Entertainment marketers have always looked to expand the promotional boundaries for touting new films or TV shows -- properties that really need to be wrestled to the ground, so to speak. Since June, World Wrestling Entertainment's "Raw" on USA Network has been adding more celebrities as "special guests" -- some of them in the ring fighting off full-nelsons.
Like some unpredictable wave, is the TV economy's tide rolling in, moving out to sea, or just seeking its own new level? In a few weeks, when fourth-quarter scatter money starts to flow -- or not -- the real test will begin. If there is real money there, all this means historical trends have proven to be true again.
You have to feel for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Faced with declining ratings for their prized prime-time Emmy awards program, the Academy has tried everything to increase viewership. Last year the show went to an extremely wrong place, hosted by an unwieldy five reality TV hosts. But that was only the start. This year's adjustments, alterations -- as well as reversals of previous decisions for the TV show -- give the enterprise a misguided, entropic feel that its handlers surely didn't want.
Watch what consumers do in this recession; they'll figure out all the tricks of economic media efficiency. Perhaps it started when some financially strapped young families starting abandoning their monthly cable packages for a single-media broadband access wire into their homes, connecting laptops to TVs to get that bigger bit of programming. But they're probably overlooking those still-pricy premium channels.
Some TV shows are high-flying -- others are under the radar. Close to being grounded, maybe. Are these "catch-up" shows? The critically acclaimed "Damages" from FX is in this category. FX president John Landgraf says he is "plainly disappointed with the ratings" of the second season of the drama starring Glenn Close. Landgraf blames the "catch-up' scenario: where viewers may watch four days, a week, or even several weeks later on their DVRs. Worst still some viewers go out and rent a season's worth of DVDs of the show.
A weak advertising market only makes things tougher on those TV programmers that produce controversial and high-rated programming. Fox's "Moment of Truth," the reality train-wreck of a show, where cheating husbands can be found to spill the beans, where wives disclose secret pasts, didn't get the go-ahead for another edition, according to Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment for Fox, even though it debuted with a massive 23 million viewers. He says advertisers found it too rough.
If you were to ask broadcast executives where the big new stream of revenue will come from in the coming years, you might guess wrong. Digital ad revenue? Subscription fees from new online services? Video on demand? One senior broadcast TV executive told me plainly: "It is retransmission fees, pure and simple."
"American Idol" can't last forever. What should advertisers do about its further erosion -- and what, if anything, should they do about a key casting change for next season?
The entire media industry is less dependent on advertising - and will continue to be so. Instead, media owners can expect to grab more money than ever from consumers' pockets.
Local TV news is under attack by news viewers fleeing to the Internet and other pursuits. Now a number of new parties want to pick up the remains that are left. One of the biggest names in video, YouTube, has started up a local TV news module on its Web site, News Near You, where TV stations can place their videos, which can be targeted to Internet users depending on their geographic location. YouTube will split whatever revenues it gets with stations.