7 things people get wrong about the Internet and TV

Discuss

111 Responses to “7 things people get wrong about the Internet and TV”

  1. dequeued says:

    I have to disagree.
    Myself, any many others have never paid for cable television, and generally don’t watch over the air television.

    But I still watch lots of tv shows, it’s just that I download them.

    Maybe this stuff is true for the over 30s.

    But, if I do get a dedicated tv, it’s just going to be a video viewing monitor.

  2. foobar says:

    You sound like a newspaper executive circa the late nineties/early aughts.

    Yes, the internet isn’t going to make you the kind of money TV does now. When we say the internet is replacing TV, we mean it’s replacing TV for us. Not necessarily you.

    I really don’t think you realize how much bile Hulu generates outside the US. It’s legitimizing piracy.

    • mikecyber says:

      You made a couple good, valid, points. But then you ruined everything you said with “I really don’t think you realize how much bile Hulu generates outside the US. It’s legitimizing piracy.”
      Hulu is supported by NBC and others. Hulu has the permission of the networks of the shows it offers. Anyone who looks at Hulu and decides that they are an example that legitimizes or legalizes piracy is incorrect.
      Again, Hulu offers ZERO pirated material, and to think otherwise is idiotic.

      • foobar says:

        You made a couple good, valid, points. But then you ruined everything you said with “I really don’t think you realize how much bile Hulu generates outside the US. It’s legitimizing piracy.”
        Hulu is supported by NBC and others. Hulu has the permission of the networks of the shows it offers. Anyone who looks at Hulu and decides that they are an example that legitimizes or legalizes piracy is incorrect.
        Again, Hulu offers ZERO pirated material, and to think otherwise is idiotic.

        You’ve missed the point. If the networks allow Hulu to block non-Americans from watching their shows though legitimate channels, how willing do you think they’ll be not to sail the high seas?

      • Osno says:

        I think you misinterpreted. When I (who live outside the US) want to go and legally watch a show on Hulu and get the “you’re not good enough to watch this show because you’re not a proud American”, that drives me to piracy. I think that was the point.

        • Aloisius says:

          I think you misinterpreted. When I (who live outside the US) want to go and legally watch a show on Hulu and get the “you’re not good enough to watch this show because you’re not a proud American”, that drives me to piracy. I think that was the point.

          I’m confused. If Hulu didn’t exist then you wouldn’t be driven to piracy? Is your anger at Hulu’s policy driving you to piracy or (seemingly more likely) the lack of access to the show?

          • Osno says:

            Yep, you got it right. We know the content is out there in digital form and we’re denied access to it so we look for it somewhere else. Angered by being excluded, also. The feeling is “if they don’t want me, fsck them”. The US positioned itself to be the primary distributor of a lot of things, and then decided that the rest of the world is not profitable enough. That double message is pretty annoying.

  3. Blaven says:

    Instead of whining about the lack of online profits, maybe the tv industry needs to put more effort into making it profitable. A couple of ideas:

    1. Modernize the rating system, and how it affects advertising. If I watch a cable TV show on DVR, I’m watching zero ads. If I watch it on Hulu, I’m at least watching a few ads. A smart rating system will take this into account.

    2. Target advertising more intelligently. On cable tv this is difficult. On the internet it is easier. The internet knows who I am and what my interests are (thru Facebook if nothing else, as Boing Boing reminded me this week). I am not interested in maxi pads, Disney trips or horror movies, so stop showing me ads for them. Show me something I might be interested in, like new albums for bands similar to the ones I like (query my pandora acct), or new movies that would be at home in my netflix queue (query my netflix acct). Otherwise advertisers just waste their money, and tv shows get crowded out with too many ads.

    3. Transition away from cable/satellite providers, instead sending all data over the internet. It’s redundant and expensive to have two data delivery systems when one can do it all. Cable/satellite providers can become ISPs to survive (as many already do).

  4. Shay Guy says:

    Line breaks are broken in the feed.

    Good stuff, but I have some questions. On #1: Are there any studies on how it affects content markets that aren’t solidly rooted in broadcast, like foreign media that only gets released here on DVD? And on #2: Is it TV channels that are critical to the revenue stream, or TV sets? A TV channel is basically a static stream pre-defined by the network and/or broadcaster. Is it theoretically possible to have that content by dynamically generated by “client” feedback? I’m talking in terms of either advertising or content here. (For instance, in advertising, the cafeteria I eat in on campus has a TV. There are a lot of commercials I see there aimed at retirees. This strikes me as wasteful. In content, presumably I’d watch TV more if there was more stuff on that I wanted to watch than Lost. A “default” setting of Grey’s Anatomy may get far more views than a rerun of My So-Called Life or Babylon 5 would, but it won’t get my eyeballs.) Or is the static aspect — specifically, people’s willingness to watch “whatever’s on” — too important? Would this not do anything that hasn’t been done? Is this just not possible with cable technology?

  5. LordDon says:

    #2 The plural of anecdotal evidence =/= data

    I would trust the guy who sees the numbers to know what’s going on on the ground right now. Things may change in the future, they may be headed a certain way, but he’s stating things as they are right now.

    Tell everyone else you know that still watches TV on the idiot box to stop and maybe we’ll see sensible change. Until then things will continue to play out as they have been.

  6. dculberson says:

    The quantity of ads on network television has reached the “outright abusive” stage. I can not sit through even a single show where 30%+ of the time is dedicated to commercials. Even the local secondary stations (the -2 or even -3 subchannels) have that many ads, but most of them are for the station’s new teams, etc. Hint: If you cut down on the ads, maybe you would get more viewers! I cannot fathom actually sitting and watching 8 minutes of commercials for 22 minutes of TV.

    So, I have Netflix, streaming, downloads, DVD, and BluRay. No TV, just an awesome projector hooked to an xbox and ps3. Ahh, the joy of no commercials. (save the “Starz” banner at the start of the Netflix streaming shows.)

    • dculberson says:

      “new teams” should be “news teams.” Whoops!

    • Blaven says:

      I totally agree. There are just too many ads on mainstream tv to bother with. If I am going to watch it at all it will be with a DVR, meaning the number of ads I watch just dropped to zero. In other words for me (as well as many others), cable TV advertising is completely ineffective.

      On the other hand I often watch Hulu, which has only a few ads and is therefore tolerable. Therefore (at least for me) advertising viewership increases when I watch online instead of cable. Maybe once the antiquated rating system modernizes and takes these factors into account, online viewing will suddenly seem a lot more profitable.

      Also, like a growing number of viewers, I turned off cable TV last year and now watch everything thru online or rented dvds. The cable TV apocalypse may not be here yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not coming.

  7. Anonymous says:

    the biggest problem I have with TV vs Internet is advertisement. I’ve been spoiled by internet where everything is 1 ad sparingly or streamed without ads entirely. Which I think is a major reason people use the internet for TV, it’s not because of lack of choice (4085 channels and nothing to watch) its because of ads.

    My question is, how much would it cost for people to pay to skip, or reduce ads?

  8. Darcy Fitzpatrick says:

    Craig, you’re doing great stuff here. The majority of people’s understanding of how television works is based entirely on assumption and opinion, with an unhealthy does of a strong sense of entitlement mixed in for bad measure. You’re making strides to change that, and it’s great. Keep up the good work!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I have been bragging that I was the first person on my block to install one of the new-fangled antenny’s. (Mine is a 12 ft. yagi)

    Your story is my story, friend. (netflix relief and all!)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Very interesting insights. I admit my “spinmeister” alarm went off a couple of times in reegards to some of your answers (“Of course Internet won’t kill TV!”) but, in the final analysis, I agree with most of your points.

    But I’m really here to suggest you start referring to the search process you use to ensure nothing new slips through the cracks as the “Failosaur Search”. I’d like that on a T-shirt.

  11. caipirina says:

    First of all, I really appreciate that someone from the networks is guest writing here on BB, and you must have a lot of fun with all the comments you get .. I find it an intriguing inside view ..

    But I am probably on the side of people saying that the classic TV network model is up for reshaping … I don;t know what the best idea is … i’d be willing to pay a monthly 30 – 50 $ for good prgramming … where I have the feeling I have a voice (not being a Nielsen household) ..

