Sunday, August 01, 2010

The ratings game, explained

Look at the television -- and radio -- biz as the Hundred Years' War.

Back when broadcasters were first itching for a fight, back when a radio was a big wooden box with glowing tubes inside, the War Between the Stations was a glorious cause, and Brand X was a dastardly foe worthy of one's best shot. We note above the enthusiasm which Dr. San Guinary enters the fray for
KMTV on the Omaha battlefield of the 1970s.

Yes, the combatants were full of piss and vinegar and, by God, Brand X would be finished off in a few months at worst. Think of the barbecue at Twelve Oaks at the start of
Gone With the Wind

BUT THE WAR drags on. And war is expensive. And you get politicians corporate execs who figure the ratings war can be fought on the cheap -- a calculated strategy for reducing taxpayers' burden increasing shareholder value.

The troops become weary, and morale flags. Then, on stage at an industry gathering, open dissent:

NOW, DECADES later, radio is all but dead. Local television is but a shell of its former self.

Dr. San Guinary was canceled in 1980 and, sadly, departed this mortal coil in 1988.

And today,
Channel 7 is hanging on, Channel 6 is known as Channel Sux, while the once-proud army for which the good doctor fought so . . . er . . . for which the good doctor fought so, is known simply by the results of its ratingskampf:

Channel Third.

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