whales’ best interests at heart .... It’s a laugh a minute as the leviathans constantly outwit their human counterparts, with voices of the whales provided by Bob Saget and the ever-popular (and always in-demand) Joe Piscopo….


THE LONG, LONG KISS GOODNIGHT – Not to be confused with the hit movie starring Geena Davis, in this heartwarming series for the whole family, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play a caring couple who adopt the entire nation of Senegal, and then spend each complete episode tucking them in, giving them their ration of water, their teddy bear and their binky… Now and then, U2 lead singer Bono stops in to croon a lullaby and blow out the country’s entire power grid with his sound rig. Special cameo appearances by the U.N peace-keeping forces and the American Red Cross…


THE FORTISSIMOS – Three musicians from the Newark Symphony Orchestra decide they can make more money by opening a gentleman’s club and bumping off critics who didn’t like last night’s performance of Wagner’s “Tannheuser” Overture. Veteran actor Ben Gazzara is cast as Frankie Obligato, the group’s ringleader, a man tired of playing second fiddle until the orchestra’s first violinist turns up hanging from a chandelier in Carnegie Hall. Al Pacino, in his first starring TV role does a convincing job as the orchestra’s general manager who constantly bumps heads with Frankie. As a special sweeps month attraction, tenors Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti are discovered floating in the Hudson River, and are mistaken for two care-free and adventurous singing whales who are surfing up and down the east coast of America, exploring its inland waterways…

The Curmudgeon said...

There is a niche for the networks: Show programs that people can watch without embarrassment and with any family member that's at home -- no overt sexual references, no gory violence, and no nudity (and especially no nudity from Dennis Franz). Oh sure, some may say with a sneer, bring back the 1950's. But my response: People still watch Leave it to Beaver. Jack Benny is still funny.

Nor does avoiding coarse language, skin, or graphic violence prevent a creative person from exploring grown-up (I won't say "adult" because the word has been irretrievably damaged by the porn industry) themes: Arguably the sexiest scene in motion picture history came when Lauren Bacall asked Humphrey Bogart for a cigarette in "To Have and Have Not."

(HBO and Cinemax can show the stuff some people watch when the kids are safely asleep.)

If the networks want to remain in broadcasting they should look at the word literally and direct their efforts at the broadest possible population.

But instead, next year, if the Danes get away with it now, expect Fox and ABC to have different body parts donation shows.

Seymour said...

"People have lives"?

Surely not. That can't be it. I speak as a viewer, and I have no life at all.

Anonymous said...

>>>Here's another way to look at the picture:
The star is a deadly spider that has latched on and bitten a man's nipple causing massive swelling in the guy's breast.<<<


Think we could get Weird Al to parody that?!

HOB

emily latella said...

Just post a boob pic and watch the responses pour in...

I'm pretty sure nipple rings don't come in sizes, so undoubtedly Janet was custom fitted. Could you please interview the craftsman who fashioned and fitted and refitted and refitted that sunburst...

Tough job but somebody's got to do it.

Anonymous said...

"There is a niche for the networks: Show programs that people can watch without embarrassment and with any family member that's at home -- no overt sexual references, no gory violence, and no nudity"

Booooring. I watch television for the entertainment, and while that stuff doesn't entertain by itself, when used properly it adds to it. If you get embarrassed by someone talking about their sex life, that to me suggests you have unresolved issues you should try to work out.

Ian said...

I think that's the Brainbug from "Starship Troopers"...

Anonymous said...

The networks will continue to decline in viewers until they start buying better programs... and that won't happen until they stop hiring execs whose ONLY talent is in being gay or being a minority, or both. Start hiring people who ARE good at their job, and stop hiring people who LOOK good in their job. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's very "un-pc" to say that. How come the truth is always un-pc... oh yeah, because it's the TRUTH.

Anonymous said...

You've got a point, looks only go so far. Most of the fluff and buff will reel me in for a look but after about twenty minutes of their flat personality, not only do I have no life but, now I'm bored.
Do us a favor Hollywood, break the mold.

HOB

Dwacon said...

The concept of Network TV has to go extinct as the future is a pool of programming surfed by eBots that seek and find entertainment that fits the individual's profile.

VP81955 said...

rac said...
Before the New World became quite so prudish in its tastes, Jonathan Swift (in Gulliver's Travels, 1726) gave us a practical, earthy reason to be grossed out:

"I must confess no Object ever disgusted me so much as the sight of her monstrous Breast, which I cannot tell what to compare with, so as to give the curious Reader an Idea of its Bulk, Shape and Colour. It stood prominent six Foot, and could not be less than sixteen in Circumference. The Nipple was about half the Bigness of my Head, and the Hew both of that and the Dug so varified with Spots, Pimples and Freckles, that nothing could appear more nauseous: For I had a near sight of her, she sitting down the more conveniently to give Suck, and I standing on the Table. This made me reflect upon the fair skins of our English Ladies, who appear so beautiful to us, only because they are of our own Size, and their Defects not to be seen but through a Magnifying glass, where we find by Experiment that the smoothest and whitest Skins look rough and coarse, and ill coloured."


Which probably explains why Daryl Hannah's underwear mysteriously enlarged proportionally with her during her character's initial growth in "Attack of the 50-Foot Woman," even if it was on HBO. Big breasts are okay...until they become Brobdingnagian breasts.

Mike Barer said...

If I remember, you actually had to close in and magnafy to even see the nipple.
Our culture can be real embarassing sometimes.

Ken Levine said...

ATTENTION:

The robots at blogger.com have temporaily frozen my blog accidentally flagging it as sending spam. They've been alerted that it's not and now I wait while they review it.

I'm getting less and less enamored by blogger.com

I hope the problem is resolved soon.

Ken

Ken Levine said...

ATTENTION!!!

I HAVE MOVED!!!!!

At least for the moment and if blogger doesn't resolve this soon I will move permenantly.

My temporary new address is:

http://kenlevine.typepad.com/blog/

Please check in. I'm posting there.

Thanks. Sorry for the inconvenience. I am really pissed.

Ken

Jet Tredmont said...

Interestingly enough, a few days later the real reason comes to light:

Ratings are "down" because they have not been updated to include the 45% of viewers who time-shift via Tivo-esque devices, nor even the 33% of viewers who time-shift and still inexplicably watch through the commercials.

All the network drama for nothing ... the problem is with the luddites designing the surveys!

dusman said...

what the he!! is that? it doesn't look confortable thats for sure!

Only Sexy Celebrity Babe Pictures