The Return of Mass Media?

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.

First, the numbers. ESPN takes in around $8 billion a year, of which $2 billion or so is advertising related. That’s right, about 75% of ESPN’s revenues are related to carriage fees, only about 25% for advertising. For CBS, Les Moonves expects a fifty percent split between advertising and carriage fees. Hence the fights between CBS and Time-Warner cable, over what CBS will be paid for each subscriber. This compares to just a few years ago of a more traditional 70-30 split, with advertising being the 70% figure.

The LA Dodgers sports network, the Lakers, and other teams are just part of that action (add in the Pac-12, and other college sports alliances). Money is made not from advertising but by requiring cable and satellite companies to pay up big bucks for carrying the content.

This is why cable or satellite bills can easily breach the $100 a month figure, or easily more than $1,200 a year just to watch television.

And therein lies a problem, and an opportunity.

Consumers are already cutting the cord, so to speak. According to the New York Beta Times, 90% of households pay for TV, but about 4.7 million subscribers will have cut the cord in 2013; about the same percentage of subscribers. And this should trouble both networks and cable/satellite providers. The reasons for cord-cutting are simple: Your Scary Ass Chart of the Day. Real, U6 Unemployment (adding those no longer looking for work) is around 12% or so. Not even welfare pays for cable.

A ninety percentage penetration rate means there is not going to be any growth in subscribing. Indeed the only way forward is down. Fewer subscribers, fewer viewers. And a yearly cost of $1,200 or more makes cutting cable or satellite attractive. Even for those with jobs, downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on necessities (courtesy of QE forever, thanks Mr. Fed!) will inexorably cause people to dump cable. Subscribers can only shrink, not grow. And as they shrink a vicious circle will cause greater price rises for those remaining to cover increased costs of content. Just like ObamaCare.

Digital TV means a lot more channels on free-to-air, and internet streaming and (highly illegal but commonplace torrent downloading) offer a lot of alternatives. For now, streaming via low-cost boxes like the Roku, are dependent on good internet service and incur costs related to higher bandwith usage. I am sure a lot of users download torrents off their corporate accounts to watch various illegal downloads of say, “Mad Men” or “Game of Thrones” without paying bandwidth fees. South Park’s creators already offer ad-sponsored streams of their entire output, new episodes available within days. [ABC has now pulled new episodes until two weeks after airing.] But it is possible to see episodes of “Pawn Stars” and “Grimm” and the general run of broadcast and cable television without paying for a monthly cable or satellite subscription. It is more tedious, time consuming, and nasty do so but it can be done. And at $100 a month or more, it likely will be done.

And that is where digital TV comes in. Instead of each network affiliate or independent station having only a single broadcast frequency, it now has about three or even four. Coverage up to 30 or 40 miles is good, and with more expensive antennas consumers can even reach signals up to 60 miles away. Unlike analog which degrades gracefully, digital is either excellent, or garbage, the signal when too weak giving pixilation and freezing. However, signal boosters and better antennas (a legacy of WiFi research) means even a weaker signal can be boosted and not bleed over like the analog signals of old.

Which allows a savy business the opportunity to offer a competing product at a lower price. The PTEN Network was undone by time limits on existing Fox affiliates, often being forced into late-night broadcasts, competition from cable/satellite, and the withdrawal of Chris-Craft stations into UPN.

A few signature shows, such as Netflix’s “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black,” and “Alpha House” which air exclusively on their internet streaming service, would be all it takes to launch such a show. Already, Cosi TV, This TV, Ion Network, ME TV, Antenna TV, and more offer cheap, long-ago content on national broadcast networks, said content ranging from the 1950’s (the Rifleman and Highway Patrol) to a few years ago (Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Cold Case).

The switch to Digital TV made analog TVs into doorstops (unless paired with a digital TV converter box) but has its advantages: mainly a lot more signals that can be broadcast by each station. Instead of one, again there are three or even four. And with said converter box, most stations come in acceptably in suburban areas, even with a cheap pair of rabbit ears. Much better with the old analog rooftop antennas.

In the LA area, some stations have even four subchannels. Much of the content is Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Iranian, and other stuff of little interest to national broadcasters (given the small size outside LA of all but the Spanish language market, and dominance of the latter by Univision and Telemundo).

