Tag Archives: Television

Should it be Illegal to Call Someone ‘fat’ on TV?

Jennifer Lawrence thinks so.

Take a look:

She certainly makes a good point. If we’re regulating other words that are spoken on TV because of the effect they have on younger generations, why not the word fat? I can already begin to see the argument against: “if we start regulating words like ‘fat,’ does this become a slippery slope into regulating other words?” While I understand that practically, regulating criticisms like ‘fat’ on TV might be a bit difficult, I think it’s certainly something interesting to consider.

I originally saw this clip as part of a bit from Morning Joe, but that doesn’t embed so well here, so I found a clip of Walters’ interview with Lawrence on YouTube. The actual bit I saw had some commentary from some of the folks who make regular appearances on the morning television program on MSNBC. As I said, I can’t embed that video, so take a look.

Similar to how the opinion can be understood of the “slippery slope,” the first fellow that speaks on the video that’s telling Jennifer Lawrence (and other celebrities) to ‘shut up’ because they always blame the media for everything — I don’t buy that. It’s not that the media’s at fault for everything, but as has been demonstrated, they certainly do have a large impact on the way that people feel about themselves. In particular, young and impressionable people.

As a result, someone who outright denies the possibility that the media can have an opinion on the way that young people (and even not young people!) can feel about themselves, to me, seems out of touch. To reiterate, I can see where this fellow is coming from, but putting that aside for a second, Jennifer Lawrence absolutely has a point. There’s certainly a culture of highlighting flaws that is perpetuated (not just in the media), but in our culture — and in particular, with young women. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: if you haven’t yet, take the time and watch Miss Representation. It’s an important documentary that I hope will shed some light on this issue.

To be clear, I’m not implying that people, the media, or our culture are necessarily perpetuating this attitude intentionally, but that doesn’t mean that there completely innocent, either.

Cable TV in Trouble? 43% of Young Adults Subscribe to Netflix

I’ve written a few times about TV, but a post from Mashable (with data!) convinced me even more that TV, or at least the viewers of it, are headed elsewhere. Take a look at the graphic below:

Pay close attention to the % of American adults who subscribe to Cable TV and Netflix. In particular, notice the 18-36 age category. For cable TV, 46% of this age group subscribes and for Netflix, 43% of this age group subscribes. The difference is negligible. We can also look at the subscription rates for satellite TV (16%) and then two other online sources: Amazon Prime (17%) and Hulu Plus (8%).

No doubt, some of the folks who subscribe to Cable TV may also subscribe to Netflix and other online sources, but it seems pretty clear where the trend is headed. In fact, if we look back at the Cable TV subscription rates across all age groups, we see a sloping line from the bottom left to the top right. If you’ll notice, there’s a decided decrease in Cable TV subscription rates from the older age groups to the lower age groups. Similarly, there’s the inverse relationship when we look at online places like Netflix and Amazon Prime. There’s a decided increase as you get into the lower age groups.

It’s 2013: Why Isn’t TV Live Streamed Online?

About a month ago, I wrote a post about the future of TV. I came to the conclusion that it was surprising that there wasn’t “live TV” online. That is, I am surprised that you can’t watch a TV on your laptop at the same time as you could watch it on your TV. Of course, I understand why that might not be the case right now (advertising, contracts, etc.), it seems like this form of entertainment is moving in this direction. When you take into account mobile TV, one has to think that live streaming TV shows is on the way, right?

It turns out that I’m not the only one frustrated by the lack of online TV streaming. Xeni Jardin, an editor/partner at Boing Boing (a rather popular technology zine), also shares this frustration:

As you can see, Xeni seems to think that we should be able to watch TV shows online at the same time that we can watch them on TV. This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request, right?

It turns out, many of you out there agree with Xeni and I:

Market researcher GfK says 51% of those 13-54 years of age watch a TV program or movie via streaming video platforms. This is up from 48% in 2012 and 37% higher than three years ago.

What’s even more convincing is that the data go on to show that many folks would drop their Netflix service if cable companies offered a similar service at a similar price.

It seems to me one of a few things are happening:

a) TV executives already know all of this, but have run the data a different way and don’t think that people would actually follow-through on what they say when they answer these polls. [Not necessarily a response bias, but something more to the effect of the people who intend to vote on election day, but don’t.]

b) TV executives know this and they’re trying to convince the right people (CEO?) that this is what they need to do.

c) TV executives don’t know about these data.

