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.
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!