Recession-Era TV: Still Big Events, But Everyone Wants A Bargain

Ratings for yesterday's Oscars telecast increased -- but not to the huge, glamorous levels of years past.

At the same time, viewers were treated to new, but not so glamorous ads from brands they might not associate with big-ticket shows, like Hyundai Motor, JC Penney, and Hoover vacuum cleaners.

Gone were the big-brand names of the past: General Motors, L'Oreal, and AT&T. Gone, too, were high-priced 30-second commercial spots, which drifted lower than the $1.8 million ABC rate card.

What does this say? We are in a recession. And yet things aren't that bad. On Monday, Nielsen noted -- again -- that TV viewership continues to climb, even for seemingly less loyal younger viewers.

Big-event TV is still big event for the masses -- which is kind of remarkable. Just look at the Super Bowl featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. Perhaps that wasn't a key marquee matchup (though the Steelers have had a long-time Super Bowl and football brand name tradition). Still, it was the highest-rated Super Bowl ever.



At the Oscars, best movie of the year was "Slumdog Millionaire" -- in keeping with the by-now usual tradition where independently minded, small films, get the most votes.

But helping out "Slumdog" were two big actor brands, of a sort -- Sean Penn, for best actor, and Kate Winslet, for best actress.

They may have helped lure viewers to a broadcast honoring the little guy, not viewer favorites like "The Dark Knight."

Meanwhile, TV marketers are shifting, as well as viewers. These days everyone is looking for a bargain.

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