Friday, May 29, 2020

Friday Questions

Last FQ’s in May. Savor them.

Brian leads off by asking:

How soon before the networks, who are all putting out their own pay-for-streaming channels, transition slowly to streaming only and broadcast vanishes completely? (Or, if not completely, becomes the least desirable platform.)

I can’t even say for sure when it’s safe to leave my house, but I have the same prediction you do. At some point things will flip, and new shows will premier on the networks’ streaming channels and then re-appear on the broadcast network.

I think we’re a few years away from that, but this pandemic could easily hasten or slow that process by one or two years.

Seems to me it’s a safe bet though that five years from now television, as we know it, will be very different. I hope I can get out of my house by then.

RyderDA wonders:

On your advice, I've been listening to Rick Bro Radio and Great Big Radio; they're both awesome, so thanks for the recommendation! But a question regarding them: they are advertising free, and free to listen to. I don't understand the business model. If they are paying license fees for the music they play, that's gotta be funded somehow. So how does it work?

The honest answer is that both Rich Brother Robbin ( and Howard Hoffman ( lose money. Their stations are a labor of love. And as long as the royalty fees aren’t too exorbitant, I suspect they’ll keep pumping out the hits. They do it because they love radio, love to entertain, and love the music that radio, in its futile quest for demographics, has forgotten.

Both Rich and Howard are providing a great service. If you would like to donate to either or both, I’m sure they’d be very grateful.

From cd1515 comes a baseball question. 

If you were still doing games, how tough would it be to do them now with no fans in the stands?

And what do you think about announcers doing games remotely from a studio?

It would be extremely hard to call games from an empty stadium. The crowd really provides the excitement, both to the announcers and the players. Players talk about “the tenth man” – they really do feed off the energy of the crowd.

Same with announcers. In the minors I’ve called games where the stadiums were essentially empty. It’s very difficult. You feel like you’re in a vacuum.

And if there are no people in the stands, why not call the game from home or a studio? Especially for the older announcers – why put yourself at risk? How well will stadiums be sanitized? Even with a reduced crew you still need stadium operations people, you still will be in close quarters in elevators, and small broadcast booths.

Then there are the other logistics. Will everyone be quarantined in a hotel? How sterilized is the hotel? Will hotel workers be quarantined? Will stadium operations crews be quarantined? What about travel? How sterilized will team buses be, and airplanes?

So if I’m an announcer and know that the background sound will be the same at my house as it would be in a stadium, then I’d rather do it from my living room.

Yes, I’ll miss daily interaction with the manager and players, but I can Zoom so I’ll still have my pipeline to the skipper.

Jason Benetti of ESPN is calling those Korean League games from his house and he sounds just fine. (Although he sounds great whatever he does.)

And finally, from -3- :

With everybody hunkered down to avoid the Trump Flu, is traffic going up on the archives? Or is it just old weirdoes like me reading through?

Readership is up, which sort of surprises me. A large percentage of my readers log on at work during business hours. Sure, many can still work from home, but quite a few can’t and have lost their jobs. I was expecting my traffic to go down. But happily it has not.

Podcasts, on a whole, have gone down during this lockdown. That surprises me too. You figure folks would now have more time to catch up on podcasts, but most people clearly must be listening during outside workouts or commuting under normal conditions.

Fortunately, my numbers on HOLLYWOOD AND LEVINE have held steady, and I thank you for that. I’ve got some nifty guests coming up – a comedy writer who’s had a very colorful career, and an eight-time JEOPARDY champion who won $228,000.

What’s your Friday Question? Stay safe. Wear your mask.


Tyler said...

I can personally attest to my podcast listening going down, at least initially. About 3 weeks into the pandemic, I realized how big my queue of unlistened-to episodes had become.

I'm fortunate to still have my full-time job but it's not one where I can listen to podcasts while working, and it's only a 5-minute drive to work most days. The big culprit, though, was my gym closing combined with the weather here being way too cold and windy to work out outside initially, and so I fell behind on my listening.

