Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Evolution of Television News

by Mike Skrobin

In today’s world of crisis and scandal it is as important as ever to have a reliable news media to inform the American public about current events and what is going on in this world we all live in. Television news profits have become a higher priority than informing the public, which has created an American population obsessed with celebrity gossip and social networking and naive to worldly events and corrupt politicians.  As quoted by Mark Twain, “There are laws to protect the freedom of the press’s speech, but none that are worth anything to protect the people from the press” (Twain 1).  Ever since the success of 60 Minutes news networks have been trying to turn a profit any way possible, such as product placement on morning news programs and big budget productions.  This speaks volumes today where the cable news channels are dominated with celebrity soap operas instead of reporting on the multiple wars America is waging overseas (Chozick). The American people are severely ill informed on a variety of basic government positions and situations, yet overly conscious of the personal lives of talentless celebrities.  It is apparent that we as an American public is systematically being dumbed down by our media (Shenkman).

60 Minutes, The Beginning Of A New Era

In 1968 a show called 60 Minutes hit the airwaves (Bettag).  Inspired by  the Canadian news program The Hour Has Seven Days, former executive producer of The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, Don Hewett, came up with an original way to report important news stories (Bettag) and began using original techniques such as re-editing interviews, hidden cameras and “gotcha” visits to investigative subjects at their homes or offices.  After a slow start 60 Minutes found its footing with hosts Mike Wallace and Morley Safer.  In Safer’s first year on the show he delved into the hard nosed reporting style that would define 60 Minutes while covering such events as cluster bombs, the South Vietnamese Army, Nigeria, draft dodgers, the Middle East, and even Northern Ireland (“About Us, 60 Minutes”).   This kind of reporting and direction by creator Don Hewett resulted in several achievements including an astounding 95 Emmy awards, the record for the longest continuously running program of any genre during American primetime television and multiple Peabody awards (Bettag).

Despite these many great achievements 60 Minutes also opened a pretty awful can of worms.  By 1976, 60 Minutes was the highest rated show on Sunday nights and by 1979 it was the highest rated show on all of television beating out Happy Days, The Jeffersons and Monday Night Football (Bettag).  This success in ratings resulted in a huge lift in profits.  A thirty-second commercial spot went from a mere 17,000 dollars in 1975, to 175,000 dollars in 1982 (Bettag).  With profits like that, it did not take very long before the networks began to realize that the news is actually profitable. In the last four decades television news has gone from a net loser, to one of the largest profit contributors to networks.  According to a 2011 article by Amy Chozick titled “Cable TV and Movies Buoy News Corp. Profits”, Rupert Murdock’s mega cooperation, News Corp, boasted a quarterly income of 1.39 Billion dollars in September, 2011 (Chozick).  Amid the infamous phone tapping scandal, News Corp only felt a slight dip in net income last year making 738 million dollars, or 28 cents a share, down from 775 million dollars or thirty cents per share the previous year.   According to Chozick cable television ventures such as the FX network and Fox News provided a whopping 56 percent of that annual income (Chozick).   Making money off the news?

Over-Informed And Under Educated

In a 2008 article titled “American Stupidity”,  Rick Shenkman lays out some disturbing statistics of just how uneducated the American populous is on many key issues. For instance two out of five voters cannot name the three branches of government (Judicial, Legislative and Executive, for those 40% reading this).  49 percent of Americans think the President can suspend the constitution and about 1 in 4 Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But, more than half of Americans can name at least two members of The Simpsons.  The study also found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just 1 in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms” (Shenkman).  This is startling in the country that is supposed to the beacon of freedom to the rest of the world. This obvious disconnect between voters and fundamental information, like The 27 Amendments that shape our Constitution, could be blamed on a variety of places such as local school systems, newspapers and the American public. But to put blame where blame is due, is it not the television news which has hundreds hours of airtime per week to inform the public on an information they see fit?

Media Dumbing Us Down

Take the Anna Nicole Smith death in 2007.  Although a tragedy for her family and friends, this is not news worthy, at least not to the extent it was covered.  According to a ThinkProgress article from 2007, NBC’s Nightly News devoted just 14 seconds to the war in Iraq compared to a whopping 3 minutes and 13 seconds to Anna Nicole’s death. In a clip from a Fox News Broadcast, there is a “Breaking News” graphic lighting up the screen with a live helicopter feed of the hospital Smith’s body was apparently being held, along with slides of photos of Anna Nicole and her family.  At the same time Fox News anchor, Shepard Smith, was sincerely reporting on the specifics of the celebrities death the news crawler at the bottom of the screen was showing that General Casey (former Commander of the war in Iraq) had just been replaced by General David Petraeus (Anna Nicole Smith Death video).  Shouldn’t the replacement of the commanding general in the War in Iraq be a bigger news story than the overdose of a Playboy model?  But Fox isn’t the only guilty party.

