This example comes from an arena that I happen to know something about. But I imagine you could come up with similar examples from your own lives, or from observing the world around you, that closely resemble this hallucinatory hocus-pocus.
Here’s the set-up: (We’re talking about commercial television.)
Commercial television is called commercial television, because the money that supports it derives entirely from television commercials.
So far, so logical. Now…
The television networks pay the program suppliers – studios, independent production companies, etc. – what they call “licensing fees”, in exchange for which the program suppliers supply the television networks with programs.
The program suppliers’ production team – from the actors and directors down to the people who pick up the lunches – are paid their portion of that “licensing fee” by the program suppliers, the program suppliers allocating a substantial, though not always well earned chunk of that “licensing fee” to themselves.
The networks are re-paid for that “licensing fee” and then some (their profit), by the sponsors who buy airtime to promote their products during the program suppliers’ programs’ numerous commercial breaks.
The ad agencies are paid for, one – serving as middlemen between the sponsors and the networks in the purchasing of that airtime, and two – for producing the commercials themselves.
The ad agencies production team – See “Television Suppliers’ Production Team” above, replacing “are paid…by the program suppliers” with “are paid by the ad agencies” who, as mentioned, are paid by the sponsors, who also pay the networks for the airtime, the networks, going around again, paying the program suppliers for their programs, the point being, they are all in it together.
(I am not overlooking the dozens of ancillary businesses that benefit from servicing the requirements of commercial television. For this exercise, however, we will stick exclusively to the “biggies.”)
The hub of this multi-billion dollar “Wheel of Profit” is the commercial sponsor, which makes sense, because, as mentioned in “Paragraph Two”, we are talking about commercial television. Through their purchasing of airtime, the sponsors indirectly pay for all the programs. The sponsors, as mentioned, also pay for the production of the commercials.
Why does the sponsor do all that paying? They do it under the premise that advertising their products on television is beneficial to their business, and is, therefore, worth the money.
The commercials for the sponsors’ products are aired, the viewers watch those commercials, a hopefully substantial number of them are persuaded to purchase the sponsors’ products, and as a result of those purchases, the sponsors recoup their expenditures and then some (their profit) on the “mark-up.”
This entire commercial television enterprise is grounded in the belief that the television viewers are watching the commercials.
The question is,
What if they aren’t?
What if the whole commercial television operation is based on a belief that is horrendously out of date?
When I originally published my post about not liking to watch commercials, a dissenting commenter named Diane asserted that she liked watching (at least certain) commercials.
The question is (a refinement of the previous “The question is”:)
Are there more people like me, or are there more people like Diane? And even if there are more people like Diane, is it possible that there are anywhere near the number television viewers watching commercials today as in the past, to the extent that commercial-backed television holds up as a still credible business model?
The answer is:
It doesn’t matter.
The “biggies” seem to have agreed not to examine that question. The result:
The smooth sailing of the S.S. “Business As Usual.”
The sponsors continue subsidizing the programming, seemingly ignoring the fact that who knows how many, perhaps most, television viewers are no longer watching the commercials. If there is statistical proof that they are out of, perhaps, some sense of duty to the people providing the entertainment, it has not crossed my path. A common sense assessment, plus the advancements in “commercial avoidance” technology, however, suggest otherwise.
If the sponsors were to acknowledge the current state of television-viewer commercial watching, they would have to accept that they are paying humongous sums of money for little or no reason, they would desist from doing so anymore (or look really stupid if they didn’t), and as a result of this precipitous loss of revenues, the eßntire commercial television system would immediately come crashing to the ground.
And nobody wants that.
So they continue to believe that people are still watching the commercials.
And everybody’s happy.
Except for one guy who you happen to be reading at the moment, who would be considerably happier if this bizarre arrangement, and paralleling arrangements regarding many of our other major institutions, all of which we pretend work despite persuasive evidence that they don’t, made just a little bit more sense.