    But the thing is .. the TV people need to think bigger, so far it seems they only look at the US market … while there are TONS of people watching US shows abroad. The Economist had a great article a few months ago who release groups in China battle over how is releasing the new episode of ‘insert show name’ with chinese subs ..

    Me, being not in the US right now, I have no other way but P2P to catch up with current shows, in fact, I did not even subscribe to any local TV service, as I don;t speak the language … and our kid is growing up getting his share of TV from a hard drive .. he does not know commercials (nor DVDs) …

    Great that there is something like hulu … but it does not work outside the US … this whole rights battle made the internet smaller again …

    I am willing to pay my share, to keep good shows running .. but the way it is working right now … well .. time will tell

  12. Anonymous says:

    So when’s that SGU MMO coming out?

  13. Daedalus says:

    Keen perspective. Very grounded. I keep thinking about what this thing might look like in 10-20 years, but that’s a long way away from a troops-on-the-ground standpoint, where FOX NEWS is still the most trusted name in information and pro wrestling is still big business.

    I am probably guilty of giving people too much credit, though. ;)

  14. Anonymous says:

    On the above points:

    #1 – Internet *advertising* is killing TV *advertising*, and by extension, the internet business model is killing the TV business model. In the longer term, the internet should kill TV — or TV must transform radically.

    Sure, things can change still, but that’s the way it still looks at this moment.

    #2 – That’s beginning to happen. More and more cheap (but high quality) productions make their impact on the world, and their typical distribution channel is the internet.

    #3 – If by “traditional model” you mean “broadcasting”, then I can see that it’s not dying. The main difference is that pretty much anyone can broadcast these days, that just hasn’t reached video quite yet. It’s already happening with audio though, where plenty of websites offer you to build playlists of legitimate content for others to tune in to. Incidentally, radio isn’t doing so well.

    #4 – They are.

    #5 – They aren’t. They’re just not quite getting yet how to distribute their stuff online without losing revenue. They’ll work it out.

    #6 – That’s probably true, but not here yet.

    #7 – No comment beyond that this reeks of putting on a brave face.

    Think about it.

    In the face of Joost’s media attention, NBC, Fox, ABC, etc. gathered to create a competitor, Hulu. Hulu has no business model – they have little revenue compared to their operating costs. It’s a money sink, that exists for one reason only: to dominate a nascent market, come what may.

    This shows two things above all else, in my opinion: first, these big media companies are willing to invest tons to get their content on the ‘net, which flies in the face of some of the points raised above.

    Second, they’re scared, because they know they need to do this in order to survive. Why else would you keep spending those amounts without any ROI in sight (yet)?

    • hartboy says:

      #1 – Internet *advertising* is killing TV *advertising*, and by extension, the internet business model is killing the TV business model. In the longer term, the internet should kill TV — or TV must transform radically.
      Sure, things can change still, but that’s the way it still looks at this moment.

      I’m wondering what numbers you’re looking at. Internet advertising revenues in 2009 were down 3.4% from 2008. Total for the year was $22.6 billion, with nearly half coming from search.
      U.S. Television alone brought in over $69 billion in 2009. Screen Digest is projecting that to fall to $67 billion by 2013, with online TV ad revenues gaining to less than $1.5 billion by then. Saying internet advertising is *killing* TV advertising seems to be a bit premature.

  15. das memsen says:

    Craig, good luck with that philosophy. You and I might be lucky enough to keep our jobs in the industry, but that’s short-term. Your predictions are based on a decade’s worth of history. The TV industry and infrastructure aren’t going to go away overnight, but come on, don’t be naive about this- it’s unsustainable, just like gas-powered cars. Look at how many decades the world has known gas-powered cars could not continue indefinitely, and yet here we are, still using them every day. What does that prove? They’re going to die eventually, even if it’s kicking and screaming. TV as we know it is the same. You may not live to see it, or you might, but it’s going to happen, sho’ nuff!

  16. Osno says:

    I think you’re getting 4 & 5 wrong. We’re not saying you should try the internet as a channel. We’re saying we should try this new way of doing content where we’re not a passive audience and you get to choose everything for us (even the schedule). We want to comment on quality, schedule, the episodes themselves, everything. And also, we want that at an acceptable price. What I read is “TV is working and it will work for a long time, so we’re slow on experimentation because we basically don’t care” and even though I understand the sentiment, don’t expect us not to call you a dinosaur if that’s the way you’re feeling. Also I agree with previous comments. The TV works for you. It doesn’t work for me anymore, not for the many people in my country who like your shows. And it certainly doesn’t work for Norwegian people, since we’re targeting them separately :).

    • Dan says:

      “What I read is “TV is working and it will work for a long time, so we’re slow on experimentation because we basically don’t care.”

      Really? That’s what you took from Craig’s comments?

      They’re experimenting all the time: web, iTunes, Hulu, mobile. But TV isn’t sinking as fast as everyone thinks. That seems to annoy a lot of people.

      • Osno says:

        Web has nothing to do with TV last time I checked, and iTunes, Hulu and the few unsuccessful mobile content distribution platforms all try to shove the TV model to you: windowed releases, regions, streaming, etc. That’s not experimenting, that’s seeing how to turn the internet into a TV. And that’s where the other part of my comment comes from. We couldn’t care less what the cable is (either TV, Phone or Broadband). We want the internet way of doing things: democratic and crowdsourced, as opposed to “managed by a few big players”. Experimenting would be giving us that.

        • Stooge says:

          Osno, who are ‘we’, and how many of you are there?

          • Osno says:

            You’re right, sorry. Replace ‘we’ with ‘I’. I’m sure there’s more of me out there but since I don’t have a reliable source/number I’ll accept that. BTW, do /you/ care what cable the broadcast medium uses??

  17. Anonymous says:

    People keep talking about how online distribution with ads “isn’t worth it”.

    Maybe you could touch on this in a future post: how much does it actually cost to stream content online? I always figured one of the reasons more things should be online is because it’s cheaper to get to consumers. Maybe I’m wrong? Is server space, bandwidth, administration, etc that expensive?

    What are the numbers, here? It seems silly to argue for or against until we figure that out. Right?

    • Osno says:

      I’d be surprised (pleasantly) if they even made that study. As the previous post shows, the model seems to be “TV is working for us, so we’ll let someone else figure out this whole ‘interwebz’ thing”

  18. hello whirled says:

    I’m still fascinated so many commenters continue not to understand a fact of life: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

    “Just put it on the internet!” they can be heard to chant. “You just don’t get it!”

    But in fact they are the ones who don’t get it. Business 101: Putting your content online doesn’t automatically make you enough money to pay for making it in the first place.

    Another way to say it, quality costs money.

    I’m not saying things won’t change. I’m not saying there are no viable online business strategies. I *am* saying, understand what drives the change. What drives the change is, to a significant degree, money. And it’$ gotta come from somewhere.

    You’re welcome. You can pay me later.

    • foobar says:

      But there is such a thing as free TV.

      Like it or not, here and now paying for content is entirely optional. If your customers think you’re being a jerk, well, they won’t pay.

    • Chesterfield says:

      In my area, I can put an antenna up and receive a bunch of television stations around the clock for free.

      I really don’t understand why distributing that same signal over TCP/IP suddenly triggers the “no free lunch” response. What changed?

      • Stooge says:

        Chesterfield, broadcasting has fixed costs whereas unicasting doesn’t. There’s also the issue of advertising: your local 24 hour drive-thru embalming service may be impressed that someone in Oslo has seen their ad, but they’d probably prefer to spend their money on showing it to someone a little more likely to throw some business their way.

        • Anonymous says:

          Stooge, actually advertising is much easier to target on the internet than for TV. Also, you can broadcast, multicast, or do some analogous peer-to-peer thing on the internet.

        • Chesterfield says:

          Broadcasting over-the-air uses incredibly expensive spectrum. Internet bandwidth is vast and almost as cheap as air. In fact, if you transmit enough, you sign peering agreements and then you don’t pay anything for your bandwidth.