Kendall Rivers said...

Friday question: The funny thing about tv is how everyone has complete different viewpoints about what's good, what's funny, what's bad, what's overrated, underrated etc. Is there a classic beloved show that everyone just adores that you feel is completely overrated and a super under the radar show that seemingly no one remembers or cares for that you feel deserves more love and attention? For me the most overrated show in the world is Friends. I liked it as a teenager but as an adult I find it generic and not nearly deserving of such focus as many other classic shows including my most underrated: Amen which is still hilarious after all these years and though was a hit when it aired deserves more spotlight now.

Tom said...

Friday question: This has probably been asked before, but in later seasons of MASH, was there ever any talk of bringing Wayne Rogers, Larry Linville, or others back for a guest appearance, like Shelley Long did with the Cheers finale?

CopleyScott said...

A question for you (and please forgive me if you have already weighed in): What are your thoughts on the end if "Brockmire"? I know you reviewed and enjoyed it when it debuted -- in fact, I discovered the show through you, for which I'm eternally grateful. I think they went off the rails a bit in the final season, but all in all it was a fantastic show, probably ending at the right time.

Andrew said...

"A large percentage of my readers log on at work during business hours."

Aw sh-t, you can track us?

Just don't let my boss know. Or the NSA.

Paul Gottlieb said...

Re: Korean Baseball. I heard a radio interview the other day from a former major league player who ended his career playing a couple of years in Korea. He said that what we're seeing when we watch Korean games is a just pale shadow of the true Korean baseball experience. He said that in normal times, the stadiums are packed with noisy, rabid fans, who have a lot of organized cheers and chants. A lot like World Cup soccer, I guess. He said that the fans were what made paying in Korea so much fun.

sanford said...

Regarding Rich Bro Radio. It seems like they had an app at one time but it never really worked. I listen to it on the APP Radio Box. I also have the APP Radio Tunes. They have at least 3 stations that have oldies. They have a ton of other stations to listen to as well. I haven't used Radio Tunes in a while. They do have advertising. But I don't know if they can get enough to pay for the music. You can pay for premium and avoid commercials. If they are making any money off that it would seem to be from paying for premium. And supposedly you can can the best quality audio.

Pat Reeder said...

Your comment about the fans providing the excitement at baseball games reminded me of the episode of "The Simpsons" where Homer went on the wagon for a month. He went to a baseball game and during an endless game delay, moaned, "I never realized how boring baseball is when you're sober!"

Troy McClure said...

Ken, have you seen the HBO documentary series McMillions? I recently watched it and it's one of the most breathtaking documentaries I've ever seen. It's about the McDonald's Monopoly fraud that was uncovered by the FBI.

The breakout star of the series is FBI Agent Doug Mathews. This guy is absolutely hilarious. He cracks jokes and keeps laughing at the absurdity of some of the things that happened in the investigation. The guy needs his own show.

If you haven't seen it, check it out. I'd recommend not reading anything about the case online to refresh your memory. That way, all the twists and turns will come as a surprise.

Anthony Adams said...

@Pat Reeder In opposition to Homer, my dad was shocked to find out that he still like baseball when he was sober.

No said...

Just chuckling at the irony of having questions posted about declining media next to promotions for "Must Kill TV". It's good to laugh again.

But more seriously, I don't think anyone knows what we're in for in the next few months, let alone years. We only know that things will be different. I honestly hope that rational heads prevail, because it will be tough for everyone, even the ones too dim to know it.

Michael said...

About announcers working from home, a couple of precedents.

One, anybody heard of recreations? Red Barber would sit right by the ticker so the audience could hear it, so they'd know he wasn't faking being at the ballpark. And his broadcasts may have been the most popular ever.

1A: When Jaime Jarrín started doing Spanish language radio for the Dodgers, he didn't travel to the games. He was in the studio, listened to Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett, and translated. And they would talk to him between innings and before the game so he could add some additional color.

