“… the only people watching a show — ‘Heroes’ perhaps — at the time it’s being broadcast by a network — say NBC — are the “saps and [expletives] who can’t figure out how to watch it in a superior way.”
It’s a fascinating contrast to his image from the writers strike, but that’s how Tim Kring “complimented” his viewers at the Creative Screenwriting magazine’s 2008 Screenwriting Expo. By referring to the couch jockeys that help make up the ratings as “saps and expletives,” all the while trying to explain away that the bad ratings for Heroes aren’t his fault. I think he’s trying to avoid the same ax that came along and took out 2 other writers from the NBC Heroes-wagon.
What does Kring mean by “superior way” to watch? He’s referring to online or recorded (DVR) programming where a show is watched later.
It seems that he’s scuttling his own boat of fans, but wait, he wasn’t done. He went on to ramble about how serialized drama only works if people sit in front of their TV sets at the time a network broadcasts each episode. There ya go. Now he included his bosses, the network. But enough about Tim Kring’s “Bill Shatner” impersonation.
While Kring attempts to alienate what’s left of his fan base, he does make an obscure point that is launching me into one of my rants.
A Bruce rant… (I mean, Observation) on Why We Have To Have Ratings and Marketing:
Today’s processes where you can either record something or go online and watch something later is the technology that is changing the landscape of television as we have known it. We are in the middle of an era of change (no, I don’t mean “Barack Obama” change, we’ve heard enough about that). But change is coming for network television as it’s being dragged into the new era of technology, kicking and screaming. This is a new era that they have to begrudgingly face and deliver product with.
But just when they start moving in the direction of appeasing advertisers and viewers, someone like Joss Whedon comes along with Dr. Horrible and makes one hell of a point about the lack of need for studio backing, advertising dollars, and what not.
Program ratings are just an avenue of measure for the advertisers who buy the time from the networks, but they’re not all buying the time on the web where the shows are also available.
It seems that no one has thoroughly pieced this together yet since they treat each entity as a separate piece. If they were to look at it all as a whole, adding up the metrics of live-watching with after-aired watching, shows would probably not be coming and going as fast as they are these days. They’d be given more of a chance and the “cancel” trigger wouldn’t be pulled so fast.
As it stands, we can record shows via DVR, TiVo or other avenues of delayed digital gratification, (DDG). Everyone can jump the ads anytime they want, and that’s what networks (and advertisers) don’t want or like. When you jump the ads, you are not brainwashed into shuffling out your front door zombie-like to go buy product ‘X’ off a shelf somewhere.
In 1998, $200 billion was spent on advertising and marketing and as a benchmark, spending on marketing has always hung around the 2% mark of the U.S. Gross National Product.
What has always befuddled me is that advertising works. If it didn’t, ads wouldn’t be there and all of television would be an expensive subscription service. From the numbers, can you understand why it is so important for the companies buying ad time?
Yet regardless of where advertisers buy their time, there are still issues. If we skip ads on TV and look at the idea of subscription television, it too has its flaws. It’s the same end result: Where people spend their money.
Money talks and the shows we really like – the top quality, complicated tales of drama go by the wayside because “the tribe has spoken,” as they say on Survivor. That tribe being the television watchers. That “tribe” usually wants to come home, eat dinner, sit down and unwind with mindless, easy to follow banter. At least that’s my take on the Nielsen family from what I’ve seen succeed out there. Hence why reality TV is such a successful niche. It’s fun, easy to follow, they spell it out excessively and we get to watch other people b*tch slap each other emotionally. Hehehe.
The writers’ strike has been blamed for a lot of deficiencies this year in ratings and I’m not buying it. Jericho took a ratings dive, but was a hit on iTunes. (Oh!!! By the way, bonus tidbit: The CW is bringing repeats of Jericho to Sunday nights starting November 30th.)
When a show does better on iTunes than on the network, that tells me people are tired of the timeslot in which networks air shows. People want to watch their shows on their own terms. We are a busy people with little or no time at the end of a long and busy workday. IE: Happy hour rules and so does quality time with the family, but we still want our shows… but on our terms. Thus the growing popularity of “time-shifting” via DVRs.
I think I have a spy in my office. While I’ve been putting this diatribe of an article together, the AP put out something similar today, so here’s a little bit more to the whole mess:
“Time-shifting” is a distinct growing trend. Right now it’s estimated that more than 30% of homes have at least one DVR. One network estimated that 17% of their shows were watched at some time other than when they were broadcast. (Pay attention Tim!) The most time-shifted show? 28% of the viewers for The Office record and watch later. The shows with the most time-shifted audiences are action shows and serialized dramas. Noted were shows like Fringe,Heroes and Grey’s Anatomy. Pop quiz: What’s the least time-shifted shows? Deal or No Deal (Love the outfits ladies!), 60 Minutes and King of the Hill.