The opportunity here is to create a national, new-content (which cannot be streamed or found anywhere else) broadcast network. One offering perhaps to start only three days a week (Sunday through Tuesday) broadcasts and taking advantage of all that signal space and dead air to fill. With the cost to consumers of … nothing. No cable fees. No bandwidth fees. “Free to Air” or the traditional model of Over-The-Air Television that started with the first broadcasts in the US in the 1920’s. Perhaps even offering niche sports which can be broadcast cheap: Rugby, international hockey, tennis, etc.

Yes, think of that. No fees, and no costs other than the TV and converter. [Some converters even have a PVR function with a USB hard drive attached, very convenient.] More resiliency during storms and bad weather (the bane of satellite and cable both).

And critically, such a network would require mass to eventually make money. Not carriage fees.

The current model of TV rests on the assumption that the US consumer will pay and pay and pay ever higher fees to maintain revenue growth, or even just revenue stability, as higher costs from content providers get passed on. And it rests on the assumption that no challenger will arise to produce alternative content delivered for free.

Much of what is wrong with today’s television, its Politically Correct jihads, its female-gay domination, its anti-mainstream, “diverse” content, is because TV relies on businesses not consumers for money. CBS, NBC, ESPN, TBS, CNN, etc. have as their customer not the viewer, they care but not overly much if people watch, but the satellite and cable providers.

This is why television sucks so much. People don’t tune in for a PC lecture? No problem, Time-Warner and Dish and DirecTV will still pay up. Just to get the content as a package. Even ala-carte pricing, paying just for what you want, would not fix that problem. True, it would deep six channels such as Oprah’s (OWN), and likely leave only one surviver among WE, Lifetime, Hallmark, and Oxygen. It would probably also kill MSNBC. But it would still leave TBS, TNT, USA, etc. around not to mention NBC and CBS, with the binding effect of PC in place. Because there would be no penalty and payoff for being a mass media.

Walter Cronkite, being a flaming liberal, would have been happy to push gay marriage, trans-gender “rights” and the whole of anti-White, anti-majority, anti-national agenda of the elite class we have and have had since the 1950’s at least (and probably back to the 1920’s). What restrained Cronkite from turning CBS into a podium for all-gay, all the time, and all that goes along with that (like “White guys are the source of all evil”) was money. Money sure to be lost as viewers deserted en-masse and sponsors dumped CBS for alternatives like NBC or ABC. Since the cost of switching was as close as the TV dial.

What America needs is a revival of culture. Of mass culture, which reflects for better and worse, the biases and desires and nobility and failings of the White middle class majority. Not fabulously outrageous personalities from New York and LA, or various racial tribunes, or men and women whose entire existence is based on shocking Daddy.

In my view, this can only come from a revival of the mass media model. Where money is made (or lost) based not on subscriber carriage fees but viewers watching. With the more watching, the more money. And vice-versa. A return to mass won’t fix America overnight. But it won’t make it worse. And it would kill off shows like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and “Tyler Perrys’ The Haves and Have Nots.” And that would be a good thing.

About whiskeysplace

Conservative blogger focusing on culture, business, technology, and how they intersect.
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15 Responses to The Return of Mass Media?

  1. Monroe Ficus says:

    I’ve always wondered why CW affiliates, which outside of prime time air reruns of popular mass market sitcoms such as Seinfeld, bother airing two hours in primetime of programming aimed at a totally different audience (young women). Its like at 730 its Seinfeld or some other mass market sitcom, then two hours of chick crap, then at 10pm another batch of mass market sitcoms. MNTV, Fox’s programming block that airs on the former Chris-Craft (now Fox owned) stations and other former UPN affiliates seems like a better fit for the former independant UHF stations.

  2. Mike says:

    I question how many people are actually watching digital TV on the air. Since I have cable (for now) I have not been paying attention to the over-the-air TV market. Digital TV does require a special antenna, and I don’t see a lot of them for sale in electronics stores.

    • No special antenna needed. Just a digital converter for NTSC, analog sets.

      Ads suggest lots of retired, similar budget minded people. But Deutsch Welle and NHK both have digital subchannels in LA. Offering upscale ads and programming.

      Fourteen dollar rabbit ears work just fine.

  3. Macho says:

    Not gonna happen, no way. Even if broadcast digital is very good people would rather watch netflix or hulu. We are looking at more digital ghetto-ization, not a return of the mass media. Look at the WWE network that is coming soon. For 10 bucks a month you get all pay per views, original programming, and the back catalog of basically all wrestling from the eighties and later. Under normal circumstances each WWE PPV costs 50 dollars (60 for wrestlemania) and they have one a month. Evidently, they’ve done the math and realized they can make way more money with an internet subscription than the traditional PPV model.

