The Difficulty of Choices
Today I had a shocking thought one I never thought
I would entertain. In my office, working late, I decided Id
had enough of reviewing tapes and
thought I would drop in on the real world, see what was transpiring.
In my office, I have a brand new box for satellite television,
something Ive wanted to play with and now I have the
toy. But I am not
facile with it yet and so it took me about six minutes to
find a news
channel and then it was FOX. I was not ready for the
Working late requires news and information that is at least
strident than Mr. OReilly.
It took me another six or seven minutes to find another news
network justthe news. In my channel odyssey, I went
through many iterations of MTV, something like ten Discovery
Channels of one niche or another, CNNfn, an amazing array
of ESPNs that I never knew about [nor probably will
ever watch]. I slipped through endless pay per view options,
forty channels of music, a dizzying array of choices that
would leave anyone over the age of fourteen breathless.
Why, say you among the cognoscenti, did he not go to the
guide? Why did he not press that magic button? Because, ladies
and gentlemen, I got sucked in, right down the whirlpool of
choice. What were on these channels?
At the end, I know I breezed through more decorating teams
than I thought there were houses in America. Imagine what
some Afghani or Iraqi would say, if caught in my position?
It was then the shocking thought came to me: we have too
MANY channels! I cant do this? Cant we go back
to the days of only seventy channels? I yearn for seventy
channels. There was HOPE when you had seventy channels that
you might at least remember the numeric neighborhood of a
This is heretical thought for me! I am the one who has stood
in the middle
of the room and shouted: More! More! Give me more! I have
unconsciously, of course, on my own holy media jihad! Smite
down those old networks and embrace the new ones sprouting
up at the great head end in the sky. Bring on as many as you
can because in this new universe of choice, multiplicity and
quality [remember the cable industry campaign: Keeping The
Cable Promise?] no one, NO ONE, would ever again have to endure
a sitcom like My Mother, The Car.
Ah, but in this bright new future I have helped create with
my fervor over
the last twenty years, I have witnessed marvels of programming
and personal soaring arcs of hope and pride at witnessing
the blossoming of programming in the 90s. A&E
and Discovery [professional alma maters of mine] produced
really great and innovative programming.
And I could find them!
This is a not unfocused rant I am on because my day, today,
and prior to
finding I could not find the news; I spent my day with colleagues
business of television who were facing the repercussions of
choices and how they were dealing with them. It is
a whole new set of
challenges, and a set of challenges that many working today
did not see
coming and werent prepared for.
The total dollars going into the television advertising system
but that growing pot is being spent among ever more networks.
were three broadcast networks and now there are seven. Once
there was one womens network and now there are three.
Once there was ESPN and now there are many ESPNs and
the Golf Channel and the Tennis Channel and SpeedVision and
a channel just for the Yankees.
Network executives focus on ratings because ratings bring
forcing programmers to look for that lowest common denominator
eyeballs to sets. Hence, Fear Factor, Jackass, the WWE and
most of Fox.
Today, the brightest thing I heard in my travels was one
of my colleagues
who said something like: may be its time for television
to embrace a
different kind of model for building revenue than simply raising