QUAKE or JEOPARDY
Producer and Market
According to the Telecommunication Act of 1996
A television PROGRAM must be an objective to serve the publics interest, convenience and necessity.
That is quite a different basic principle than the attitude
to regard a television-program as a product to obtain
advertisers. The significance for both Public Broadcast and
Commercial television is to make attractive television.
The same aim, different goals.
Sat 1, one of the two major commercial-TV-stations in Germany confirmed this difference by upgrading their marketing-manager to programdirector.
The market's first rule is M 1: MAKING MONEY or MOBILIZING PEOPLE (politics)
The instrument is M 2: MARKETING
The exploitation is M 3: MERCHANDISE/MORALS
Marketing-analyses can be useful tools, but they do not guaranty success.
Television has become a fast-food supermarket.
Popular gameshows are big moneymakers for the licensee and the production-company. Even though the ratings fall down dramatically it still is profitable to produce such programs because of low productioncosts.
For instance Wheel of Fortune is made at the assembly-line. One per hour. Depending on how much strain physically and psychologically the host can take, 5 to 6 episodes are made in one day.
Some producers get even more revenue out of their production-time by using 2 hosts.
Of course it is hard to guard quality, enthusiasm and motivation of the crew while producing on the automatic pilot.
Four to five 25 minute episodes of a soap-opera can be produced from the assembly-line each week at very moderate costs. Creativity if there is any must be found in dialogues.
Lightning and camera-work, ranges from simple up to poor.
The articulation of television as a creative tool, is almost exclusively alive, develops and flourishes in a specific small segment of the medium, the video-clip. But in general the run of the mill is an insult for good taste.
The market uses its own vocabulary to identify the targets.
Throughout the years there have been targets shifting and ranging from hippie to yuppie to punk A and B Targets, Dinks (double income no kids) and the latest developments are:
Grampies: Growing retired moneyed people
Woopies: Well-of older people
and Jollies: Jet-setting oldsters with lots of loot.
Marketers use the tool of polling to canvass people's opinions and uses that information to influence the individual and collective mind.
As the TV scans our minds, the automatic indicator scans the social body. The indicator generates a collective average that is used to manipulate the social, economical and political market.
The indicator reflects the state of mind as it is, but it does not provide a recipe for what has to come. That is one of the reasons why a lot of television-programs nowadays come out of the recycling-machine.
The absorption ability of the Homo Ludens has been challenged too much and has come close to an end.
The spectator is tired of more of the same.
The Public interest has faded into portions ranging from 0 to 12 %.
National and international calamities and sports events with a high level of chauvinism may go beyond these figures, but they are incidental exceptions.
It is remarkable that the economic powers who criticized the monopoly of public broadcast in the early eighties by suggesting that commercial opening of the Media-market was the best guarantee for the development of a divers society, have become the exploiters of more of the same.
More broadcasters, who are serving the same amount of viewers can not generate more money for better programming.
On the contrary. Without a significant growth of the advertising market, more and more broadcasters are dealing with dropping budgets.
The obvious, understandable but also rather narrow minded reaction is the search for low budget concepts.
Broadcasters and production-companies worldwide, welcomed Formats like Donahue, later Oprah and all the imitators, like Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, Russ Limbo, Geraldo, providing the spectator with a new popular game:
the electronic couch of psycho-analysis.
Immediately it became worldwide a popular format. An easy to copy, fairly cheap to produce catharsis for the nation.
Opening up horizons.
After all the themes have been recycled for at least three times the authors of these shows started to dig in the darker sides of the Human Sapiens. The struggle for ratings perverted the content.
Adultery, promiscuity, incest, pornography, public moral executions, you name it and there is a talkshow that's using it as an USP. (Unique selling point.)
Again more of the same is killing the public interest.
The next step turned out to be also a bad recipe for the sick patient. Its called reality TV. There is nothing wrong about informing people about all kinds of aspects in our society. Some of it is even positive and useful.
But the majority of these programs show bad taste, poor production, bad photography, bad information. The urge for sensation must generate viewers.
Taxi-drivers with amateur-cameras listen to the policeradio day and night to make an extra buck on the side, shooting a robbery, murder, traffic accidents, or chase for illegal aliens.
