Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The end was near a long time ago

While working on an upcoming post, I came across this quote from a 1989 NYT profile of Fred Silverman:
He said going back to a network does not interest him. He added that he would tell any executive who took a network job to ''take a lot of chances and really go for it.''

''This is not a point in time to be conservative,'' he said. ''The only way to stop the erosion in network television is to come up with shows that are very popular.''
Given all we hear about how fast things are changing and those who don't embrace the future are doomed, it's healthy to step back and remind ourselves that, while there is certainly some truth to these claims, change often takes longer that people expect.

Experts started predicting the death of the big three networks about forty years ago when VCRs and satellites starting changing the landscape. That means that people have been predicting the imminent demise of the networks for more than half the time TV networks have been around.

At some point, technology will kill off ABC, CBS or NBC, but they've already outlasted many predictions and a lot of investors who lost truckloads of money over the past forty years chasing the next big thing would have been better off sticking with a dying technology.

Ddulites make lousy investors.


  1. Mark:

    Sure, but . . . the other day I happened to notice a feature in the newspaper giving the ratings of the top TV shows, and . . . I was stunned (although, in retrospect, maybe I shouldn't've been) by how low they were. Back when I was a kid there was a column in the newspaper giving the TV ratings every week, and I remember lots of prime-time shows getting ratings in the 20's. Nowadays a top show can have a rating of less than 5.

    1. Andrew,

      That's definitely true. TV had a virtual monopoly on home entertainment for about thirty years (late Forties to late Seventies). Now it's just one player on a competitive field and the erosion will undoubtedly continue.

      Still it's remarkably difficult to kill a medium and fairly easy to find failed predictions of imminent demises for almost any medium you can think of. Some of these predictions come from extrapolating s curves. Others come from treating companies as static. Still more come from missing positive effects (cable actually helped Fox launch because it made low power stations viable. Compare that to DuMont which crashed and burned when the TV audience was huge and growing)

      I am a huge fan of new media -- I'm currently working on ebooks and producing videos for local musicians on my laptop -- but when you read someone like Clay Shirkey a little historical context is remarkably healthy.