The very act of time-shifting has kept The Office on the air. Otherwise it would have gone kaput! Yet DVRs also hurt new shows and they don’t establish themselves strongly enough to stay afloat.
The oddity of the DVR is that a show may be very popular, but it doesn’t earn enough. Strangely, CBS execs say that DVRs will become obsolete as TV’s and computers work together more and more. And strangely, they see these trends but seem mum on where things are going with this advent.
Though they speak heavily to the DVR, they seemed to leave out the presence of online viewing. The networks offer online versions of their shows with a few ads and there are a few sites out there that help you keep track of and view shows online, such as Hulu.com.
With Hulu, things are cool. I created an account, figured out how to add my favorites to my lineup, and Hulu emails me when my show is ready for viewing. I then go online and wala, settle in for my own show times. Right now, they have 24: Redemption ready for viewing!
So as these trends in marketing measures keep up and advertisers pull strings to get shows canceled because of their precious sales metrics, I have a prediction:
Some years ago, an older network, UPN (United Paramount Network) started showing their network logo in a semi-transparent fashion in the lower right corner of their broadcasts. Now this is ubiquitous – every single network does it.
Sooner or later, I anticipate that someone in the advertising world will finally talk to the right person somewhere and we’ll start seeing product advertising of a permanent nature within our television programs. It’s already happened on a few occasions in NASCAR when they ran a race from Lowe’s Motorspeedway in Charlotte, N.C. “uninterrupted” while showing advertising at the bottom of the screen. I think it was a test, but they told us it was a bonus. (What else would you expect from ABC, but DO NOT get me going about ABC’s treatment of motor sports.)
The Sci-Fi Channel constantly barrages us with distracting ad banners for their own shows that take up almost the bottom third of my screen. TNT does this too.
I think with the way ratings and advertisers disappointments are headed, this premise of logos in shows and ad banners at screen bottoms are going to be picked up by advertisers and integrated into the end product so that no matter how, where or when the product is viewed, viewers are going to be exposed to the advertiser and they (the ad moguls) get their exposure.
A Little Bit About Product Placement
Remember the movie, The Truman Show with Jim Carrey and Laura Linney, where the reality family would pick up a product and do a quick pitch when they used something? I can see it being that obvious and maybe worse down the road.
I can see it now, ala Truman Show: Clark Kent busts a door down, then stops to say “I’ll bet the homeowners here can get a replacement door from Summit Doors” and then blurs on in to save the family.
You think I’m off in the head? We have that in place now. A company called Motion Picture Magic (MPM) does product placement in movies.
The woman who started the company is a long time friend of mine and she told me how they got their big break in the industry when she got one of her unknown clients placed in a movie that helped their product sell like hotcakes. Except they weren’t hotcakes, they were Reese’s Pieces in the movie E.T.. We all know that story.
In this scene, Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds picks up a simple box, but that box/product placement was paid for. There is a lot of money exchanged between hands to get their product in your face.
It’s exposure like this that can generate business worth an advertisers wallet. As MPM puts it, they “… involve our client’s products or services in every appropriate set, as well as being used, held, worn, consumed by, or seen with lead characters as their implied product of choice.” Did you notice the word, “implied?” We’re barraged and don’t even realize it sometimes.
Associations and Sponsored (Implied) Use
Right now Ashton Kutcher is the pitchman for CoolPix digital cameras. Yet the last time I researched a digital camera prior to purchasing one, that product didn’t have the best rating over on Consumer Reports. People associate good things with Kutcher, and thus, the product.
Product “placement” goes beyond the screen. Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and whatever star(s) are at the top of the gossip totem pole get paid to show up at parties to give the party a reputation.
The LG House in Malibu, CA is nothing but a place where products are placed and stars are given access to for their party bashes. When the paps show up to snap pics, guess what? The products end up in the pics.
On November 3rd, 2008, Charlize Theron (Hancock, Sleepwalking, AEon Flux), settled out of court on a $20 million breach of contract lawsuit for wearing the wrong watch during a social event, ONE TIME. She was under contract from October of 2005 to December of 2006 to wear a specific brand and she slipped. That slip ticked off her sponsor and cost her a chunk of change.
Marketing is mind boggling in all the ways we are pummeled, but right now our focus is on television and even that may be threatened because I’ve just read somewhere that actors are being urged to go on strike. I wonder what brand signs they’ll be using to picket?
Mark my words, this is coming, and we will be powerless to do anything about it because that is how this whole kit and caboodle works. On the bright side if consumers were to actually research products and make more intelligent purchasing decisions, powers would be had by all. But then where would television be?
Now I must go and buy something… Not sure what yet. I’ll know it when I see it in Wal-Mart… must… stop… writing and… shuffle out door.