CNN referenced Anna Nicole over 500 percent more frequently than it did Iraq. MSNBC was even worse at more than 700 percent more references to Anna Nicole than Iraq Think Progress. This is disgusting.  To think that a porn star and a gold digger’s death receives anywhere near the same amount of coverage as a costly scandalous war, such as the war in Iraq, is mind boggling, but the fact that the amount of coverage Nicole’s death received dwarfed the coverage the war in Iraq received is disheartening as well as aggravating.

This is a complete contradiction to the Fairness Doctrine for U.S. Broadcasting Policy. The Museum Of Broadcasting Communications describes it best,  “The policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission that became known as the “Fairness Doctrine” is an attempt to ensure that all coverage of controversial issues by a broadcast station be balanced and fair (Aufderheide).  The FCC took the view, in 1949, that station licensees were “public trustees,” and as such had an obligation to afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of contrasting points of view on controversial issues of public importance (Limburg). The Commission later held that stations were also obligated to actively seek out issues of importance to their community and air programming that addressed those issues. With the deregulation sweep of the Reagan Administration during the 1980s, the Commission dissolved the Fairness Doctrine” (Limburg).  By 1985 the FCC issued a Fairness Report, which concluded that the Fairness Doctrine was no longer having its intended effect and may actually be violating the first amendment. Later in 1987, the court case, Meredith Corp. v. FCC, concluded the doctrine was not mandated by congress and the FCC did not have to enforce it any longer.  The following August the FCC dissolved the Fairness Doctrine.  Both Houses of Congress later passed the Fairness Doctrine back into law, only to be vetoed by deregulatory guru President Reagan.  With not enough votes to override the veto, the doctrine sat idle until legislation surfaced again during President H. W. Bush rein, which was then vetoed by him.  Currently the doctrine is still waiting in the wings amongst certain congressmen who still threaten to pass it into legislation, but until then we as American’s have to depend on the word of our news media to deliver us quality non-bias, fair news (Limburg).

Now looking back on the classic news broadcasts like The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, we see that just the way the show is set up is completely different.  For instance, according to the live broadcast of November 22, 1963 we see a conservatively dressed Walter Cronkite sitting at a desk cluttered with papers, telephones and books.  Behind him a few reporters seem to be scrambling to prepare the next bit of news for Mr. Cronkite to read.  The set is as simple as it gets, plain walls with a clock is all we see.  It is clear that there was not very much time, money or effort allocated for silly dressings or anything besides the most accurate and up to date news (“Walter Cronkite Death of JFK.”).  Looking at typical news broadcast of today we see quite the contrary.   Looking at Morning Joe, a politically based morning talk show on MSNBC, we see instead of one person reading the news, a variety of people, ranging from politicians to columnists, reporters and the hosts discussing and voicing their opinions about the days news.  To compare the sets it’s a night and day difference (Morning Joe, 2012.  In just four decades we have seen a transformation from a simple looking reporter’s office to this elaborately decorated high tech looking set.  Full of lights, cameras, flat screen televisions, light up boards and interactive maps.  There are multiscreen capabilities for when multiple people are discussing a topic and all the talent are very well dressed and made up (Morning Joe, 2012).  From a single stagnant shot of Walter Cronkite as he read the news to multiple shots with blazing fast cuts, news bulletin crawlers along the bottom of the screen, fly ins from the top of the screen, check point graphics off to the side of the screen, its amazing any information is even absorbed by the viewer (Morning Joe, 2012).

It seems that there are quite a bit more resources available for bells and whistles we are all used to seeing in todays news compared to four decades prior.   As related to production theory, this midrange request for a bigger budget for more lights, cameras and expensive talent results in a macro level return of big ratings, which result in big profits.  Could it be that the goal for more viewers and ratings has taken the top spot on the priority list away from delivering quality and accurate news?  As quoted from a February 27th 2007 interview, former executive of the CBS Evening news stated, This really comes back to [60 Minutes creator] Don Hewitt’s part of this, and the turning point was when 60 Minutes started making money.  There’s an old Fred Friendly line that I think is the critical one: “Television can make so much money doing its worst that it can’t afford to do its best” (Bettag).

Back in the nineteen sixties television news shows such as The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite actually lost money.  It was a common view of the television networks like NBC and CBS that it didn’t matter that the news lost money. The networks had a consensus that the nightly news broadcast was a write off, they figured they owed it to the American public read the nightly news reports, as a service to the public (Bettag).  Now how about that kind of thinking?  A corporation feeling that they actually OWE their customers something!  Well in 1968 a simple news program called 60 Minutes would change that forever.

