Consolidating industries are usually a mark of stress. The Defense industry is notorious for it, trying to reduce competition and cut costs through economies of scale (and screwing over the government customers). The abortive tie-up, since abandoned, of EADS and BAE is a prominent example. The idea being to eliminate or reduce competition and with near monopoly pricing, jack up prices for governments (which is exactly why the German government killed it). Economies of scale matter too, with just one administrative overhead, and often shared factories (with losers closed) but the idea of monopoly pricing is the main motivation. So too with the Comcast deal for Time-Warner Cable.
And here it is not just screwing over retail customers, who will indeed get screwed over, but content providers who will now have one less competitor for exclusive rights to live sports and scripted series, and outfits like Amazon and Netflix (by preventing their streaming content from enabling cord-cutters). In a way, this growing monopoly power of cable giants is good. Because monopolies are really only talented in screwing over customers, to the point where they seek out alternatives left and right. And anything that helps hurt what Stuff Black People Don’t Like called the “Opiate of the Masses” (which is sports not religion) can’t be all bad. And believe me, ever higher prices for the NFL and MLB and the NBA will accomplish just that — price based switching. And maybe, just maybe we will go back to the future. Of broadcast TV, only digital.
The Financial Times (if you are not reading it you should be, it is while a liberal newspaper far better than the WSJ or NYT, admittedly a low bar) had last week a series of articles illustrating the growing civil war among the elites and near elites. Over what else, money? While for Conservatives this might be a popcorn moment, divisions and anger among elites and near elites offer the ability to peel off significant portions of the ruling, elite/near elite/non-White poor coalition that has driven the Western nations to near collapse.
The reason is that the elites are running the entire West into a destiny called Venezuela. Oh, the West has more money to start with and a higher educated and smarter population. But the destination remains the same. And the very elite policies of globalization (aka depress wages for all but a few superstars via H1-B workers and mass cheap labor on the low end), mass immigration and destruction of manufacturing (to chase cheap Chinese labor) in service to a Colors of Benetton post-National utopia, have undeniably destroyed the lives of near elites.
Now, what did Machiavelli advise in this case? His advice to the Prince was to kill people rather than make them poor and leave them alive. Dead men can’t fight back, while those made poor remain eternal enemies.
In Britain and the US alike, the screwing-over of near elites, the teachers, nurses, university professors, etc. has begun in earnest. And it is no longer possible for elites to buy them off with anything other than cultural goodies of “sticking it to conservatives” in terms of gay marriage, racial dogma, and the like. Even that is starting to fail. With interesting results.
France is engaged in a desperate struggle to shut up a comedian. Not because the Francois Hollande regime disagrees with anything he says, per se. Rather, because Dieudonné M’bala M’bala tears apart the myth of Political Correctness and Diversity. M’bala M’bala shows concretely what Diversity really means: Hitler.
Mass media was so Twentieth Century. When people watched three broadcast networks, read a few national newspapers, listened to a few massively popular styles of music and Top 40 artists. From the 1930′s onward, America had a very broad media that shaped intimately people’s desires and feelings and viewpoints. That changed, starting in New York City in the 1970′s with the advent of Cable TV (itself a response to poor broadcast reception in apartments and buildings in heavily urban NYC), and continued apace in the 1980′s with launch in Fox Broadcasting in 1986, and the launch in 1994 of UPN, and 1995 of WB (since combined to form CW). Cable and Satellite TV grew and grew in the 1990′s and 2000′s.
But the dirty little secret of Television is that ratings don’t really matter anymore. I was puzzled with survival of Veronica Mars and Gossip Girl on UPN/CW and the CW respectively, with the renewal of Veronica Mars for its final season being the lowest rated renewal at that point in history, around a million or so viewers, and less than half a million often tuning in for the final two seasons of Gossip Girl’s first-run (not repeat) episodes. The secret? Carriage fees rather than ratings are the key to profits for cable and broadcast networks. But the continuing high cost of cable and satellite could revive the old concept of a mass-media broadcast network. Which has the advantage of being better priced at a time when Dollar Stores are getting too expensive for Americans.
Few things in life are so easy and pleasurable as television. In particular, arc-oriented dramatic television. Where a movie can offer a transient two and a half hours at most experience, and generally by two hours has hit the boredom button, dramatic television with an arc-orientation can provide up to 15 and a half hours of entertainment over a typical 22 episode, 42 minute (less commercials) season.
And because a TV show can cost “only” $3-4 million to produce per episode, or “only” $66-88 million, with significant amounts (generally about $2 million or so per episode) paid by networks to production houses in licensing fees, which amounts to a net cost of $22-44 million), production teams can take risks that movies just can’t.
Oh not risks in special effects, gorgeous scenery, great cinematography, “brand name” actors, and the like. You won’t see Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr., or Brad Pitt on series TV as a regular any time soon. Nor the special effects of Thor, the Avengers, or the Lone Ranger remake. No, I’m talking story content and character, together. Over 22 episodes and 15 and a half hours. That is where TV shines. And beats movies every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
The Financial Times, the day before Christmas, released a fairly stunning analysis of globalization by John Gapper. As Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit says, read the whole thing. In summary, the piece notes that the winners of Globalization are the top 10% of income earners in the West, and the poor in China and India. The loser are the White Western middle and working class, and the sub-Saharan poor.
Gapper’s attitude seems to be, “well this is all good because rising inequality among the West is balanced out by helping Chinese and Indian peasants.” Common cause with Gideon Rachman’s view that “of course” Western leaders should favor the global (non-White) poor over their own citizens, and Tyler Cowen’s desire to build favelas for everyone outside the top 10% earners and make them eat cheap beans. Because there is not enough money for the middle and working class anymore, and besides, if people are worth anything they would be economists writing books.
What threatens the global elite party is nationalism. Which is building on the massive failure of elites to deliver even a flat level of living standards for their people in the West. One might ask the Romanovs how well elites work when they deliver declining standards and destruction. Or the Communist Party Oligarchs, conversely, on how much people will forgive when their daily lives improve. Continue reading
New York is dead. Las Vegas is reborn. And the lesson is that walkable cities are just a demographic shift away from destruction, while car-based cities are resilient.