    DirecTV has come out and threatened to stop carrying WWE pay per views over this. This is going to be a big test case in a large company (wrestlemania is one of the biggest pay per views of the year and WWE programming has some of the best ratings on cable) taking its product direct to the consumer. I predict it’s going to do very well.

    The future is more netflix, more hulu, and more competitors trying to build a streaming service with their own IP. The internet is only getting faster too with google fiber and verizon FiOS just around the corner. I saw a graph recently that said that 6 companies control the media right now. Expect that to be 2-3 in 10 years as cable subscriptions are eviscerated by the bad economy and a la carte services.

    • The problem with all of that is bandwidth charges. Its OK for a streaming pay-per-view, if you have good connectivity and don’t get drop-outs and pay the extra charges too much. There is not much competition for digital bandwidth provision; thus the ability to lower prices for content delivery hits the same problem that cable/satellite has — no real ability for competition to lower prices.

      On the other hand, once built up (and they already are), transmitters have continuing operating costs but no marginal costs of delivering to more customers. Viewers once they buy a digital conversion box and antenna, which can be done cheaply, can view content without monthly fees.

      I do agree that the WWE will be quite successful. But Netflix, Hulu, Roku come up against bandwidth limitations in a very big country where build-out of fiber and cheap bandwidth for now is not in the cards.

      Say, Deutsch Telekom, or Vodafone, or even some entreprenuer, could launch an ad-hoc network using say, a sub-channel in each market, for one or two hours one day a week. If House of Cards can premier on Netflix’s streaming service, why not some “edgy” content that is non-PC but not sexually or violently explicit (thus outside FCC purview) and much, much cheaper? Start with a niche market and expand. That is a way for content providers to get around gate-keepers and grab the entertainment dollar.

      Even with Roku, you still incur bandwidth charges, and telecoms are already throttling streaming. If you have poor DSL/Cable service for intenet access, you are screwed.

      Much of the crumminess of the entertainment options offered is because defacto vertical integration remains, providing semi-monopolies and high barriers to entry into the market. No real competition means insiders get to deliver a moral lecture instead of competitive entertainment.

  4. Milo Mindbender says:

    I have been on “Amish Cable” since I moved here in 1994. I see cable one weekend a month when I travel for duty. I do not feel deprived, and f the last 8 years cable just became available to my location. I save the expense every month, and do not feel as though my lofe is diminished in any way. I get 10 channels on open broadcast, and it cost only the electricity to watch my antique 27 inch analog TV, I will go digital when these TV’s break, but I can not see buying a replacement for a working TV
    SIGNED a Cheap SOB

  5. fee seas says:

    some cellular chipsets suporrt fm. maybe digital tv wouldn’t be hard to add?
    video when out of ip range or meager bandwidth usage is used up.

  6. Hizzle says:

    I haven’t had a TV in years. I have a PC, and when I want to know what’s going on in my homeland, I’ll go to YouTube and watch Taggeschau. Other than that, I have Netflix, which I mainly use to watch old TV shows as a sleep aid (usually MSTK 3000 or Antiques Roadshow). When I want to learn, I read a history book. If I really have an affinity for a movie, I’ll either order a hard copy through Amazon or I’ll buy the movie through their On Demand service, for my library (they allow you two downloads, and I usually give the second virtual copy to a friend).

    I don’t need HBO, because I get my fights streamed, and I don’t want HBO because the insular office politics of DC and the banal lives of nepotistic bobble-heads in Greenwich Village does not move me.

    I suspect more and more people are “dropping out.” I think I’ll go watch Hard Times with Charles Bronson, right now. Every time I watch a Bronson flick, Lena Dunham gets a blackhead.

  7. Jay says:

    I think more people will watch illegal streams of shows as the economy craters. If you have a good internet connection, then you don’t have to even get torrents of popular shows, you can just go to file lockers/cyber lockers and stream the shows you like for free.

    Consequently, the large cable providers will start going out of business in the future, and more content will be switching to digital-only providers.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The large cable providers are the ones who provide the bandwidth for the internet. With net neutrality dead the cable companies will start being able to charge a lot more for bandwidth. Netflix and the like are in trouble over this. So the costs incurred by Netflix will be passed on to the consumer, and/or the increased cost of bandwidth from cable companies will be used to shore up their failing cable TV model. Yup your internet price just went up.

