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The February Sweeps That Wasn't & The Decline Of The Print Media

If anything, February was a pretty stark example of the decline of advertising revenues for both electronic and print media due to the serious global recession. Network leader CBS actually had an extremely high number of repeat programs during the month which was completely uncharacteristic of previous sweeps months, and a number of U.S. city newspapers either declared bankruptcy or else were very close to calling for it.

Normal sweeps months in previous years featured over-priced and expensive miniseries events or made-for-TV movie events. However very few of these aired this past February as networks belt tighten to endure through the serious recession. And daily newspapers have experienced serious advertising revenue falls. In Portland, Oregon, for example. the entirely ad driven NICKEL ADS, which is completely comprised of ads has been reduced in size to about half it's previous size because of the sharp drop in paid ads as more and businesses or persons selling goods simply give up and cut their losses by stopping advertising altogether. If anything it is a certain sign of an economy and business environment in a sharp state of decline.

Some analysts have tried in the past to blame the decline of American newspapers on the rise of electronic competition such as instant computer news or 24 hour news such as CNN or FOX, however the problems are probably much more tied to the economy than anything. Newspapers are an important advertising outlet for retailers and a coupon outlet for consumers, and the only thing that would take so many out of this market has to be extreme financial hard times and belt tightening. It is also a sign of hopelessness on the part of business that nothing they can do will help sales.

Probably many businesses are hoping for an economic recovery to come to act as a tide that will float all boats. But in the meantime, many businesses are not advertising as much and are cutting back on promotion budgets. And this will only lead to less new TV program episodes, and less daily newspapers and other declines. In fact, some cities such as San Francisco may actually be left without a daily paper if the main city newspaper decides to fold as their advertising revenues dry up.

A pretty good example of massive belt tightening at struggling NBC will be the future addition of a 10PM talk show hosted by Jay Leno as Conan O'Brien is moved into 11:35PM period THE TONIGHT SHOW slot on June 1st. This will allow NBC to cut out five expensive 10PM drama programs such as ER or possibly some of the LAW & ORDER series shows and replace them with a cheaply produced talk show. This isn't a sign of progress at all. This is a serious sign of the decline of the TV networks. The only good question is whether CBS will continue to air expensive high quality 10PM dramas as well, or else follow the example of NBC down the road, where high quality programming ends after 9PM, leaving only a shortened two hour prime time and then a 10PM cheaply produced talk show or reality show. This is a frightening aspect for anyone to consider that loves quality TV dramas as much as I do.jay-leno.jpg

The fact of the matter is that whenever this deep and long recession will end, the nation will be much left weaker for it, with the loss of so many daily newspapers and the cutbacks of so many TV program episodes. This is hardly a good trend by any means. But this serious recession is certain to change the cultural landscape forever. TV and the print media will never be the same.

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (6)


I really don't see how getting rid of "good TV" will hurt us as a nation. Hopefully it will encourage people to be more productive and think for themselves instead of turning off their brains when they point their eyes at the 'tube. I've found being without a telveision in college makes spending time with friends all the more enjoyable and it encourages me to get my info from places other than the talking head on the nightly news.

Paul Hooson:

Mike, thanks for your counter-viewpoint here. However, I personally believe that the 10PM drama hour has allowed for some very great and serious television. ER, CSI MIAMI, CSI NY, LAW & ORDER, and many other great television dramas flourished in this time slot that allows for a more adult and mature audience to come to grip with some serious subject matter. The impact on popular culture could be tremendous.


Paul, you might be right about the economy affecting the TV side, but the print media has been on a death spiral for the last couple of years. It's just that now the ground is finally rising up to meet the onrushing meteorites.


I've got to disagree, Paul. I think the lack of advertising money going to "old" media isn't due to the recession, it's due to results. More and more money is going to web-based advertising, and less and less is going to TV, especially the "old" networks. This is due to a lack of relevance to daily life. ER, The CSI's, and Law and Order are decent shows, but they're getting a little long in the tooth. It seems like fewer and fewer people want "serious subject matter" in their viewing, but are looking for an escape instead. We know that the "news" industry is getting hammered by their devotion to following the same old formulas, as evidenced by the collapses happening to newspapers across the country. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the recession has nothing to do with it, I'm just saying that the advertising dollars are shifting to "new" markets like the internet, etc. I think the time is right for the networks to do some restructuring, and to dump some of the dead weight to get on board with some new programming. The market for Sci-fi, superheroes, fantasies, etc. is extremely strong, but there's only one show on in prime time that follow those themes. Military based drama (the Unit) is doing well, but needs some more shows to get a share of the market. Mind you, those shows will only do well if they take a balanced political stance. We've seen what Hollywood has produced in the "war" dramas of late, and they didn't fly. See "Taking Chance" and how it did for an example of a balanced stance. People want good TV, but the networks need to listen up to hear what America wants to watch. Then the ad dollars will come back up again.

Doubting Thomas:

"People want good TV, but the networks need to listen up to hear what America wants to watch."

They don't need to listen, Chad - they believe that whatever THEY want to produce is what the consumer wants to see. And what THEY want to produce is something that's already tested and proven. Like CSI:Miami, CSI:LA, CSI:Abeline, CSI:Clovis, NM, CSI: Ft. Collins, CO, CSI:Beatty, NV, CSI Chugwater, WY...

In two more years, we'll have coast to coast CSI, interspersed with reality shows like Survivor:North Dakota, Survivor:Idaho, and Survivor:Indiana...

And then - it'll probably be time for remakes of '50s Westerns. Bonanza 2010, anyone?


I'd go for a good western. I think Bonanza, The Rifleman, or even something like Grizzly Adams could be redone. The big thing to a remake or western would be that you would have to stay away from the cheese. Sure, you could do humor, but the Maverick and wild wild west remake were not real good. How about Tom Selleck doing some more Louis L'amour movies? That would be good stuff. I'd like to see some new young actors "earn their spurs". At one point in Hollywood you had to know how to ride a horse to get a job. I'd like to see some good sci-fi (with some real science in it, see John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor at Baen-Into the looking glass series) and some good swords and armor stuff. Heck, even some good swashbucklers could rock. I tried to watch some of the Crusoe stuff, but it just couldn't compare to reading the book. Didn't hold my interest. Heck, start combining genres. It worked for Firefly (western in space) maybe they could get Whedon to do some more stuff. Roman Legions in Space? Give it a shot. How about a good space opera with massive fleets, kind of an Honor Harrington or Lt. Leary thing? What about a good Falkenberg's Legion story? That could go on for years and not run out of ideas. Just some ideas. Needs a "real" attempt at production values and hiring some decent talent. Sci-Fi tries but ends up with schlock or horror most times. Battlestar Galactica was good for two seasons then went the morally ambiguous route. People want to see heroes, not both sides being portrayed as the bad guys, or the oops! sorry, the heroes you love are really the bad guys. Bionic woman was pretty good until the strike killed it.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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