According to a Newsweek Article from March of 2011, 29 percent of Americans do not know who the current Vice President is.  44 percent of Americans do not know what the Bill of Rights is.  And 75 percent of Americans do not know why we fought the Cold War (Mannie). As an American, I find  this depressing.

In an interview on Fox Business, former Minnesota Governor and Navy Seal, Jesse Ventura, sarcastically thanked mainstream media for not doing their jobs, so he could work on his television show Conspiracy Theory.  Ventura’s hit show is entering its’ third season, uncovering hidden truths and stories about modern day government conspiracy’s and top secret projects.  Ventura is quoted in humorously saying, “I would like to thank main stream media, because while they are worrying about the death of Anna Nicole Smith, and while they’re worried about pro athletes cheating on their wives, they leave it wide open for my employment” Ventura, Jesse. Anna Nicole Smith Death Video.  So there is actually a hit television program approaching its third season, devoted to reporting and investigating stories the main stream media wont touch.

In a segment from The Daily Show, Jon Stewart talks about how big corporations such as General Electric, despite making over 14 billion dollars in profit last year, not only did they not pay any federal taxes but actually received a 3 billion dollar tax benefit.  This is wrong on so many levels, and Stewart makes his emotions known (Stewart).   Besides the fact that General Electric did not pay any taxes in a year where they made so much money, President Obama actually appointed G.E. CEO Jeff Immelt to chair the President’s committee on jobs.  The most revolting part of the story was the fact that the NBC Nightly News did not even mention a blurb about this story. In fact, instead of reporting on this story or perhaps other relevant news stories such as the Japanese Nuclear disaster or the economic crisis, as Stewart points out, they decide to report on new words being included in Webster’s Dictionary such as “OMG”, “LOL” and “Muffin Top” (Stewart)  This is a perfect example of how the main stream media keeps the American public in the dark on important current events.  And to bring this point home to production theory, this is a great example of how macro level production theory can have an effect on midrange and micro level production theory, because General Electric owns NBC  (Stewart).  And it wouldn’t look very good if NBC reported that it’s parent company, G.E. did not pay any taxes while boasting such a massive profit.  You can trace the pecking order all the way to the top on this one.

With our profit driven media operating as it does, its amazing how accurate our third President Thomas Jefferson was when he was quoted, “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers” (Jefferson). Ever since that first great rating report came in for 60 Minutes out media has never been the same.  Now we have an ill-informed, uneducated population that gets nothing but celebrity gossip and entertainment when they turn on the news.  Do things need to change? I think this great country is being failed on such a massive level by our profit hungry media that there is no choice but to change the system that has corrupted the unwritten forth branch of Government, the intended watch dogs of the other three, which today is owned by the other three. As Jefferson’s words continue to remind us: “Information is the currency of Democracy” (Jefferson).

Works Cited

“About Us, 60 Minutes.” CBSNews. N.p., 2011. Web. 12 Dec 2011. <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/1998/07/08/60minutes/main13503.shtml>.

“Anna Nicole Smith Death”. 2007. Video. youtube.comWeb. 12 Dec 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAEZFtIAvo8>.

Aufderheide, Patricia. “After the Fairness Doctrine: Controversial Broadcast Programming and the Public Interest.” Journal of Communication (New York), Summer, 1990.

Benjamin, Louise M. “Broadcast Campaign Precedents From the 1924 Presidential Election.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media (Washington, D.C.), Fall, 1987.

Chozick, Amy. “Cable TV and Movies Buoy News Corp Profits.” New York Times. B.3 (2011): n. page. Print.

Bettag, Tom. Interview with Tom Bettag Interview by Ted Kopal. 8-15-2006. Print. < http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/newswar/interviews/bettag.html>

Hazlett, Thomas W. “The Fairness Doctrine and the First Amendment.” Public Interest (New York), Summer, 1989.

Jefferson, Thomas. The Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson. 2010. 124. Print.

Limburg, Val. “Fairness Doctrine.” The Museum of Broadcast Communications. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec 2011. <http://www.museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=fairnessdoct>.

Mannie, Garcia. “How Dumb are Americans, Exactly?.” Newsweek . 21 03 2011: n. page. Web. 12 Dec. 2011.

Shenkman, Rick. “American Stupidity.” Tom Dispatch. (2008): n. page. Web. 12 Dec. 2011. <http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174951>.

Stewart, Jon, dir. “I Give Up.” The Daily Show. Comedy Central: 3-28-2011. Television. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-march-28-2011/i-give-up—pay-anything—>.

ThinkProgress.com. “Anna Nicole Smith and Our Media Embarrassment .” Think Progress, 2-9-2007. Web. 12 Dec 2011.

Twain, Mark. “Mark Twain Quotations.” TwainQuotes.com. N.p., 2004. Web. 12 Dec 2011. <http://www.twainquotes.com/Family.html>.

