Shameful Confession Off The Top: I get a lip-smacking enjoyment watching bamboozlers feel the pressure.
Network television executives.
This time of the year, they put on a suit and they go to a theater, where they try to convince advertisers to buy commercial time on new TV series the advertisers have only seen snippets of. It’s like “Mail Order Bride”, but they show you the ankle.
No shocking surprise here. It’s hucksters. An American institution. Hucksters sold people the West without mentioning the Indians. Or if they did, it was,
“They won’t hurt you. They’re colorful.”
You have to be nervous, demanding “up front” agreements – hence the annual event’s appellation, “The Up Fronts” – for series audiences have yet to show they’ll tune in for, armed only with bright smiles and catchy slogans, like,
“We Fooled ‘Em Last Year – Let’s Do It Again!”
Showing supreme confidence in untested merchandise, however, is the subsidiary stressor in this enterprise. There are considerably bigger fish to have nightmares about.
Put simply, viewers in growing numbers, especially the highly coveted younger viewers, have abandoned television for the Internet and, I don’t know, trying new drugs. (That might be gratuitous, and if it is, I apologize. For all I know, they might be perfectly content with the old drugs.)
Going back to the point… quickly...
While constantly tinkering with demographic subtleties, networks substantially set their advertising rates the way they always have – based on how many people are watching the shows, the more people watching, the higher the ad rates.
The problem is, and everyone knows it…
Less people are watching.
Studies indicate that the 18-49 viewership alone has plummeted from 36% to 28%. That’s a drop of… lemme see…
That’s a really big drop.
Compounding the agony, many remaining viewers now subscribe to services allowing them to “fast-forward” through the commercials. (By the way, even at the beginning we had a way to avoid watching commercials. We called it, “going to the bathroom.”)
Despite this cascading erosion of viewership, television executives have to buoyantly pretend at the “Up Fronts” that everything is beautiful. It isn’t. It’s the The Wizard of Oz backwards.
“Pay no attention to the man (or woman) in front of the curtain.”
It’s just the craziest thing I have ever heard. Networks are selling their customers a sieve they confidently proclaim can hold water. Horse traders hawking a three-legged pony, trumpeting the cost-saving advantage of “one less horseshoe.”
You don’t need Jimmy Kimmel at these shindigs. It’s like, “Send in the clowns;
Don’t bother they’re here.”
Networks, asking advertisers to pay more money for smaller audiences. That’s
“Buy M & M’s. There’s less in the box but we’re charging you extra!”
Maybe if you say it with gusto people go with the enthusiasm.
“Less for more? Sign me up!”
The reasonable version of the argument:
“Yes, the size of viewership is smaller. (Which does not mean that current television viewers are shorter.) But television still brings more people to one venue than anywhere else.”
The reasonable rebuttal:
“It’s less people! And you’re jacking up the prices?”
I get a headache just thinking about that. I mean, how does that feel, being that “Front Person”, peddling that malarkey?
“What did you do today, Mommy?”
“I went on stage and lied to thousands of people.”
(Who are fully aware they are being lied to. Then they all have drinks and eat meatballs on a toothpick.)
I have no idea how they do it – selling a pea and charging for a pumpkin.
Paraphrasing what I once head-shakingly proclaimed about my own (arguably more admirable) line of endeavor,
“There must be an easier to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”