Option c) seems the least likely, but I suppose it’s possible. Option a) seems like it could be plausible, but my guess is that the majority fall into option b). As a result, there seems to be a window of opportunity for an enterprising network to take a leap of faith and capture a great deal of value. Who’s going to be first?

Chapter 5 – The Commercialization of Everything: What Money Can[’t] Buy, Part 5

About a week ago, I got back to the series I was doing about the chapters in Michael Sandel‘s book, What Money Can’t Buy. In the first chapter, we looked at things like when it’s okay to jump the line. In the second chapter, we looked at the difference between fines and fees. In the third chapter, we looked at fairness and inequality. In last week’s post, the fourth chapter, we looked at corporate-owned life insurance and placebos. In today’s post, the fifth and final chapter, we’ll look at the commercialization of everything.

I wasn’t expecting to come across sports in this book, so I was pleasantly surprised when the first few pages were about stadiums being renamed by corporate sponsors. I didn’t realize that this was a fairly new thing. In 1988 only three sports stadiums had been renamed by corporate sponsors. Sixteen years later, in 2004, there were sixty-six. The amount of money went up significantly, too. In 1988, the deals totaled $25 million, while in 2004, the amount came to a whopping $3.6 billion! In 2010, over 100 stadiums in the United States were named for corporate sponsors. So, in the span of less than 25 years, we went from 3 corporate-sponsored stadiums to more than 100.

Having grown up in Toronto, I still find myself referring to Rogers Centre as Skydome. 

This chapter also discussed the idea of athletes selling their autograph. In the old days, this wasn’t even something to be considered. Many athletes willingly signed cards and sports equipment (i.e. baseball, hockey pucks, etc.) for fans. Near the same time that stadiums were being renamed, some athletes were beginning to sell their autographs rather than giving them away. This may seem greedy at first, but consider that athletes from before the 80s weren’t necessarily making lucrative contracts. In fact, athletes back then were not only often paid much worse than athletes today, but they were more on par with what you’d be paid to be an employee at a “normal job.”

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The chapter then moves into a discussion of — in my words — the commercialization of everything.We’re now seeing advertisements and commercials in places we wouldn’t have ever imagined. For instance, when you pump gas, there’s a TV above the pump feeding you advertisements. Or how about when you’re driving down the highway. It’s kind of hard to ignore some of those catchy billboards, isn’t it? Then, there’s the always in vogue idea of product placement. Some of the places you find product placement was a bit surprising. I didn’t know that police stations were in talks to have cars with advertisements on them nor did I realize that in some state parks around the US are there advertisements for things like North Face.

I was surprised to read about some of the commercialization in the US, especially when I know that in some states, there’s a ban on billboards (Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont). Moving outside of the US, I know that some countries (or maybe the citizens of those countries) have a real aversion to commercials seeping into unwanted places. For instance, São Paulo in Brazil hasn’t allowed public advertising since 2006. I also know that TV commercials in Germany aren’t nearly as frequent as they are in the US. On most German TV stations, there can’t be more than 20 minutes of commercials (before 8pm).

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The last part of the chapter ends the book almost exactly the way I would have [Emphasis added]:

Once we see that markets and commerce change the character of the goods they touch, we have to ask where markets belong — and where they don’t. And we can’t answer this question without deliberating about the meaning and purpose of goods, and the values that should govern them.

Such deliberations touch, unavoidably, on competing conceptions of the good life. This is terrain on which we sometimes fear to tread. For fear of disagreement, we hesitate to bring our moral and spiritual convictions into the public square. But shrinking from these questions does not leave them undecided. It simply means that markets will decide them for us. This is the lesson of the last three decades. The era of market triumphalism has coincided with a time when public discourse has been largely empty of moral and spiritual substance. Our only hope of keeping markets in their place is to deliberate openly and publicly about the meaning of the goods and social practices we prize.

In addition to debating the meaning of this good or that good, we also need to ask a bigger question, about the kind of society in which we wish to live…

At a time of rising inequality, the marketization of everything means that people of affluence and people of modest means lead increasingly separate lives. We live and work and shop and play in different places. Our children go to different schools. You might call it the skyboxification of American life. It’s not good for democracy, nor is it a satisfying way to live.