          The “relevant ads” issue has been solved and it is making companies like Google a fortune. There are lots of companies like Google who are more than happy to help you insert advertising into your content.

      • hello whirled says:

        I really don’t understand why distributing that same signal over TCP/IP suddenly triggers the “no free lunch” response.

        Actually, I agree with you. In fact I personally wish I could get more shows online, more easily. I’d like to watch the ones I like, when I want to, and/or catch up on back episodes etc.

        My point is simply this. It’s reasonable to be expected to pay for something we value, whether it’s a slice of delicious pizza, the opportunity to gaze upon the Mona Lisa with our own eyes, or even just see a TV show we like.

        • Chesterfield says:

          Somebody pays, but normally it isn’t the audience. Like I said in an earlier comment, TV channels aren’t in the business of delivering TV shows (generally). They are in the business of collecting eyeballs to sell to advertisers.

          Although it would be a little disturbing, I could totally imagine a famous work of art going on display with the exhibition being sponsored by, say, Ford. Walk through the little Ford pavilion and take a gander at the painting.

          When physical goods are being transferred (pizza), it’s an entirely different matter.

          • hello whirled says:

            Somebody pays, but normally it isn’t the audience

            Disagree.

            If you’re in the TV audience, being exposed to the ads, you’re “paying” — with your time and attention. (Even if you think you’re not paying attention to the ads. But I suppose that’s a separate track to discuss.)

            If you view the Mona Lisa, and Ford is sponsoring your viewing, you are similarly paying.

            And even if you buy a slice of pizza, you’ve explicitly agreed to the bargain that I am describing here: “I will give you cash, in return for something i want or enjoy.”

            Payment takes many forms, not just money. And don’t underestimate the slice-of-pizza example: Some people pay for just a slice, but others pay ore for the “enjoyment” of the slice. Which is why a fancy pizzeria can command a higher price for its produce than a hole-in-the-wall slice place.

            Going somewhat far afield here, aren’t I?

            but my point remains the same. We should reasonably expect to “pay” for something that we value. Or else we shouldn’t be surprised when the thing we value is no longer available to us.

        • foobar says:

          My point is simply this. It’s reasonable to be expected to pay for something we value, whether it’s a slice of delicious pizza, the opportunity to gaze upon the Mona Lisa with our own eyes, or even just see a TV show we like.

          One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong…

          I value the air I breathe much more than any of those things, but I won’t pay anyone for it.

          If I eat a slice of delicious pizza or want to get up close to the Mona Lisa, no one else can eat or stand where I do. If I watch a TV show, I can easily give you the bits too. Further, it’s pretty easy to lock up pizza or paintings, but once you broadcast a TV show, you can’t.

          None of that means people shouldn’t get paid to make TV shows, but it does mean that the old model isn’t going to work much longer. If the industry clings to the old model until it fails, well, look at the newspaper industry.

  19. Zadaz says:

    Good luck with that. If you’re unable to stop living in the past you’re going to be destroyed by the future.

  20. Rindan says:

    TV is dead unless live sports or news tickle your fancy. The problem is that no one realizes that it is dead yet. Me and my three other roommates dumped cable a year ago. In that time our TV consumption has probably gone up, we enjoy what we watch on TV a lot more, and we see drastically fewer ads. I am always a little shocked when I walk by a movie theater and don’t recognize a single movie.

    How do you free yourself of cable without going hippie and taking up knitting? Just get yourself a Netflix account, a Roku, and if you are feeling really savvy a cheap computer rigged to the TV. Just a Roku and Netflix is more than enough. Netflix on demand has a massive selection of TV shows. Some are updated continuously, like Legend of the Seeker and Heroes. Some are finished stories. So for instances I am tearing my way through Buffy for the first time.

    Personally, I find on demand watching via Netflix VASTLY more enjoyable than cable. The whole notion of having to be at the TV at a certain time on a certain day for what might or might not be a new episode strikes me as so incredibly archaic it defies reason. As an added bonus, I don’t need to sit through 10 minutes of mindless ads trying to get me to buy crap I really don’t want.

    Toss in Hulu where I watch a handful more of new shows that interest me via Hulu (SGU, The Office, Caprica, etc), and all is well. If Hulu was to vanish tomorrow that would be sad, but it wouldn’t make me get cable. On demand watching is so vastly superior than navigating the arcane and asinine setup of cable that once you have tried it, I think it is basically impossible to go back.

    I personally think that anyone who doesn’t do what I do either really loves live sports or just doesn’t realize what they are missing. Complete series, few commercials, cheaper, and a vastly more enjoyable viewing experience… why would you do it any other way?

  21. Anonymous says:

    All seven arguments will find support in The Economist’s recent special report on television, which I would recommend: http://www.economist.com/specialreports/displayStory.cfm?story_id=15980859

  22. Anonymous says:

    Interesting post. I agree with Craig’s comments on point #1. In my own case, when I discovered how much “television” was available online, it spurred me on to build a home theatre PC so I could watch internet TV on my television. But what actually happened was that I ended up using the HTPC mainly as a digital video recorder for recording traditional TV broadcasts, so the end result is that I’m watching a lot more broadcast TV than I used to. (And since I’m usually too lazy to fast forward over the commercials, I’m seeing more TV ads than I used to, too).

  23. Anonymous says:

    I love how the comments are all “me and my friends think and/or do this, so we must be right.” Guess what? You and your friend ain’t the whole world and you certainly ain’t the whole U. S. of A. so sit your asses down.

    I’m not saying just because Mr. So-and-so is a big shot at a channel he knows all. But guess what? It’s his job to know this shit, so I’m willing to listen to him. I’m trying to figure out what he would gain by lying – he’s not going to convince any of you self-righteous folks who feel entitled to “free entertainment” to buy cable.

    And, oh, for those folks who “can’t understand watching commercials,” what makes you think just because someone watches broadcast or cable TV that they watch commercials? It’s called DVR. Or, God-forbid, a VCR.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been unplugged for almost 3 years. 100% Netflix Streaming to my TV. I don’t even pick up Local channels over the air.

    Why?

    I was paying over $70 a month for Satellite, with 60 basic channels of crap and more advertising than show. Now I pay 9 bucks a month (Had the same DSL Internet connection before, so that cost doesn’t count), pick the shows and movies I want to watch, when I want to watch them, as many times as I want to watch them, and with NO fricken commercials.

    So, for me, traditional TV has been dead for years. Anything I can’t get on Netflix I can usually find on the Internet with a computer. News? Hit the local news web sites or Foxnews.com / CNN.com (Depending on your preference).

  25. pickin grinnin says:

    The Nielsen ratings are not an accurate measure of viewership, and haven’t been for quite some time. When advertisers realize this and start to demand a more realistic set of statistics, you may very well find that SyFy’s “healthy” numbers are anything but.

  26. gracchus says:

    Thanks for your response, Craig.

    The Nielsens are not and never have been the only way to get data on TV viewing. The industry uses that as a standard so that everyone is, well, using a standard.

    Exactly, and you can’t claim that an antiquated standard used to quantify an entire industry is *not* an elephant in the room. Standards, good and bad, are major deals. Nielsens affect decisions at every level of the TV industry, and decisions outside of it.

    But we have many ways to get data about who’s viewing what. And lot’s of anecdotal evidence too.

    I look forward to the TV outlets, as individual entities or in groups, developing new metrics and standards — ones that don’t involve a small, deliberately bland sample of the viewing audience watching shows on one device. I understand the need for standards, and independent ones at that (advertisers need one that’s somewhat fair to all industry competitors). What I don’t understand is how in 2010, 15 years after the advent of the commercial Internet, the industry is still so dependent on a system meant to measure a very different kind of audience and industry.

    Actually, having worked in TV myself, I do have an idea. As with many profitable creative industries, laziness and inertia rules the executive suites. “We’re making money hand over fist, so why change?” Until, of course, change (and it isn’t always techological) places that industry under extreme duress (see newspapers and record companies). After that it’s a race to avoid extinction — adapt or die.

    For instance, I can almost always tell what shows will get big Nielsen ratings by paying attention
    to the Twitter chatter about shows the night before (with many caveats).