“Walter Cronkite Death of JFK.” CBS Evening News Repot. CBS: 11-22-1963. Television. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K8Q3cqGs7I

“Morning Joe” Web log post. Morning Joe. NBC. Web. <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036789/ns/msnbc_tv-morning_joe/>.

The Museum of Broadcasting Communications. Museum dedicating to broadcast history.

Monologue, Desk, Laptop

by Patrick Ward

The Internet generates a large amount of traffic from younger demographics, making it a distinct marketing outlet for advertisers and television networks. Because an extremely valuable demographic is uploading large amounts of content to websites like YouTube.com and watching content on Youtube, Hulu.com, and Netflix.com, analysts suggest that the normal viewing approach to watching TV is on the verge of extinction and predict that mass television audiences will relocate to the Internet. However, recent data show that Internet viewership is not where these predictions suggests. Broadcast networks have yet to find a way of using the Internet to its fullest potential to connect to this demographic. Networks are starting to push late night talk shows via the Internet to remain relevant. This paper will explore the relationship between the Internet and TV and will explain why traditional television programming is not in danger.

The current thought is the need to integrate television with the Internet to remain viable, particularly to a younger audience. The obstacle for network television is that the Internet has its own community of shows with shorter episodes and freedom from censorship catered to this audience. Websites like Hulu, Fancast.com, or TV.com intend to keep all network or cable TV shows on their websites or on the networks’ websites. However, for an Internet user, it is not unreasonable for viewers to keep a Hulu tab opened next to a Youtube tab on their web browser.

Of the total videos uploaded to the Internet, YouTube hosts 40.9% of content. That is 5,919,350 videos out of 14,468,345 in total (Artero “Online Video Business Models: Youtube vs. Hulu”). “Nearly 60 percent of television viewers and 70 percent of [Internet] viewers reported that they had used the medium for entertainment ” (Logan “Hulu.com or NBC?”). The motives for the Internet and TV are very similar. The YouTube format is set up on an instant play and multiple watch format, with a social aspect where viewers are capable of sharing videos on Facebook.com and through various blogs. To put this in a context of numbers, if Facebook was a country, it would be the third largest country in the world with 800 million users (Statistics, Facebook.com). Google acquired YouTube in 2006 for 1.86 billion dollars (Associated Press “Google buys YouTube”). A study conducted in 2009 by Universidad de la Sabana says that Google Sites (now, YouTube.com) “provide for 40.9 percent of all the videos reproduced in the American market. Hulu’s share was only of 2.6 percent, although later measurements show it is ahead of Fox and is now the second largest online video platform in the United States” (Artero, “Online Video Business Models: Youtube vs. Hulu”).

This information seems to show that there is a lot of money to be made online, but the information has been misconstrued. It does show that large amounts of content is being made for the Internet. However, out of the top ten videos on YouTube with the most views, eight of them were music videos and the other two were unscripted home movies. The video with the most views was Justin Bieber’s “Baby ft. Ludacris” with 672,920,397 views (Judson, “Charts – YouTube”). These are the videos that are on YouTube, more so than other web series. There is a large number of viewers on YouTube watching videos, but these videos aren’t necessarily in competition with prime time programming on network television.

Recent data show that Internet viewership is not where the hype suggests. One argument against the traditional television model compared to the Internet model is that there is a freedom of choosing when to watch content online, whereas television is once a week. But according to the Journal of Advertising,” the average time spent watching television is 4.7 hours compared to 2.9 hours on the Internet. Even compared to the prime time hours, 49% of people are watching television whereas 47.6% are on the Internet” (Logan “Hulu.com or NBC?”). This information shows that there is still a large number of people who are watching television in the traditional manner, either due to preference or habit.

Habit is one reason why broadcast networks have yet to figure out a way to put their content online in a successful way. As we know, advertising is the main source of revenue for broadcast networks, and without enough advertising income in a new endeavor, a network may deem it as unnecessary. “Nearly 60 percent of OTV users agreed that advertising was distracting; fewer than half of the television users agreed with the same statement “(Logan “Hulu.com or NBC?”). OTV users are the people in the survey that preferred the Internet over TV. The survey asked the participants “when I watch television in real time, the advertising is…” with the answer choices being distracting, disturbing, forced, interfering, intrusive, invasive, and obtrusive. Nearly all of the choices were stronger with disapproval by the Internet audience by roughly nine percent.

This data suggest that younger audiences are unwilling to accept what television on the Internet will mean for them. The avoidance of advertising on the Internet isn’t something that younger demographics have become accustomed to throughout their entire lives. YouTube was commercial free before its acquisition by Google. We are accustomed to Internet content being free. On the other hand, we are also used to advertisements during traditional television programming. This is one of the facts that viewers have to accept with all forms of Internet content.