Democracy does not require perfect equality, but it does require that citizens share a common life. What matters is that people of different backgrounds and social positions encounter one another, and bump up against one another, in the course of everyday life. For this is how we learn to negotiate and abide by our differences, and how we come to care for the common good.

So, if you prefer not to get too deep into a discussion of inequality that focuses on wealth, then I’d encourage you to think about the ideas that Prof. Sandel is talking about here at the end of the book. He’s just spent the last 200 pages explaining how markets (in some places), to some people, are corroding the value of these goods. Regardless of which side of the fence you fall down on, maybe it’s time we start talking about this. Maybe it’s time to have a dialogue in the public square of more moral and spiritual substance. Of course, this might not be as easy as it sounds, as he says, the last three decades have been void of this.

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If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.

 

Musings on the Future of Cable News

After reading Kelefa Sanneh‘s piece in The New Yorker that took an in-depth look at MSNBC, it got me thinking about what I wrote a few days about about the future of TV. In that post, I mostly talked about the idea of moving television programs to online streaming or mobile streaming. I didn’t, however, talk about the idea of unbundling TV packages and allowing people to choose which networks they wanted.

This is one of the the things that Sanneh briefly touches on in his article. In particular, he questions whether the unbundling of TV packages would hurt cable news programming. That is, would CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News keep their heads above water if they weren’t part of a bundle? For instance, Sanneh tells us that FOX News (the leading cable news network since 2002), gets about half as many viewers as the lowest-rated network news program. That’s significant. Would FOX News survive if it wasn’t bundled? Might it do better if it weren’t bundled?

Chances are that cable news — barring something unforeseen — would be in trouble if TV packages became unbundled.

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About a quarter of the way into the article, Sanneh has a quote from the President of MSNBC that I find rather startling. I’ll include the lead-in, so the quote makes sense [Emphasis mine]:

“I’m building for the future,” Griffin said, not long after the switch. He was sitting in his office, reviewing a series of promotional clips that highlighted Hayes and the network’s other stars. “You’ve got a young guy who’s incredibly smart, who’s got a following,” he said. “We’re making a bet that this is what our audience wants.” 

The startling part is the bit that I’ve bolded. I don’t understand that a company as big as MSNBC would be gambling in the way that Griffin claims to be. They’re making a bet that this is what the audience wants? They don’t have the resources to find out if that’s what their audience wants? Maybe Sanneh hasn’t included the whole quote, but this to me makes it sound like Griffin is being a bit cavalier with the most important time slot.

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FOX News consistently outperforms other cable news networks in an older demographic: 35-64. Take this past Monday’s cable news ratings, for example. FOX News outperformed all the other cable news networks in this demographic at every time slot. The closest any network came in this demographic was in the 9 o’clock hour when Hannity beat The Rachel Maddow Show by over 200,000 viewers. I don’t know how to put this delicately, so I’ll say it like this: what happens when this demographic “passes on?”

Yes, FOX News still outperforms the other networks in the coveted 25-54 age bracket, but their lead is substantially smaller. The largest lead FOX News has is during the 8 o’clock hour and that’s a little more than 250,000 viewers (over the next closest show). If I were Roger Ailes (or the guy who was likely to replace Roger Ailes), this is something I would be thinking considering, in addition to the prospect of unbundling TV packages.

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The last thing I wanted to talk about is this idea that those people who MSNBC is trying to reach may not like cable news or TV:

One explanation for MSNBC’s struggles is that the network is trying to do something nearly impossible: it is a cable news network for people who don’t like cable news, and may not even like television.

MSNBC, in its current format as I understand it, is still quite new. It’s only recently switched over to a more partisan-esque feel. I wonder if there’s still a bit of a lag before the viewers they’re trying to reach will show up. I also wonder if TV does start to move in a new direction (simultaneous online streaming), will this open up a new audience for MSNBC? I’m particularly interested in MSNBC because of this idea that the people who MSNBC is targeting are those people who wouldn’t normally watch cable news or TV. I wonder if these people had another avenue to watch these programs, would they?

 

There is No Spoon: The Future of TV

I don’t watch much TV and part of this is precipitated by the fact that I don’t currently own a TV. The TV that I do watch, however, is, for the most part, online. [Except in cases where I’m visiting someone who has TV and we’re watching something together.] Shows that I started watching years ago (when I had a TV) like Grey’s Anatomy or The Big Bang Theory often post the full episode online the next day. This is very convenient as I’m not required to be in front of my TV on a Thursday night to watch these shows.

