There is a great divide out there and I’m not referring to some geological site in Colorado. I’m referring, instead, to the way we get our entertainment. Its got the ratings people such as A.C. Nielsen concerned. Time out- For the record, I don’t like the Nielsen people because I often have to wait when driving home from a client in nearby Wheeling while the cars exiting the Neilsen parking lot pile onto an already busy Willow Road in North Suburban Chicago. It seems as if they have a “most favored nation” status with the local police who provide cover for them. Traffic stops for up to five minutes until their lot empties out. I say take a screwdriver to them and let their employees wait until traffic dissipates like everyone else has to. Or make them pay for a freaking stop light that is timed to work at certain hours of the day. Okay, time in.
The Nielsen people are scratching their collective heads but won’t admit it as they try to quantify as well as qualify who is watching what on television at what time. Why? Take for example Thursday evening. The NBC network runs six half hour comedies in a row. Some of them allegedly get good ratings. But more and more people are realizing that they do not have to sit chained to the tv set in order to watch that week’s episode of The Office or Community or Outsourced, etc. Instead, they can go to Hulu.com and watch it at their convenience. Who needs Nielsen for that? Hulu can do visitor tracking on their own site that gives them a precise number of viewers of each show being watched.
How is a hardworking television network executive supposed to figure out what is popular and what is not when viewership is so segmented? How do they know how much to charge for advertising rates? It has to be disconcerting so much so as who would want that job? (Uh, me, me, please?)
This “watch when you want” attitude in one sense adds some viewers to the mix. There are certain shows I would never watch when they are first broadcast on television but will take the time to find them at Hulu.com. And Hulu does make you watch advertising. But, its not so bad as the commercials are never more than sixty seconds long and the sound doesn’t jump to an annoying higher pitch. The ads are mostly respectful
The other big internet media outlet- much bigger than Hulu- is Youtube.com. It started out mostly free of click-thru ads and commercials. They needed deep pockets for that and the investors had it. They patiently waited for a loyal following that took a few years to build and then unleashed the ads full force. Still, it is not as annoying as sitting in front of a television set and having to wait two minutes or more to continue concentrating on what you had rudely been stopped from watching.
I’m guessing that everyone reading this spends time on YouTube looking at an assortment of videos. It may be a clip of someone trying to get their fifteen minutes of fame or a movie or tv show from fifty yeas ago. I suspect that the founders of YouTube never imagined that members would be uploading other people’s intellectual, right? (wink, wink) They figured it would be mostly for the self-amused crowd who would finally have an easy way to show friends their wedding videos. They never imagined that some guy in The Netherlands would decide to upload old MGM movies that were still under copyright protection. Many of us, therefore, spend our time watching every episode of The Larry Sanders Show, or Sgt. Bilko, or What’s My Line that are out there to be uploaded. This, my friends, takes away from watching regular Nielsen-rated television.
So, what’s the future in store for network television? I guess a lot of it depends on how quickly the computer and television morph together. I would think that products like an Ipad will have a say in this. Remember, radio did not go away because of the invention of television. It just changed what type of content you would expect to hear when you turned the knob to the ‘on’ position.. Besides, you can’t drive a car and watch tv at the same time. At, least I hope not. Radio is still needed. Television does also have a future but I suspect it is overrated. (C’mon!)