This puts networks and advertisers in a difficult position. They are dealing with a group of people that want their content but do not want to play by their rules. Hulu which “NBC Universal helped create and currently owns about a 30% interest in” (James “Comcast Will Retain NBC’s Stake in Hulu”) is currently the world’s second largest video hosting website behind YouTube. It currently comes in around three percent of total videos on the Internet. “The website is the place where users can watch television shows from networks such as ABC, NBC, and FOX. With limited advertising, users can watch recently aired episodes of their favorite shows. Users have to upgrade to Hulu Plus for a small monthly fee to watch entire seasons, which are still being shown with commercials.” (Artero “Online Video Business Models: Youtube Vs Hulu”)

One of the biggest places for younger audiences to flock to on broadcast television is late night talk shows. The late night spectrum, much like the Internet, has been a popular medium for college students. It is here that we see network television trying to penetrate the Internet through their hosts via Facebook, Twitter.com, or the show’s own website. However, most networks push viewers to go online after watching any of their shows to generate traffic.

There are many late night programs to watch. A late night talk show offers a personal one-on-one feeling five nights a week. This goes beyond a one hour drama or sitcom airing once a week. The audience member finds that their host particularly speaks to their sense of humor. Beyond the show’s content, many aesthetics go into making a show likable. For example, Conan O’Brien had a hit in New York as the host of Late Night with Conan O’Brien on NBC. The set was a little shoebox compared to the one that he would use at as host of The Tonight Show. In New York, Conan started an enormous fan base and had a lot of momentum going into his new job in Los Angeles as host of The Tonight Show. He brought along the same material from Late Night and had fan favorite guests back on the show, but something was not right. Lorne Michaels, executive producer of Saturday Night Live said that the show’s set was too large, and it made Conan (who is well over six feet tall) look small. The show lost its sense of warmth and eventually lost faith at NBC, even though the show did exceptionally well in the young demographic (Carter “War For Late Night”). This goes to show that the intimate level of late night talk shows runs deep with the viewer, where advertisers and networks want to integrate television and the Internet.

Today, there is a whole new level of intimacy in late night programming. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon plays a game with viewers called “Late Night Hashtags,” where he prompts his viewers to go on Twitter using a predetermined hashtag and write a funny line including the hashtag. For example, Jimmy Fallon will send out this tweet saying: “Let’s play the hashtag game! Tweet something funny or embarrassing that happened at a party and tag w/ #partyfail. Could be on our show! (Fallon “Late Night Hashtags”).” Conan O’Brien has a segment called “Conan Fan Corrections” where fans of Conan go to “www.teamcoco.com/hahaifoundanerror” to post where Conan made a mistake. These are all efforts made to establish themselves into the fan conversation.

Traditionally, the Internet has been the place where the conversations have been happening. If a fan of one particular show wanted to have a discussion, then they would find the appropriate website to speak their mind. This is still a popular outlet on the Internet for fans. This is a part of the Internet that networks and advertisers have overlooked as a potentially lucrative area for revenue until recently. The Internet is much different from television in terms of how we use them. The fact that we are unwilling to accept advertisements on the Internet compared to traditional TV shows we do not think of the mediums as being equals. Where as television is where fans watch, the Internet is where fans discuss.

Fan culture for TV shows takes place on the Internet. This discussion “enables one person or group to exert their will and interest over others” (Lewis 25). The only difference now, as opposed to five years ago, is that the host is driving the discussion and is the point of authority. Embracing the culture that fans have set up for their program is what Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Fallon all do. The similarities between these shows are that they cater to that valuable younger viewers.

Along with a desk, couch and monologue, networks want viewers to watch with their laptops. Shows now offer their host the option to live-tweet during the show’s airtime. Conan O’Brien in particular has totally redirected all fan oriented content to his website. The name of Conan’s official website was started by a campaign of fans teaming up in protest against NBC’s plan to put The Tonight Show on at a later time slot. They viewed this act as a slap in the face, and the fans started an online campaign called “Team Coco.” Conan adopted Team Coco and is making a conscious choice to bring his fans to him. Conan’s website promoted the first episode by posting a poll where the fans choose the first guest of the show.

John Wooden, GM and executive producer of Team Coco Digital, discussed the strategy behind Team Coco: “We’re plotting our digital content strategy with him… TeamCoco.com will remain the hub of all things Conan. There will not be a TBS.com show page for Conan’s show” (Fast Company “Team Coco Head Talks”). The significance behind this is the realization that the Internet is run by the fans, and to successfully market a show online is to be a part of their culture. “What’s so unique about Team Coco as a brand is that it sprung organically from a grassroots movement within social media. That’s in our DNA. We’re committed to maintaining Team Coco and building the fan base. Look for us to be extremely active and have a robust presence on all the main social media networks.”(Fast Company “Team Coco Head Talks”)

Conan has notoriously been a huge success with the younger audience throughout his career, and the successor to his old job as host of Late Night on NBC, Jimmy Fallon, also has a young fan base. Fast Company asks,“will Conan continue to use social media on his show like, say, Jimmy Fallon? You can safely say that we will. What we’re aiming for is an unprecedented degree of cross-platform integration…we’ve been doing a series of Webisodes with Conan, and we’re developing more great stuff for the Web.” (Fast Company “Team Coco Head Talks”).