Two, Curt Gowdy had terrible back problems and at one point missed a large part of a season with the Red Sox. They had him work a game from home, where he watched on TV and Bob Murphy, his partner, had a phone line where he could tell Gowdy what was going on.

Three, Mike Krukow has a neuromuscular disorder and no longer can travel. This year, the Giants were going to have him do some games from the studio with Duane Kuiper.

Troy McClure said...

Frank, we can make a safe guess on what will happen in the next few months.

Trump will continue golfing as thousands more Americans die.

Racist cops will kill more unarmed black men and get away with it because MAGA.

Trump will continue to be a threat to the First Amendment, which his supporters will cheer for "showing dem libralz".

The GOP will continue to do nothing about any of it.

On a happier note, at least we have the new Bill & Ted movie to look forward to.

Wally said...

I'd guess that less drive time = less podcast listening time. That's my issue. I wake up later, have less time between then & work from home & am way behind.

Katie G. said...

This is unrelated to anything Ken, but I wanted to let you know that after well over a decade of reading your blog daily, it permeated my subconscious. I hate when people tell me about their dreams, so sorry. Last night I dreamt that I check your blog but got a notification it had been removed! I refreshed the page to find that it was in fact still there, but was now just an advertisement for the census. Happy to see it's still up and running per usual this morning!

Katie G. said...

After my last comment regarding my dream, I did some checking to see how long I have been reading your blog. I hate to make you (or myself) feel old, but I started reading your blog in 2005 when I was 15 years old and the world's biggest Cheers fan scouring the internet on my parents' desktop computer for any and all Cheers related info (I miss old Nick at Nite). Anyway, I'm now a 30 year old lawyer. Never would have guessed I would still be here on the daily, but your content is worth it. Thanks for the years of excellent content and for helping me absolutely KILL at trivial pursuit for the past 15 years.

Jeff Weimer said...

I have a feeling we may see some existing streaming-only content this fall, just due to the delays from the Coronavirus. That content is already in the can, and most people haven't seen it. CBS has already "revived" the Sunday Movie, they could easily throw their All Access stuff like Star Trek if they really need to fill the time - and they will.

BTW, a (very) niche streamer, Motor Trend, has already done this. A lot of their content ends up later on the Motor Trend TV channel. They're doing it now with Overhaulin' and have done it for Wheeler Dealers. I'm not sure if the other Discovery properties are doing the same thing, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

A lot of podcasts, like radio, are mobile listening. Heavy drop in commuting, heavy drop in listening.


No said...


I certainly share all of your pessimism. The GOP and the unmentionable POTUS will only ramp things up and make our world worse. I really want to know, what are the sane people going to do? Because I don't see anything but chaos in the near future if there isn't a concerted effort.

MikeN said...

New England Journal of Medicine has recently published a paper that wearing a mask is useless outside of a medical setting.

Spread of coronavirus requires prolonged exposure from a close distance. Brief interactions at stores or on the street will not do so.

Ted said...

CBS has already done this with "The Good Fight," which streams on CBS All-Access. They broadcast the first season on the network last year during the summer programming doldrums.

But that's a high-minded legal-political drama with a relatively low (I'm guessing) potential viewership. I doubt they'll ever broadcast the new "Star Trek" continuations, since those are probably the only reason many fans subscribe to the streaming service.

Edward said...


Since you have been podcasting for 3.5 years and it appears that you look at the statistics, what episode is the most/least popular?

One podcast host mentioned that the downloads for his show dropped significantly when he had a guest, so guests were dropped.

DBenson said...

On remote broadcasting: In 1954, Buffalo Bob Smith, star of the Howdy Doody Show, suffered a heart attack. Since his condition ruled out the rigors of the long commute and full-scale show, they built a little television studio in his basement so he could make live daily appearances with minimal stress. He'd tell the Peanut Gallery (presumably watching monitors) that he was on a secret mission. He returned full-time in 55.

OrangeTom said...