    I’m certain there are many caveats, one of them being the impact of the channel’s marketing aimed at squarely that Nielsen sample. “Why change?”, right?

    Anyhow, I’ve made my point about “elephant in the room” status the broken and outmoded standard the TV industry willingly relies upon, and I won’t belabour it. And I hope that you make it into a position where you do start making changes, because you seem like a thoughtful and forward-looking person.

    On to others …

    BadIdeaSociety:

    How could it possibly been the most watched show on TV if the numbers weren’t being fudged?

    No juking of the stats — the base assumptions are rotten. As anon #76 notes, the Nielsen sample is extremely limited. Worse, the sample is also designed to represent the “average American household” that advertisers want, and let’s just say that average ain’t pretty to anyone with a brain or education or taste. Worse, they’re targetting that ugly average as it existed in 1978, vs. the ugly average of 2010.

    As an anecdotal example, when I started out as a TV newswriter in the early ’90s, we were told to write for an audience with an 8th grade reading comprehension level. In part, that was stylistic (general audience journalism values brevity and extreme clarity), but it was also an acknowledgment of the nature of the Nielsen audience.

    And thanks to Anon #87 regarding the numbers. So (roughly) assuming roughly equal numbers in the first season, we see a cheaply produced lowest-common-denominator show with lower ad rates that has a tenuous connection to the channel’s niche being renewed without a problem, with renewal of a more expensive SF show appealing to a more sophisticated audience and commanding higher ad rates being agonised over by Sci-Fi executives.

    It’s clear to me what’s created that odd situation, and it isn’t conspiracy. A variation of Hanlon’s Razor is closer to the mark.

    • BadIdeaSociety says:

      >>No juking of the stats — the base assumptions are rotten. As anon #76 notes, the Nielsen sample is extremely limited. Worse, the sample is also designed to represent the “average American household” that advertisers want, and let’s just say that average ain’t pretty to anyone with a brain or education or taste.<<

      Let me update my statement.

      How can the current ratings system be statistically relevant when practically nobody I met in the past 15 years cops to watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” to “CSI.” I know more people who caught H1N1 than have watched some of the highest rated shows in the US.

      And another question: Why is there one (1) industry accepted ratings system and fifteen industry accepted political polling services?

  27. donnyk says:

    I haven’t had Cable in 5 years. *None* of my friends have Cable. The only people I know who still have cable are older and still afraid of computers.

  28. Chesterfield says:

    I’ve learned a great deal from Craig this week and I now look at TV a bit differently.

    For one, I never really thought about it before, but cable channels and television networks aren’t in the business of making tv shows. They are in the business of gathering eyeballs for advertisers.

    For another, SyFy shows wrestling. Wha?

    Thirdly, I’m more convinced than ever that the big players in the industry are in for a world of hurt. And I think I would include SyFy in that list. When the PC came out, IBM tried to protect their mainframe business. That failed, but we are all better off for it. The internet is a whole big pile of disruption and the incumbents seem somewhat clueless. Or rather, their customers (advertisers) are clueless and they are going to suffer for it.

    Want to prove me wrong? Start by letting Hulu stream to any client.

  29. hello whirled says:

    paying for content is entirely optional

    Ah, foobar. You didn’t read my comment very carefully.

    I didn’t say there was no such thing as free TV. I said, there’s no such thing as a free *lunch*.

    Let me sketch out a hypothetical situation, to help you understand: Let’s imagine you like to watch a TV series called “Doughnuts In My Belly.” You love that show! It’s officially available only on a pay network, but you download it, free, online. If enough people do what you do, then the product that you value ultimately stops being made because the producers of it can’t make enough green.

    And you, ultimately, lose.

    That’s the difference between “there’s no such thing as free tv,” and “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

  30. Anonymous says:

    I don’t get this article. I feel like it’s on the defensive from the get go.

    I understand that you’re defending corporate TV, but when those companies give me, the consumer, only 3 choices that all suck. I’m not going to want to buy cable.

    Satellite? I don’t pay for local channels, no thank you. Cable? Yes please pull my pants down and have your way with me pricing sounds good to me.

    Give me choices, give me reasonable prices. That’s what consumers want, or they’ll go find the content somewhere else. And usually that somewhere is free.

  31. Robbo says:

    All I’ve been reading in your posts is a defiance that says: “The old ways are still working despite the disruptive influence of the internet over existing media.”

    Of course older, entrenched and self-defensive business models are going to cling to the fallacy that everything’s ok, everything’s fine, pay no attention to elephant in the room. Geez – forget the elephant – look out the frickin’ window at the passing iceberg.

    Each level of old media has been, is and will go through massive fundamental changes – not just in how the media itself functions but (most significantly) the business models which support the existing methods of operation. Disruptive change operates at an exponential rate so while it might be comforting to be smug right now and say: “We’re fine.” the reality is running up behind you and ready to bite you in the ass.

    I will maintain the same position held by Marshall McLuhan back in 1964 when he stated “Old media becomes the content of new media.” What happens to the business models is irrelevant. While the industry continues to stand astride it’s position of comfort and control uber alles content creation and distribution – the content and distribution is eating out the ground beneath you, enveloping you and digesting you – not just eating your lunch, it’s eating your industry.

    Good series of posts. Fatally flawed. The end is nigh. Yes, TV will continue to exist – as part of the content of our new media.

    Cheers.

  32. Anonymous says:

    “I’d be interested to see a comparison of the Nielsen ratings for the first season of “BSG” on SciFi vs. those for the first season of wrestling on SyFy. Followed up by some idea of how much of a struggle it was to decide to put each programme on in the first place, and to keep each programme for a second season.”

    From Wikipedia (yes I know):

    Battlestar Galactica premiere, January 14 2005 – 3.1 million viewers

    ECW on Sci-Fi premiere, June 13 2006 – 2.79 Nielsen ratings points, which translates to approximately 3.18 million viewers.

    As far as deciding to keep the programmes for a second season, ECW on Sci Fi was originally a thirteen week summer show, which was granted an extended run after the thirteen weeks due to good ratings. It was then renewed at the end of the year with very little discussion.

    The deal there though is that Sci-Fi would have probably renewed the show without any quibbles no matter what. This is because at the time, WWE had just moved their flagship Raw broadcast from Spike to USA (part of NBC Universal, and Raw is a huge cable ratings driver.

    Another thing to consider is that while a wrestling show is far cheaper to produce than an effects-laden sci fi drama, the perceived stereotype of the average wrestling viewer means that the networks charge a lot less for ad time during those shows.

  33. pentomino says:

    I was thinking of going the smartass atheist route and pointing out that you can’t prove the non-existence of elephants in any room.

    I think more to the point is that, yes, the room is full of elephants, and you’ve got a guy with a mop and everything will be OK.

    Rather, I’ve been waiting for the old broadcast TV model to fail for some time, and it’s not happening. So perhaps there’s something to the old business model. But people want the old model to fail so much that it’s easy to miss the point that even while broadcast networks flounder, cable networks are thriving. Conan O’Brien’s choice of moving to TBS instead of Fox should be an indication of that. That SyFy continues to show wrestling, and other channels are losing their brands, indicates that there’s money to be made in broadening a channel’s audience. I suspect that cable will replace broadcast before Internet replaces cable.

    The dream is still there, that some underground parallel pirate economy will pop up online that’s not beholden to the good ole boys’ club. That’s probably why there are so many elephants in the room. They’re walking on their tiptoes and don’t want to be noticed. But privacy isn’t what it used to be, and there’s really nowhere for an elephant to hide.

  34. shurik says:

    Internet has no boundaries, while tv will always be limited. I think that internet will eventually destroy television, or ultimately the two will morph together into something uber cool :)

  35. Irene Delse says:

    We created Hulu

    Yes. Brilliant. A geographically restricted media. Thanks for thinking that Internet viewers outside the US have no interest in the series you offer! (Or that they should pay for content when US viewers don’t have to.)

    • hello whirled says:

      Thanks for thinking that Internet viewers outside the US have no interest in the series you offer!

      I agree that’s a big frustration with Hulu, But your criticism misses the broader point.