Offering exclusive material on the web is a way to get fans to buy into the website and to continue coming back. In the late night talk show spectrum, the laptop or Internet-enabled device is being integrated as an essential piece to watching the show to a younger audience. Shows like The Colbert Report, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and The Daily Show actively integrate the Internet because of the younger demographic. When Jon Stewart has a guest on that The Daily Show can’t fit into a half hour episode, he features the extended interview online. The website features over 70 extended interviews starting from 2007 (Stewart “Daily Show Extended Interviews”). Casually, Jon Stewart stops the conversation and asks his guest if they can stick around and tells the viewing audience to check the rest out on the web. Stewart has no regard for the time limitations if there is a great interview. This was revolutionary because the show doesn’t have to end if it has surpassed the allotted time. One episode of a show that started on network television can go on forever on the Internet.

Jimmy Kimmel, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live brought a new level of the Internet to his show for a stunt he dared parents to participate in. He challenged the parents to hide their children’s Halloween candy and had them record their responses. He then took all of the video clips and combined them together for a series of clips featuring crying children (Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘I Told My Kids’). This is a contemporary take on Americas Funniest Home Videos by focusing exclusively on one of the most loved web sensations, i.e. crying babies. One of the top 10 most popular YouTube videos, which features two little baby brothers playing with each other, reached 395,582,563 views (Judson “Charts – YouTube”). This is implementing the Internet into a demographic just above that of Conan and Jimmy Fallon. This also speaks in volumes to the misguided claims that analysts made saying that mass viewership like this is going to take down broadcast television.

Of course, the content on The Daily Show‘s and Conan’s websites feature an ad before each video, with multiple ads along the sides of each page. The sites are also being featured on YouTube with their own channel where Conan places clips from the show to reach out to his fan base on YouTube.com.

Fighting the Internet with television is the same as fighting TV with film-the two are completely different in format and desire from the fan bases. Users who like the Internet also like television and movies. To have one central hub to watch all three of the mediums is a way to make the casual viewing process easier. The Internet generates a large amount of traffic from younger audiences on websites like YouTube.com, but as we’ve seen, analysts suggesting that the traditional viewing approach to watching TV is on the verge of extinction isn’t true because viewers haven’t been accustomed to the ramifications that television on the Internet comes with. Television audiences will not relocate to the Internet. The best way for broadcast networks to achieve a successful way of using the Internet to its fullest potential is to connect to the desired demographic’s wants and culture. Networks are pushing late night talk shows via the Internet to stay relevant through the fan community and culture that has already been established on the there. For now, networks will put full episodes up online and load them with advertising. But they aren’t expecting it to overshadow traditional TV, and to compare a web series to a television show isn’t fair or appropriate because of the difference in the intent and nature.

Works Cited

Artero, Juan P. “Online Video Business Models: Youtube Vs. Hulu.” Palabra Clave 13.1 (2010): 111-123. Academic Search Complete. Web. 6 Nov. 2011.

Carter, Bill. The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy. New York: Viking, 2010. Print.

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Fallon, Jimmy. “Late Night Hashtag.” Weblog post. Twitter. 27 Sept. 2011. Web. 07 Nov. 2011. <http://twitter.com/>.

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James, Meg. “Comcast Will Retain NBC’s Stake in Hulu, but Is Stripped of Control – Latimes.com.” Blogs – Latimes.com. 18 Jan. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2011/01/comcast-will-retain-nbcs-stake-in-hulu-but-is-stripped-of-control.html>.

“Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘I Told My Kids I Ate All Their Halloween Candy’ Challenge Yields Hilarious Results (VIDEO).” Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Web. 12 Dec. 2011. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/03/jimmy-kimmels-ate-halloween-candy-challenge_n_1074334.html>.

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Selling Products Through Unscripted Programming

By Eric Reynolds

At the dawn of the 21st century, primetime TV introduced the unscripted genre of television most widely referred to as “reality.” This is due to the candid nature of the genre relying not on scripted material and actors, but on the unscripted lives of “real” individuals who reflect different parts of society. The situations these individuals are in range from desert islands to a camera-rigged house with a group of people. The “group of people” make up the narrative format of the programs, but there is another fundamental aspect associated with the “reality” genre: product placement and cross marketing. Elimination-style programs such as Survivor and The Apprentice often build their narrative arcs around the placement of a product. The products featured in the shows reflect the corporations that are utilizing the shows to maximize said products’ outreach (Benkler). The narratives are always reliant on fresh, strong characters that keep viewers interested, but networks have also used cross marketing to help maximize the use of their stronger, more memorable characters. Competition-based reality programs work to promote capitalism through their narrative format, via cross marketing and product placement.