Paying respect to the victims is not an issue.
There is a demand for brilliant, unique, authentic programs, though it should not cost any money. For a lot of commercial stations, the times are difficult. There is an increase of staff (in Holland over 200 people will loose their jobs in the business) and the cut back in budgets lead to hilarious, unwanted developments. Two weeks ago I was asked for an interview to be shot at my home.
The camera-crew happened to be a production-assistant. The camera came out of a shoppingbag and was putted moreless accidental in front of my face. He grabbed a stopwatch and said you have one minute. Please be exact because we do not edit anymore. No crew no editing that saves money. It also shows contempt to the audience.
That's the way a mega European production-company is producing these days.
Television-programs are about sentiments and not about intellectual behavior. It makes us feel good when we know the answer before the contestant. Being able to identify with other people's emotions. Being moved by a voice. Being able to become part of a different world in the intimacy of your living-room. But we, the makers, have an obligation to our audiences. We must take our job serious, in concept, content and construction in order to be taken seriously by our viewers.
The quick bombardment of images over the years with expanding choices via cable and satellite have reached a saturation point.
A few years ago a popular show rated 35 to 40 %. The same show today ranges from 12 to 14% of real viewers, not a market share.
Recent developments of the market show a lack of quality and new idea's. And most of all a fear by broadcasters to try something new. Something different.
And it will get worse unless the market will re-develop.
What is the market?
We are the market. Who we are and what we are. A great variety of individuals. With the lowest common denominator as the target for the highest rate of success.
Since 14% is a top ratingfigure the question is, who has the courage to go look for the other 86%?
A syntheses that should benefit both broadcaster and advertiser is the development of special interest channels and programs such as: traveling, sports, nature, automobiles, interior-decorating, gardening, health, cooking, money stocks and bonds.
It enables advertisers to reach their target group and supplies the broadcaster with an audience, advertisers and sponsors.
The problem with special interest programs is, that the viewer is not able to get at any time the information he wants or needs.
He or she feels like watching tennis but gets soccer, you want information about Haiti unfortunately the Galapagos Isles are scheduled.
But if you use your Internet browser you can find at any time, any information you want. And more important you are able to communicate. There is feedback.
You can virtually walk through the hotelroom and find out whether you like it or not. Anything you are looking for can be found.
The web is the market.
Unfortunately at this time of history on the electronic highway information travels with the speed of a snail's pace.
But from the time Edison recorded his Mary and her little lamb up to the first record, the development into the CD and now again into the Digital Video Disk, it also took a while.
So the web will be the market. And of course programs will be needed. People want to see stories. Want to laugh, want to play, want to be informed and educated. Want to be entertained and surprised.
I think there will be great opportunities for China to produce interesting and surprising programs.
Drama based upon its society and culture must be able to open up horizons. Chinese Feature films have drawn more and more attention internationally and are praised and rewarded.
I have seen some Chinese televisiondrama and documentaries. The love and attention that is put into the photography, gives it a high quality production value and makes it very beautiful to look at.
In general I think that the dramaturgy and the tempo could improve by some critical analysis.
I am sure there is a China behind an unknown vale that must be able to fascinate a world audience with different concepts and formats.
Success is measured by ratings. The program must be attractive enough to tune in and stay tuned. The biggest monster for producers was introduced with the remote-control unit.
This technical development did no longer condemn the viewer to be a passive receptor but armed the viewer with the zapper.
Boredom, dull moments, sloppy programming is instantly punished.
A creative analyst designed a weapon against zapping
and called it J.P.M.'s . Jolts per minute. The notion behind JPM's is, that it takes a critical number of cuts to prevent the viewer from getting bored and switch the channel.
TV must zap the zapper, before he or she zaps the channel.
This ridicules the content. Make good high quality content and you will create your own audience.
The technique is changing. The craftsmanship will remain.
We have to be aware that in the way records were replaced by CD's, television will be replaced by the network.
The American standard for High Definition will be a system with 1018 lines.
This matches the ideal screen-solution for the computer.
It enables the viewer to watch Jeopardy or participate in Quake and very soon it will all be interactive.
JEOPARDY or QUAKE?
The network will make all of us part of the greatest electronic slotmachine on earth. Whether we like it or not.