      Hulu is an experiment that, as a business, isn’t actually succeeding in its current form. That’s bad news for those of us who like and use it. Basically, Hulu isnt able to sell enough advertisements. That’s why there’s now talk of making people pay for the service instead of getting acdess for “free” (aka “advertising-supported”).

      Which brings me back to my main point, which is that quality costs money and the money has to come from somewhere.

      • Chesterfield says:

        hello whirled, what are talking about? Hulu is profitable and they had over $100 million in revenue last year. This year they expect to at least double that.

        Secondly, how do you quote replies?

        • hello whirled says:

          re \ quotes use this coding but with angle brackets not the square ones: [blockquote]Quoted text here [/blockquote]

          re hulu: revenue isn’t profit.

          here’s a ruff explanation of the issue. there are probably better explanations, i just picked one of the first from googing it. basically helps explain why the hulu partners are agitating for a pay model.

          http://industry.bnet.com/media/10007665/hulus-turns-a-profit-but-at-what-cost/

          dont get me wrong, i like hulu just the way it is. i’m just pointing out the issue.

          • foobar says:

            re hulu: revenue isn’t profit.

            The Titanic is a much more spacious vessel than a lifeboat.

  36. wabisabiforrobots says:

    He’s more right than you think. “WyFy” hot-spots have been popping up all over.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I have to make the assumption that most of the under 30′s who have posted comments have not gone to business school. You may be correct that the old TV model may not work but what you fail to understand is that in TV’s demise will come new ways for content providers to make money. Most likely by a hybrid of a subscription fee that includes advertisments in the programming. Hulu was started by the content providers and will attempt a pay model. If that is unsuccessful it will just go away, as will the immediacy of the Netflix streaming. Quality content must be paid for and there are only two ways to do it: advertising and subscriptions. And if the under 30′s revolt against that they will have to find random stuff in places like YouTube to entertain themselves. There will be no more Heroes, Capricas, etc.

  38. lolbrandon says:

    Hey Craig, I’m loving your tenure on Boing Boing and really discovering how TV works. I do take this post with a bit of salt — you’ve got good arguments, but c’mon, this is your job and livelihood you’re defending. You can’t come out and say “Yeah, you know, TV works now, but in three years it’s all gonna be online for free. We’re screwed.”

    You brought up Felicia Day and Joss Whedon, who both created two very different web shows. Whedon ran out of pocket, created something that looked impressively close to “big budget” and his fan base came running. It was an established success, and not a big gamble.

    Day created a low-budget show from scratch without a fan base, built up the show and eventually got funding from Microsoft.

    Microsoft is normally an advertiser on TV, not a network, but they kinda became one… Exclusive first airings on Bing and paying Day to pay her cast and crew. They feel like a Network, sort of. It’s not a traditional Network, but they’re distributing her show on the net.

    I’m wondering if companies like Microsoft, Dell and Adobe, for instance, who don’t have many competing products, could come together and say, “We’re the DAM Network (it’s even a good name!!). We’ll give you money, you make us some awesome shows.” Three or four big advertisers — would they have the money to produce a weekly or bi-monthly, 20-ish episodes equal to Dr. Horrible or Caprica? (There’s your plug, you’re welcome! :) Couldn’t they make their own Hulu and stream their own content? Couldn’t *just maybe* they be profitable enough to justify the expense?

    • Dan says:

      “We’ll give you money, you make us some awesome shows.” Three or four big advertisers — would they have the money to produce a weekly or bi-monthly, 20-ish episodes equal to Dr. Horrible or Caprica?”

      Maybe. Then again a lot of advertisers are probably gun-shy after what happened to Bud TV: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bud.tv

  39. Anonymous says:

    What I always wonder in this whole “TV ads generating more money than internet ads” debate is:

    - Does this only refer to more people actually watching? Like, there obviously being more people watching TV than the online channel, thus creating more ad revenue?

    - Or does it mean that online ad slots are WORTH less per view? As 1 online ad viewer is worth less than 1 TV ad viewer?

    Basically, is online advertising still considered a “lesser” form of advertising for other reasons than the number of people seeing it? Is there some irrational stigma to it?

    Of course the viewer numbers are still lower online (it’s still a new technology… heck, Youtube is only 5 years old!). You’d just think that online viewers, no matter how low they are right now, must increase quite drastically. So it must be quite easy to predict the point where their NUMBERS start reaching a significant portion of TV viewers. Does that point still seem that distant? Are there other factors than viewing numbers that the internet still doesn’t seem to be taken seriously by TV producers?

  40. gracchus says:

    It’s antiquated Nielsen ratings.

    Sorry, but this one is *the* elephant (dinosaur, really) in the room: the one that shareholders and executives in the TV industry have tied their entire business model to, in the same way investors in mortgage-backed securites tied their business models to ratings from S&P and Moody’s.

    Almost every stat (including internal ad rates) quoted in pieces about the viability of the traditional TV model ultimately comes from A.C. Nielsen, which itself has a vested interest in perpetuating that model. And although they’re finally updating their data collection methodology, they had to be dragged kicking and screaming away from the old sampling method — one that was broken the moment cable TV became generally available, and one that’s still tied mainly to measuring an American audience. In addition, that audience is puree’d down into the kind of broad, bland mush who place shows like “Two and a Half Men” and “According to Jim” in the top 10 for years at a stretch, and make SyFy think that wrestling is a good programming choice.

    Cite some stats that don’t originate from or depend upon Nielsen ratings and we’ll talk. But those stats (and I’m sure they’re out there) will likely tell a very different story about the future of TV — one that won’t appeal to either lazy TV executives (present company emphatically excluded), A.C. Nielsen, or the mythical average TV watcher. Advertisers and their agencies, I suspect, will adjust. Show producers and “dumb-pipe” carriage companies, if they’re clever about dealing with the audience info that they collect and analyse, will thrive.

  41. WWRJD says:

    I’ve been without a signal of any kind for more than a decade. Netflix and Megavideo do the trick for me quite nicely, thanks. All the TV shows and movies I want to watch, no advertisements, and best of all, no reality shows.

  42. Obviously says:

    I’m not in agreement probably because I’ve stopped paying for TV. If I want to watch it it’s either on the Internet or I can get the DVD set eventually. Much more affordable because I’m not paying monthly for channels I’d never watch anyway.

    TV may not be dead yet but its days are numbered when the next few generations start using it less and less.

  43. Anonymous says:

    turns out the internet’s not killing TV, but subsidizing it. if i miss a show or want to watch an old episode of an older series–i can watch it online. no, the real death of TV is the DVR. you can watch TV however you like. i routinely go out to eat during “prime time” only to come home to watch my show and fast forward through commercials!

  44. Tyrsfist says:

    I’m sorry, and you may be right, you probably believe you’re right at the very least, but to me this reads an awful lot like the captain of the Titanic over the loudspeaker going “Everything is fine, we will make port on time, please ignore any nay-sayers claiming we’re sinking, your shoes are just wet from the ocean spray.”

    Also, more to the point, if you’re right, you don’t need to convince us. Because, if you’re right, what we the internet believe doesn’t matter. Rather, if this is all true, you need to convince big media that it’s true. That people sharing video online, and torrenting TV Eps., and so on, actually statistically IMPROVE the viewership of those shows on TV where they generate ad revenue, which is the be all and end all of TV Executive existence.

    Personally, I think the big networks should start flooding the tracker sites with torrents of their own shows. Put up the latest CSI complete with commercials in it, track how many people download it, the bill the companies whose ads you stuck in the torrent based on that viewership. Neilson polls n% of the population, and assumes that the poll results * 100/n == real values. But with a torrent tracker you could have 100% real accurate numbers that don’t rely on a third party to generate them.

    Just a thought.

  45. tim says:

    I’d posit that channels deserve to go away. What on earth is the point of them? Unless of course you’re an advertiser, in which case I guess you see the point of pretty much all media as being there to allow you to push dismal, pointless, time wasting adverts at us.

    I don’t see any reason to care about SyFy (euch, what a name), Fox, Turner, ITV, CBC, Canal plus, whatever. I do see a reason to care about the actual making of the programs which is not typically the same thing. Turn the channels into production companies if you want to keep the corporate entity alive, otherwise sell off the assets and return the money to the shareholders.