Survivor became the first overnight phenomenon of the reality genre during the summer of 2000. The globalization of unscripted programming came after a wave of success in Europe at the close of the 20th century. The concept of Survivor came from a Swedish program that premiered in 1997 called Expedition Robinson, and it is largely responsible for the initial format of the American program (McCarthy). Another reality show CBS premiered that summer was Big Brother, a name and format borrowed from the Netherlands. American television adapted dozens of other foreign program’s formats within the next couple of months. Despite the ongoing parade of shows that followed, none were able to surpass the profitability that Survivor brought to CBS. Having long been behind NBC and ABC, CBS president Les Moonves’ decided risk to cater to the “MTV generation” had paid off (Benkler). The show’s format set a standard for many of the competition-based shows that followed: pit sixteen contestants against each other in a specific location (in this case, a remote island). Following a may-the-best-man-win theme, one castaway would be voted off the island every three days, until a single player remained and collected a $1 million prize. After the first three weeks of the show, each contestant kicked off of the island would make a guest appearance on CBS’ The Early Show to talk about their experience (Early Show). It was a not-so-sly move on the network’s part to shamelessly incorporate Survivor into every window of programming they possibly could. Both of the Late Shows hosted by David Letterman and Craig Kilborn featured interviews with castaways and Survivor-themed segments (Craig Kilborn). Perhaps most appetizing for the capitalist firm was the idea of Survivor-related advertisements. Reebok featured an ad with eliminated contestants just weeks into the show, an obvious attempt at riding the wave of a program’s success (Dehnart). To run an ad during the finale of the first season of Survivor, corporations had to fork over $600,000 (Benkler) for every 30 seconds. The business of the emotions that the show elicited produced an unheard of level of audience interaction. A money-hungry network like CBS could not pass on the idea of directly plugging specific brands and goods. Within the first two seasons alone, contestants received “rewards” like a phone call home thanks to the Ericsson World Phone, a Bud Light, Doritos, Mountain Dew, and various items from Target (“Survivor: Borneo”). Is it safe to assume that all of these brands were eager sponsors of the show? Yes, it is. Executive Producer Mark Burnett made his priorities clear in an interview with the Associated Press: “My shows create an interest and people will look at them, but the endgame here is selling products in stores—a car, deodorant, running shoes. It is the future of television” (Associated Press). Thus, the basis of the genre acts as a modern avenue for corporate advertisers and the capitalist firm.

Survivor is currently airing its twenty-third installment on CBS and continues to pull in ten million viewers per episode. The amount of product placement per season has remained steady over the years, but the means of presenting each of the products have evolved. The early seasons of the show saw the contestants win useful rewards, like shampoo. While the brand of the shampoo was prominent, it served a purpose for the contestants who won it: they smelled terrible and needed a shower. Today, rewards come in the form of an advance screening of Adam Sandler’s new film, Jack and Jill (“Double Agent”). Whether or not one would consider this a “reward,” the episode dedicated about a minute to screening a few selected clips from the film, effectively squeezing two extra commercials into the program. Of course, this is in conjunction with the ads that ran for the movie twice during the episode’s official commercial “break.” Not surprisingly, the company that launched TriStar Pictures with CBS and HBO in 1982, Columbia Pictures, distrubuted the film. With so many different facets of the network’s programming plugging the film, the firm has successfully monopolized the network’s airtime. Other programs, such as Big Brother, have also utilized this type of product integration: the “reality” of the house guests’ situation is separation from the outside world as “Big Brother” records their every move. While not having the comfort of a book or television, the welcome reward of an advance screening of a new film fits perfectly into the narrative arc of the “cut-off” contestants. On NBC’s The Apprentice, Mark Burnett teamed up with Donald Trump to create a program that promotes a multitude of brands, including Trumps’ own. Using the stories of the competitors vying to apprentice for Trump, thus further glorifying his brand, the show’s producers can easily incorporate products that used in competitions. Trump assigns a task involving a specific brand or product, and the contestant who can make the most money from an original idea promoting the brand or product wins the challenge. The bottom line is that the point of The Apprentice is for each contestant to make the most money. This is a reflection of the capitalist firm’s use of a show like The Apprentice to generate their own revenue.