I always find it disappointing when a show that I might be interested in does not have an online version. This got me thinking about what the future of TV might be. I remember seeing a PPT from Business Insider at the turn of the new year (to 2013) that analyzed the way people use technology. That is, it took into account mobile devices, TV, computers, etc. The trend, as you might guess, is to mobile. More and more people are using their phones for things. As a result, there’s certainly money to be made in advertising in the mobile arena.

Then I thought, why haven’t TV shows made the leap to mobile? Or, why is this leap taking so long? If more and more people are using their phone to interact with the world, then wouldn’t it behoove TV networks to start making their content more accessible on a mobile device?

As I’m moving back to Canada in the next few weeks, I’ve been looking at cell phone plans. [Note: it is outrageously more expensive for mobile plans in Canada than in the US!] One thing I noticed was that Bell (one of the telecommunications companies in Canada) has an option just like I was thinking. You can watch live TV on your cell phone. After seeing this, I thought I’d look at some of the US companies to see if they had it and sure enough, they have this, too.

As it turns out, companies have already made the leap to mobile and it’s moved faster than I thought (I guess that’s what you get when you don’t have a cell phone for 4+ years).

My next thoughts move to the internet. There must be lots of people like me who like to watch the shows online the next, otherwise they wouldn’t be available like they are. So, I wonder if there’s rumblings of moving to live TV internet. That is, instead of posting the video the next day, why not broadcast the show online at the same time you do on network TV?

I’m sure there’s probably lots of red tape with this kind of an option as advertisers have paid to target certain demographics at certain time and so on and so forth. But wouldn’t this open up a whole new market for TV networks — people who’d prefer to watch online?

I came across a Kevin Spacey speech a few days ago that talks about this very fact.

[Note: The first half of the title is a famous line from the movie, The Matrix.]

Markets Are Cyclical: Why the Internet Monopolies Don’t Matter (that much)

Survival of the biggestThere was a nice feature on Technology in this past week’s Economist. In fact, there were a number of articles I found intriguing (medical tricorders was a good one!), but I want to draw your attention to one in particular: Battle of the internet giants – Survival of the biggest. The case is made that these internet behemoths are getting too big and that their scope needs to be curbed. Okay, I understand that, but I think that the fear is a bit unfounded. Here’s why.

Remember back to when railroads were the only way to get around? Remember when all commerce and long-distance travel was done by locomotive? Now, I don’t know if this is a perfect comparison, but bear with me for a second. There were at least a few big players in the railroad game back in the 19th century (Union Pacific, Central Pacific, and Southern Pacific). I’m sure that there were people back then who were irked that there were monopolies in the railroad business and probably wanted there to be more regulation (like is being argued in the article about the internet).

However, with the turn of the 20th century, a new form of transportation was starting to emerge: the automobile. It didn’t happen overnight, but the automobile eventually became a much more preferred method of transportation.

There’s another example: television. Remember in the early days of TV, there were just a few channels? If you had a TV (and you watched it), you probably saw the same program that everyone else who had a TV was seeing. Again, I don’t know, but I imagine that some folks were pretty peeved by this monopoly. Although, slowly but surely, there came to be more and more choice of TV channels. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where we’re unlikely to ever see the most watched television program eclipsed because there’s so much choice.  Though, some would argue that there still are monopolies in television.

And now what’s starting to breach the monopolies of TV? The internet and online media. There was a slide deck that was passed around courtesy of Business Insider earlier last week that shows the future of digital. There were lots of graphs and lots of data. One of the graphs showed that the percentage of live TV watching has dropped 25% in just the last 4 years. Conversely, recorded TV watching is up over 50%! And a new category has emerged: streaming TV. Whereas there was no streaming TV watching in 2008, it now makes up 7% of primetime viewing in the US.

So, even with all of this choice in television, there is still room for newness and growth.

Tying this back into my argument about the internet behemoths: maybe we can’t see it now, but based on history, I would bet that there’s going to be something that comes along (eventually) and unseats these internet behemoths. Of course, that’s not a reason not to regulate them, but it is something to keep in mind when you see articles like the one in last week’s Economist.