    Make programs. Make them globally available via some mechanism that is easy to access – I personally like iTunes but your tastes may differ – for prices that you find acceptable. If customers agree that the programs are good value you will make money. If they do not, you will lose money and hopefully go on to try some other program. If you really, really, love adverts then perhaps offer the programs in advert-free and advert-included forms at different prices and find out what the viewers think.

  46. Osno says:

    BTW, I kind of recent the “you hippies want everything free” argument. I have never in my life, even before the internet went mainstream, have paid for TV (except once when I bought a 24 season after seeing it and liking it enough to want to own it). I understand ads on internet are harder than ads on TV (because internet is less of an imposition than TV is), but that’s mainly their problem, not mine. I don’t see how this new awesome technology is forcing me to pay what I didn’t pay for before.

  47. bshock says:

    I’m sorry, sir, but what I see in your article is a list of assertions answered by a list of assertions. Your answers might very well be right, but you have zero attribution, objective or otherwise.

    To me, you seem completely wrong. I just canceled my cable tv last week.

  48. Beelzebuddy says:

    So, in your first post you told us that the TV industry didn’t really care about the web because it conflicted too much with their irl local profit-division agreements.

    In the second post you told us this was because TV eyeballs are worth so much more than web eyeballs that the industry wants to actively discourage consolidating them, despite getting more overall eyeballs.

    In the third post you told us that TV eyeballs were, in fact, the only thing the industry cares about. If you want your favorite show to not get canceled for cheap-to-produce insipid crap, you need to do the advertising for them to bring their profit margin above that of the crap.

    Now here you tell us that the industry is committed to leeching as much profit as possible from the current business model as they can, and is willing to dismiss out of hand any arguments that the business model is unsustainable.

    Which is fair enough, I suppose. But it’s hard to see where we can have a productive discussion about niche markets in an alternate distribution stream when you’re staunchly opposed to the whole thing.

    To sum up the summary: web tv will never be more than a novelty until someone else takes the time to prove it’s profitable. Thanks. Great.

    Cool guestblogging, bro.

  49. Dillo says:

    On Point 7, I would contest that the Elephant In The Room is really that while The Industry knows all of the above to be true, it still finds it advantageous for them to keep these myths alive and use them as strawmen to argue for the continuation of legal regimes like the DMCA and push for things like ACTA.

  50. Anonymous says:

    TV networks are divisions of enormous mega-conglomerates, so they have tons of cash to gamble on dozens of pilots and scripts a year. Their advertisers are also giant corporations, such as Big Pharm and Big Defense, who can afford to blow millions on an ad campaign for one of their products, because an increase in brand recognition of even a few percent will make them their money back, based upon the scale of the already-existent viewership infrastructure.

    Until internet programming is in most homes, and until internet “TV programmers” have a massive revenue stream that comes from *somewhere*, the internet cannot logically replace today’s TV.

  51. Craig Engler says:

    Warning, this reply is bigger than a Mega Piranha! But wanted to try and give feedback on some of these great comments:
    —-
    dequeued – Many people besides yourself don’t have cable or watch
    traditional TV. Many people also don’t own computers, have Internet
    access or drink Coke. You can have a perfectly fine business without
    everyone being a customer.
    —-
    foobar – I was a newspaper executive in the ’90s actually. Got out of
    that for interactive because I saw the writing on the wall. From where
    I sit, what’s happening in TV is much different. I plan to be here for a while.
    —-
    Shay Guy – 1. Dunno actually. 2. Right now they are separate, soon
    they will be indistinguishable.
    —-
    Anon #11 – I will use “Failosaur Search” from now on. LOVE IT!
    —-
    caipirina – Totally agree the TV biz model needs to be “reshaped” as
    time goes by. Actually, all business models do. We do it on a nearly
    daily basis.
    —-
    Anon #14 – Yes, TV must change radically in time. And TV has been
    changing radically already. Change is a GOOD thing and brings
    opportunity. Hulu is a toe in the water to see how and if new biz
    models can be created.
    —-
    das memsen – Of course, TV will EVENTUALLY die. So will the Earth. I’m
    not sure about the Universe…dang thing looks like it will expand
    forever.
    —-
    Osno – I’m saying, TV is working and will work for the foreseeable,
    near-term future, giving us a chance to try a lot of new things and
    see what else will work. I’m not saying, this works now so forever
    more it shall be thus and in the meantime we’ll do nothing about this Internet thing.
    —-
    foobar again – There is no such thing as free TV in the sense you
    mean. There is TV that someone else paid for that you can find ways to
    obtain for free. All businesses are subject to piracy and theft of
    some sort. For instance, now does not seem to be a good time to ship cargo near Somalia.
    —-
    Chesterfield – TV channels are in the business of making TV shows, a
    business that’s supported through making shows good enough that lots
    of people want to watch them, thus allowing us to sell ads and/or
    collect subscriber fees.
    —-
    Robbo – I agree that TV has been, is, and will be undergoing
    fundamental changes. To note that today, as we have this conversation,
    the old model is still working isn’t defiant, it’s just talking about the industry as it exists today. On this day, May 7, 2010, cable TV is doing very well and is not poised to collapse on May 8 by any means.
    —-
    lolbrandon – If I thought we were going to be screwed in three years
    I’d go out and find another job ;) I suspect three years from now TV
    will still be doing pretty well. 10 years from now, who knows? As to
    the idea of creating sites with lots of Dr Horrible like content, it’s
    theoretically possible. It’s been tried and not worked, but I’m sure
    people will try again and perhaps something will change enough to make
    it work.
    —-
    gracchus – The Nielsens are not and never have been the only way to
    get data on TV viewing. The industry uses that as a standard so that
    everyone is, well, using a standard. But we have many ways to get data about who’s viewing what. And lot’s of anecdotal evidence too. For instance, I can almost always tell what shows will get big Nielsen ratings by paying attention
    to the Twitter chatter about shows the night before (with many caveats). Turns out, not unexpectedly, that more people talking about watching a show on
    Twitter means more people are actually watching that show. As another example, the shows with the highest rating on Syfy tend to be the show sites with the most traffic on Syfy.com, etc.
    —-
    bshock – Actually I had attribution in 2 of the 7 points. Mostly by
    accident though. The attribution was really intended to come from my (alleged) expertise in the field, which you can take or leave as you see fit.
    —-
    Blaven – Not whining, just explaining because people ask me about this a lot. The TV industry is doing very well, as is Syfy in particular. And all of our digital extensions as well. I have nothing to whine about.
    —-
    Anon #61 – See above. Any resemblance to defending is purely unintentional.
    —-
    —-
    Whew, that was a lot. Hope it clarified some stuff. Really enjoying
    the discussion.

    • Dewi Morgan says:

      REALLY loving the Craig Engler posts.

      Please, MORE guest bloggers from the groups we usually grumble about. Pro-DRM guest bloggers! Police guest bloggers! Yeah!

      I’ve not had a TV for over a decade because of UK licensing laws. Might get one now I’m moving to the US: probably not, though. I like my ad-free life too much.

    • Osno says:

      First, I want to say (again) that I really like you taking part on this discussion even if I don’t really agree with you on most of what you postulate. It takes guts to be thrown to the pit, and I don’t see much of this from the content industries. Really appreciate it.

      Next, replying on my part specifically:
      You may be doing that but I think that the feeling is you aren’t (speaking on my experience, not the whole world). And when you show some “experiment”, it always looks anti-costumer (Hulu and iTunes being the most blatant examples).

      Napster trials where 10 years ago. In the last 10 years you (as an industry, not you Craig Engler) had the opportunity to make a difference. And you didn’t. I think that what would have worked 10 years ago will still be working now, but it will not work now because you created a piracy-aware society. That is what makes me think that you’re resting in your laurels. That you think that TV is good enough and that “it shall be thus and in the meantime you’ll do nothing about this Internet thing”. And that’s what makes me think that you’re not really doing anything with this problem because you don’t see it as a problem.