The Bachelor is one of the most popular relationship-oriented shows on television. It garnered the highest ratings among the key 18–49 demographic during its first season. Over the initial five seasons, the show averaged 11-17 million viewers; it is among the top five most profitable reality TV shows, with a profit of $38.2 million in the fourth season alone, and a rate of $231,400 per advertising spot (Dubrofsky). The Bachelor presents an attractive, eligible bachelor who courts twenty-five women, each hoping to become his fiancée by the end of the program. In the spirit of gender equality, ABC developed a comparable show, The Bachelorette, where 25 men court one woman with the same end goal in mind. The rules for the two gender-differentiated shows are identical. The shows’ website describes them as “a series of fun, exciting and exotic dates that will elicit real and raw emotions.” Although they may not all be genuine emotions, The Bachelor(ette) is clearly an emotional roller coaster as the suitors draw constantly on their emotions as part of their strategy to win the heart of their object of affection. In its display of lavish consumption, the show exemplifies a “romantic utopia” that inverts capitalist values into symbols of primitive simplicity and pure emotionality, but emphasizes the intensity of romance in the absence of work (Illouz). Here, all elements of traditional work are exorcised, and women (or men) are “kept” in the context of a harem (Dubrofsky) wherethe enjoy private jets, mansions and other luxuries. The leisurely activities that frame the show constitute immaterial labor that the firm harnesses for financial gain. Essentially, the audience is buying the featured products, characters and ideas.

Many claim that the current permeation of reality television is proof of a somewhat weakened intellectual economy. “Reality TV today is a cheap endlessly recyclable and licensable programming format, a product of the collapse of the three-network system and the rise of cable television and new networks like Fox” (McCarthy). From a marketing perspective, there are few better ways to promote a product than by featuring it in a context that showcases its functionality and value. This is particularly true when a show and a brand share a common target audience, and the show brings with it an existing following and loyal fan base. A brand that is equally likely to appeal to that audience is able to affect it in a meaningful way. The Reality TV Insights Survey (Deeth) found that although a majority of viewers do not like product placement, and according to 94% of viewers what they have seen on a reality show influences them, making it an extremely effective form of advertising. What happens, however, when those consumers see product placements translated for the web? Brands may be able to influence viewers through the small screen, but can the image sustain itself online? Are those who follow a brand from a show to its site satisfied with the payoff? Does its offline integration into reality TV correlate with what is expressed online? This is one dilemma that is not entirely in the marketer’s hands. What happens on a show’s related site is the product of publisher negotiations, inventory availability, creative availability, and countless other factors. The firm may not have as much control over their cross-media product placement campaign as they would like, but that does not mean they can not approach it with a savvy strategy.

Contestants on Lifetime’s Project Runway must to make outfits out of materials purchased only in a pet store, and yet their design room could not be more high tech. For three years now, the series has maintained a partnership with Intel and HP, with the two brands supplying technology that is intended to facilitate the design process and inspire creativity. For instance, earlier this season the show’s designers were required to use it for a challenge in which they had to create their own textile print as well as film and produce a video to accompany the resultant fashion show.

On the program, the products play a significant role. Online, the two brands take things a step further by continuing to educate consumers about the products while also encouraging sales transactions. The “Rule the Runway Sweepstakes” may live on MyLifetime.com, but the page looks more like it belongs on one of the brands’ own sites. It includes product-specific banners and an entire gallery of HP products that link directly to the HP online store.

This form of integration is not the only means of achieving profit maximization. The idea of cross marketing within an unscripted program is another way of attempting to attract viewers. The first time this happened on network television was during the summer of 2001 on CBS’ Big Brother 2. The first two seasons of Survivor had just ended, and, to bridge the gap until the next fall edition of the show, CBS used Big Brother as a summer replacement for their fresh new set of loyal viewers. During the second season, four contestants from Survivor entered the Big Brother house to capitalize on the success of Survivor and simultaneously attract viewers from that program to Big Brother. Survivor soon implemented the idea of an “all-star” season, in which past contestants who have proven memorable and entertaining the first time come back to give the network more of what has proven affective. Boston Rob was a well-known contestant from Survivor who came back for an all-star season, met his fiancée in fellow all-star Amber Brkich while taping the show, and eventually had his marriage to her payed for and taped by CBS. He has since appeared on two additional seasons of Survivor, and a season of The Amazing Race with Amber. Not surprisingly, The Amazing Race is another CBS reality series. This idea of re-using a character that evoked a large reaction from the viewers lends itself perfectly to the logic of safety. Cross marketing has saved networks money in terms of casting, locations, and programming content itself.

The ways in which products and cross marketing are intertwined with unscripted programming is a testament to the capitalist firm’s evolving methods of reaching young viewers. The traditional use of riveting story arcs keep the interest of the loyal viewer, while the greater agenda that is generating the most revenue possible keeps the interest of the corporations and firms. Together, the two work hand-in-hand delivering entertainment that subconsciously fuels this vapid society’s material desires.

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