    The only real solution to this is if Google would roll out their fiber to more than one city, or Verizon to roll out theirs as well. Verizon is about as trustworthy as a TWC, and well Google really doesn’t care about your privacy and will sell you out. Its how they make their money. All in all the consumer can expect to keep getting screwed.

  9. OralCummings says:

    I just came across an old copy of GQ,in which there is an article talking with the actors and creators of “Cheers”. Its very interesting to hear the behind the scenes stuff-like Woody Harrelson banging chicks at Kirstie Alleys house,John Ratzenberger rudely rejected but talking his way onto the show,Ted Danson’s beta trying to create a Sam Malone alpha,Kelsey Grammer being accosted in public as the “pin dick trying to break up Sam & Diane”, and the fact that the Sam-Diane dyad was mainly a happy accident,the show otherwise headed for the crapper-but truth be told,Cheers SUCKED! I never liked it,I didnt care about Diane or Sam. I liked Long from her famous Chicago furniture commercial,but thats where she peaked for me. The only funny thing about it was the pin dick,Frasier. I loved the Frasier show.(I was shocked when Niles came out as gay) The only good thing about Cheers was the final show where they were with Jay Leno and quite drunk. It reminded me of the night Ed McMahon was drunk on the Tonite Show. Carson did the famous joke about mosquitoes preferring passionate people to bite and Ed slaps his arms,stealing Johnnys punchline. Point? I guess…a show can be iconic but to me it may suck.

  10. L82dagame says:

    Whiskey, I want to know how you rectify your belief that young white women swoon exclusively for black men, and how you think they are the best singers; with the fact that of the top 15 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 not a single one was released by a black artist (not including featured artists). This hasn’t happened in at least 40 years, as throughout the 70s and 80s there was always at least 1, and usually 3 or 4 black artists with a big hit in the top 10. In the 90s, most of the top songs were released by blacks; sometimes occupying 8 or 9 of the top 10 sposts. I first noticed that blacks were dropping out of the top 10 in 2012, and it seems like that trend is continuing. Black artists have jumped the shark.

    Billboard says they rate the songs this way “The week’s most popular current songs across all genres, ranked by radio airplay audience impressions as measured by Nielsen BDS, sales data as compiled by Nielsen SoundScan and streaming activity data from online music sources tracked by Nielsen BDS. Songs are defined as current if they are newly-released titles, or songs receiving widespread airplay and/or sales activity for the first time.”

    The top 15 songs, not a single one was released by a black artist (not including being featured).

    1. Timber, Pitbull Featuring Ke$ha (Latino man)
    2. Counting Stars, OneRepublic (White men)
    3. The Monster, Eminem Featuring Rihanna (White man)
    4. Dark Horse, Katy Perry Featuring Juicy J (White woman)
    5. Say Something, A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera (White men and white woman)
    6. Let Her Go, Passenger (White men)
    7. Royals, Lorde (White woman)
    8. Wake Me Up!, Avicii (White man)
    9. Demons, Imagine Dragons (White men)
    10. Story Of My Life, One Direction (White men)
    11. Team, Lorde (White woman)
    12. Pompeii, Bastille (White men)
    13. Roar, Katy Perry (White woman)
    14. Wrecking Ball, Miley Cyrus (White woman)
    15. Burn, Ellie Goulding (White woman)

    Totals: 7 white male artists, 6 white female artists, 1 Latino male artist, and 1 collaboration of a white male and white female artists
    OneRepublic is as white as it gets. Their video for Counting Stars has over 135 million views, nearly twice as much as their next biggest video

    • early2dagame says:

      Are you from Indianapolis?

      Also, you seriously looked through the weekly billboard charts all the way back to the 60s? Do you have a social life?

    • Wow that’s a big change from just a few years ago when every White woman under 45 was playing the most obnoxious rap. I would not say that White women exclusively swoon for Black guys, but that Satoshi Kanazawa’s study replicates real-world results. Black women and Asian men the least desired, Asian women and Black men the most.

      Obama would have been “President Kerry” had he been White. Since he’s Black, White women swoon for him even more then Clinton. And that’s with Obama being fairly effeminate in public, and quite possibly the worst closeted gay man in history since Liberace.

      Given the toxic level of self-esteem, manifest incompetence at g loaded tasks, and highly aggressive nature of most Black men (i.e. fairly Alpha), it is imperative that White guys drop the beta male metrosexual pajama boy stuff and get more Alpha. That means controlled, not full rage-out, Alpha domination as a matter of course. Because the competition is pretty high.

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