      But we do see it as a problem, because in this global world we get immediate access to what happens everywhere, and I’d love to have a legal way to access what you create. And that’s also because what you create (in general) is great and I love it. So when I see all of these underserved costumers (which are labeled as “pirates”), I think “content guys are dinosaurs and they don’t get it but they will die and then we will rule”. The fear is that that won’t happen because of the way the industry shapes international laws and that’s when it becomes an issue.

      A few days ago I read somewhere that someone was saying “if the newspapers put a paywall, they will create a new generation of news pirates”. I think you did exactly that. And I can’t feel sorry (meaning, there’s no moral issue for me even if there’s a legal issue) for taking your content if you did.

  52. Osno says:

    BTW, Craig, if you want to understand what I mean by “The fear is that that won’t happen because of the way the industry shapes international laws and that’s when it becomes an issue”, that’s not just about ACTA. It’s also the excellent SOC the FCC has approved in every device ever sold from now on, worldwide. Why you like those absurd windows so much I will never understand.

  53. Anonymous says:

    I’ve blogged about this before. My points were a.) much of the video content people are watching on the internet IS television (it appeared on TV first, or was made my television professionals) b.) TV studios already have the name recognition and the means to be much more sucessful at creating content, whether it’s viewed on the internet or on TV doesn’t make much difference (while people creating content strictly for the web have to REALLY work to find an audience and grab eyeballs) and c.) people thought TV was going to kill radio, and it totally did (NOT).

    Here’s my post:
    http://elisharivers.wordpress.com/2010/01/15/the-future-is-now/

  54. Anonymous says:

    First off, thank you for these posts, they are insightful and have answered some questions I have with real valid answers.

    Some thoughts about what you said.
    People like to bring up Hulu as a good example…it’s not. They are going to fail, not because of anything they are doing wrong, but because they keep getting forced deeper and deeper into the content restrictive box. You say that they can’t bring whole shows in, fine, what about those shows that are off the air and producing $0 in revenue, that have been taken off. What about the fact that I have no reason to try and catch up to season 7 of XYZ program because I don’t know what happened before.

    Content owners need to stop restricting content and trust consumers to do the right thing. Get rid of those damned piracy is a crime ads at the front of DVDs I pay for and stop saying that piracy is theft. It’s not, it’s infringement.

    As for Syfy itself, would it kill you guys to stop buying movies from the Asylum? How about the rights to movies like The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising or a special screening of the Guild? Your strength is in the superb quality and bravery to put amazing movies and shows together, but it seems as though the shimmer has dulled a bit as of late, which is probably due in no small part to the recession.

  55. gracchus says:

    If you’re in the TV audience, being exposed to the ads, you’re “paying” — with your time and attention.

    Correct. And there’s nothing wrong with the advertising (or sponsorship) model.

    The problem is that Nielsen has been notoriously bad at measuring both time and attention factor that inform that model. That problem has increased with every additional non-broadcast channel, and with every additional carriage method. Heck, it’s increased with every additional TV in the household besides “Dad’s” in the living room.

    They’ve created a situation that pressures even specialty channels to cater to the lowest common denominator, resulting in situations where the History Channel airs Fortean fare alongside documentaries on WWII. Put woo-filled documentaries on the History Channel, and history buffs are eventually going to look elsewhere for the real stuff.

    Forget the Internet or premium channels — even basic cable is all about niche and specialty interests. But the current ratings system encourages every channel to act like ABC ca. 1978, and I doubt anyone is going tune in for “Battle of the SyFy Stars.”

    I’d be interested to see a comparison of the Nielsen ratings for the first season of “BSG” on SciFi vs. those for the first season of wrestling on SyFy. Followed up by some idea of how much of a struggle it was to decide to put each programme on in the first place, and to keep each programme for a second season.

  56. funchy says:

    Maybe for some people TV is just as popular as it always was. But for me, I’d rather TIVO, Netflix, Hulu, or download the shows and movies I like — commercial free!

    Add to that the cable/satellite networks are being billed record high prices for some of their channels. Those prices are being passed right along to consumers. In a weak economy, do we really need to be spending $75+ just to watch re-runs and insulting commercials?

    http://money.cnn.com/2010/04/30/technology/dropping_cable_tv/
    http://techcrunch.com/2010/04/13/800000-households-abandoned-tvs-web/
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124347195274260829.html

  57. Anonymous says:

    TV is pretty much the perfect answer to all of the online media that people steal and say “if there was an easy way to get this with very few limitations I’d gladly watch/pay a reasonable price for it!” for television shows. It’s easy, and there are literally people who do the tough job of filtering shows/concepts into themes for you.

  58. Anonymous says:

    Interesting article, but it misses the big secret that the ad industry never, ever wants to talk about: the TV advertising model is based on a completely bogus “ratings” system that amounts to a consensus reality shared by advertisers, the media, and ad agencies.

    Nielsen ratings are based on 25,000 households (out of over 100 million TV-watching households) and a lot of the information that goes into ratings is self-reported by people supposedly keeping diaries of their viewing. Ratings data is based on 0.02183% of the total viewing population, a small enough number to begin with but made even worse that the people being measured KNOW that they’re being measured and possibly change their viewing habits as a result. The ratings system (as of today) can’t really handle time-shifting and other ways of viewing TV shows in a “non-traditional” format. Minorities are under-represented in the sample, too.

    If you want to read more, there’s a pretty good Wikipedia article on the whole thing here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nielsen_ratings .

    The bottom line is that the ratings system that the entire industry is based on is total bullpuckey. Everyone involved has basically gotten together and agreed to use it but statistically its completely bogus.

    Twenty-five thousand people are used to determine what we see on TV, and those 25K know who they are. The entire “vote with your remote” idea that any one of us TV-watchers can somehow effect advertisers or networks by “boycotting” this show or that show is bogus. If you understand this, you understand why most of the “facts” in this article are bogus, too.

    Want more proof? All you have to do is look at “cult” shows that avoid cancellation because of grassroots efforts from their fans to see what a bunch of baloney the ratings system really is. Even if you do believe the numbers, stats like the ones in this post (http://boards.nbc.com/universalHD/index.php?showtopic=1062) comparing Battlestar Galactica ratings with Firefly ratings show how a well-tuned PR machine can sway ratings perceptions even if the actual ratings numbers tell a different story. (if you want to avoid following the link, here’s the bottom line: the average Nielsen rating of BSG was 1.82 — meaning almost 2 percent of the viewing public– while the first-season ratings for Firefly were 2.98).

    Until we get direct measurement of TV-viewing numbers, arguing a lot of these points is an exercise in futility.

    • Dan says:

      The bottom line is that the ratings system that the entire industry is based on is total bullpuckey. Everyone involved has basically gotten together and agreed to use it but statistically its completely bogus.

      Using a sample size calculator I found here (http://www.surveysystem.com/sscalc.htm#one), I calculated that with a population of 100,000,000 and a 5% margin of error, you’d need to survey 666 people to achieve a 99% confidence level.

      By contrast Nielsen has 25,000 families. I agree that Nielsen has issues with under-representation of minorities, and I think that its self-reporting aspect can lead people to misrepresent what they’re actually viewing. And yes, it would be better if we could measure ALL views (like we can with Hulu, for example).

      But the conclusion that Nielsen is bogus due to its sample size demonstrates a misunderstanding of statistical sampling.

    • BadIdeaSociety says:

      The Nielsens are rather suspicious to me. I have traveled between Chicago, LA, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Seattle and several other major cities on business in my adult life, and I have NEVER met anyone who watched “Everybody Loves Raymond.” How could it possibly been the most watched show on TV if the numbers weren’t being fudged?

  59. Anonymous says:

    #1. Good. There’s no upside to current TV. No PBS is not worth the pipeline of crap jacked into the midbrain tectum of American kids. It’s an addictive timesink which robs us all of creativity, community, and compassion.

  60. failix says:

    To my own surprise, I recently found there are many tv shows I love (though most of them are off the air and have been for years except family guy and tbbt), even if I really never watch TV, never have watched a lot of TV before, and probably never will in the future.. There’s a lot of ads revenue going lost on a significant amount of people who just want to watch stuff whenever they want in original language (without having to pay :D).