In our third month of quarantine yesterday, was reduced to killing time with my teen son in the basement watching via Roku what appeared to be the Beverly Hillbillies pilot from 1962. Big shock was Granny working blue. At least three jokes in the first half of the show about the size of Elly May's breasts and the effect on her shirts. Seriously. Seemed more like an episode of Three's Company from a decade later. So, Ken, my Friday question is was such humor more common in 60's sitcoms than I remember.

DwWashburn said...

I also listen to an on-line oldies station called The owner of the site is always complaining about royalties that he has to pay to play the music as well as expenses just to keep the site up. He recently started broadcasting on (didn't know they were still around) as well as his own site.

He still has a drop about every ten minutes requesting that listeners donate so he can stay on the air. Since I've been listening he has said more than a dozen times that if he doesn't reach a certain goal by the end of the month he will have to go off the air. He's never reached these goals and he always stays on the air.

Janet said...

Here's a FQ for you, Ken, based on your answer this week about the changes in broadcasting and streaming series: if you had to make an intelligent inference, what do you think TV (including streaming) will look like in 5 years?

Charles Bryan said...

In case no one has mentioned it, the new HBO Max has a section of movies curated by TCM. Amongst them: VOLUNTEERS. Of course I added it to my watch list. I might watch it tonight. (I saw it during its theatrical run, and a couple of times since.)

Mike Barer said...

I imagine crowds in Baseball help you by giving you a chance to catch your breath without having dead air. You can just mike up the crowd noise.

gottacook said...

MikeN and others: Regarding the efficacy of masks, I'd advise reading the following overview of COVID-19 transmission research, from Science (27 May):

Keep in mind that there is a lot of transmission of this virus by asymptomatic people. If both the asymptomatic exhaler and the uninfected inhaler are wearing masks, there's a good chance of no transmission.

Be smart.

MikeN said...

I read the Science article. It seems to be more a summary of other papers rather than original research. The NEJM article I mentioned above did not have mask wearing as the focus of their paper either.
There is also an NIH study that says asymptomatic transmission is unlikely. This is hard to believe, and I'm a little suspicious of the bias of the researchers, because Fauci is on record not believing China's claims on this. If there is asymptomatic transmission in any significant form, then Fauci's refusal to believe China's statements is the primary reason for all the deaths in the US. The claims about China and WHO lies are not correct.
For example, China did not ban domestic flights from Wuhan while allowing international.

The issue of mask vs non-mask is the type of setting. You need extended contact. I was particularly talking about grocery stores and on the street.

gottacook said...

MikeN: I think it's going to be a long time before there's any consensus about how much asymptomatic spread of disease has occurred until now. How could it be otherwise, given the difficulty of collecting data?

If you're so primed to blame Dr. Fauci for U.S. deaths, one can infer that you're not blaming the jerk who told the nation that "the 15 [known U.S. cases on February 26], within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero," among other examples of wishful thinking.

Anonymous said...

At some point things will flip, and new shows will premier on the networks’ streaming channels and then re-appear on the broadcast network.

This already happens with some programmes on the BBC; on the day the first episode is broadcast the entire series will be available on the eye-player, so you can either watch it all on-line or over the next few weeks as they rest of the episodes are broadcast.

And of course a few years ago BBC3 was taken off broadcast entirely so anything commissioned for that has premiered on-line. Some have later been broadcast and some not. But as anythig commissioned for BBC3 is invariably rubbish nobody really cares.

MikeN said...

Cook, I covered that here before. That quote is taken way out of context. '15 down to 0' is a reference to the specific 15 cases.
But yes, there was lots of hopeful thinking.
Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, who know China well reacted instantly and their numbers are much lower, despite being closer.

JS said...

"The Last Dance" is an example of a show that premiered on cable and has moved onto broadcast (ABC). It's already begun.

Unknown said...

RichBro Radio seems to be off the air. Do you have any info about this?


phil broughton

By Ken Levine said...

He is having technical difficulties and will be back on soon. Thanks for your patience.