  61. gracchus says:

    None of that means people shouldn’t get paid to make TV shows, but it does mean that the old model isn’t going to work much longer. If the industry clings to the old model until it fails, well, look at the newspaper industry.

    The advertising model works in and of itself. It relies on the fact that there are enough lazy suckers who’ll sit through the ads, and enough people who’ll be impacted by a brand name or slogan to one degree or another. The Internet doesn’t change that, it just demands more fine targetting of audiences.

    The newspaper industry took a major hit because they “lost” (i.e. dropped the ball on) classified advertising, but classified advertising itself didn’t go anywhere — it just moved to craigslist. Display advertisements are similarly finding other venues.

  62. Chesterfield says:

    TV channels are in the business of making TV shows, a business that’s supported through making shows good enough that lots of people want to watch them, thus allowing us to sell ads and/or collect subscriber fees.

    Craig, you say one thing, but your actions say something else. I’m going to stand by my assertion that your business is simply about assembling a mass of eyeballs for advertisers.

    If your business were about making TV shows, then how do you explain the SyFy network showing wrestling? It simply has to be about doing whatever it takes to weasel money out of advertisers.

    It’s happened over and over again. MTV stopped playing music, TLC stopped being about learning, and SyFy is shifting out of science fiction. You’ve already distanced yourself significantly with the name change.

  63. redesigned says:

    We heard the same self-denial speeches from the music industry, publishing industries, news sources, etc. defending their existing business models against a growing majority of statistics pointing to fundamental changes in consumption of media.

    If Craig and Nielsen are correct then TV is booming and at an all time high and we can expect to see an increase in original quality content, investments in new shows, less shows will be cut, and everything is peachy keen. The tv industry won’t be affected by the same factors the music and publishing have. Wonderful, things are great, nay better then ever. No need for anyone to worry, no need to try to convince anybody.

    If they are incorrect then we will see more and more stations and content providers struggling, dropping shows, posting decreases in sales and profit, and replacing shows with things like wrestling to try and offset the inevitable decline. The tv industry will be affected by the same factors the music and publishing industries have.

    I guess time will tell.

  64. BadIdeaSociety says:

    4. TV networks are stupid for not putting all their content online

    The underground (illegal) trading of Family Guy episodes ultimately led to the success of its DVDs and the resurrection of the series.

    One of the things that bugs me about the SyFy Channel is that they have no idea how to market to SciFi fans. I have seen your company operate booths at comic book conventsions, so you should have had a chance to really see who your audience is, what they like, what they consume, how loyal they are, how much fun they can be and how much they know about their favorite shows. Create a channel with a broad array of old and new SciFi programs, encourage your viewers to submit YouTube videos making comments on your shows. I am not talking about “I love this show” but rather “Check it out. In this next segment, look out for a really obvious shot of William Shatner’s stand in” or “This is the first time so-and-so used the famous ‘Oh, the pain’ line.”

    Find ways to use the Internet to enhance your programming.

  65. Xenu says:

    “It turns out watching TV on the Internet leads you to watch more TV on your television.”

    Watching TV on the internet made me realize that there’s some great shows out there. But I absolutely refuse to sit through advertisements and watch shows at some arbitrary time. Thankfully the internet solves both of those problems.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree, I would never have started watching castle or archer on the actual channels if I hadn’t seen them on hulu.

    • Anonymous says:

      May I know why do you refuse to watch advertisements?

      I download TV shows, mostly because it takes months and even years for new shows to come to my country (Dominican Republic). But I would happily (if i were able) download TV shows with the advertisements intact.

      After all.. they pay for the show.

  66. fxq says:

    Completely valid points and your analysis may be entirely 100% true. Unfortunately, my wife, my son, my brother, my mother, my father, and my best friends stubbornly believe the 7 things you think people get wrong about the Internet and TV. I interact in physical social circles which stubbornly believe the 7 things you think people get wrong about the Internet and TV. I am a member of many online communities which stubbornly believe the 7 things you think people get wrong about the Internet and TV.

    According to you, if I’m wrong then life is good. If I’m right than life gets better. We all win!

  67. rtresco says:

    The whole crux of the issue are the elements you lump together under #7, but you wave them away with a “pish-posh”.

    I know people patient enough to not watch 5 years of Lost, and then crank it all out in 3 weeks of netflix. That’s zero money to ABC, zero money in DVD sales, and only $30 to netflix for 5 years worth of television without the hassle of commercials, re-runs, writers strikes, etc.

    And there are people you have seen every HBO show ever and never paid for “premium” cable.

    Like you, I’m not saying conventional tv is going anywhere. This is about corp vs. alternative internet tv.

  68. hello whirled says:

    I value the air I breathe …but I won’t pay anyone for it.

    In case there is confusion on this air point: I don’t want anyone to have to pay for air!

    I am saying: It’s reasonable to pay for products of human endeavor. such as…. a TV show. Or that kind of thing. In other words, something someone created.

    (takes a deep breath of nice, free air)

    • foobar says:

      I am saying: It’s reasonable to pay for products of human endeavor. such as…. a TV show. Or that kind of thing. In other words, something someone created.

      So where should I send the bill for this post? ;)

      Making something and throwing it out there doesn’t create any obligation to pay you. I’m all for finding models that do get people paid, but just stamping our feet and yelling won’t make it so.

      • hello whirled says:

        Making something and throwing it out there doesn’t create any obligation to pay you.

        you are correct: if you bake me cupcakes, and offer them to me for free, i’m under no obligation to pay you.

        but we’re not talking about that scenario here. we’re talking about a business.

        • foobar says:

          Businesses don’t have any intrinsic right to succeed.

          • hello whirled says:

            Businesses don’t have any intrinsic right to succeed.

            and who said they did?

            at risk of sounding like a broken record i guess i’ll repeat my point for you: no such thing as free lunch.

            /brokenrecord

  69. Brainspore says:

    The broadcast model of networks like ABC and NBC is certainly under a lot of pressure, but cable networks are doing very well.

    I find this fascinating since Netflix has effectively quashed any lingering temptation I ever had to bite the bullet and pay for cable. Then again I’m also the only person I know who has installed a rooftop TV antenna in the last 20 years so I’m probably not the most reliable indicator.

    • Moriarty says:

      I don’t have a rooftop antenna, but I did get rabbit ears for my TV and convinced friends to do the same (and stop paying for cable). The pay cable model might be going strong, but I can’t believe it has much longer to live. I wish the content producers the best of luck in coming up with new profitable ways to bring me free entertainment.

      • Brainspore says:

        I’ve met plenty of people who think they don’t live in an area with decent TV reception when the truth is they never actually bothered hooking up an antenna to find out. In some ways the growth of the cable industry mirrors that of the bottled water industry- successfully convincing people they need to pay for an expensive version of something they already have free access to.

    • Anonymous says:

      You’re not alone. I traded satellite for broadband and now watch the networks over the air some (a bit more than before) and internet content a lot (especially Netflix). For me, it’s not that good broadband just replaces other pay services; it just delivers at a lower cost the ability to better define what I want to watch without paying for content I don’t want to watch or support. I’m paying for access and content control. It’s simply a better delivery model for a consumer than subscription services.

  70. Anonymous says:

    Wrestling? Clearly SyFy is trying to cater to that 7-11 year old boy and closeted gay crowd.

    If you want a real example of what people are watching, pull a “downloaded X times” list off some torrent sites, then multiply that by a factor of 1000.

    I think someone needs to come up with a way to get my $50 a month, by letting me give it straight to the shows creators. Let me make it perfectly clear though, I want NO ads (product placements are fine, as long as it’s not blatant), and if I want 25 different shows, it isn’t going to cost me a dime more. I also want that on demand, and in at least 480p quality.

    It’s not to much to ask for, if I am “following” 25 shows, and each are getting $2 a month from me, and there are 50 million people who are following them as well, then I think they should be able to make 4 episodes a month for the $100 million they are receiving from us.

    But I also want the price of EVERYTHING I buy from the grocery store to start costing half of what it does now.
    Pepsi spends millions of dollars a year on advertising, now that they won’t be spending that, those savings can be passed on to us. Powered soap that was invented 200 years ago does not need to cost $10 a box. What are they still paying off the machines?

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