Friday, November 6, 2015

Return of the rabbit ears

I've gotten way behind on the over-the-air television/terrestrial superstation story. For example, I missed this very good LA Times piece by Stephen Battaglio (I originally called it excellent, but a quick reread uncovered a couple of mistakes -- Weigel launched ThisTV before MeTV and stations can carry more than five sub-channels. Other than that, it was possibly the best write-up I've seen to date).  

I'll be revisiting this later but for now here's a short excerpt and a few brief comments. 

Unplug your cable system and find MeTV, which stands for Memorable Entertainment Television. The network airs hits such as "M*A*S*H," "Bonanza" and "Star Trek," and averages about 521,000 viewers in daytime — higher than all but nine national cable networks. From 5 to 11 p.m., MeTV ranked 20th with 667,000 viewers compared with those networks.

Other media companies have also turned to classic TV as a low-cost programming solution for multicast channels, which now reportedly take in more than $250 million a year in ad revenue.

A quarter of a billion dollars is quite a bit of money, particularly with an audience that is disproportionately poor and over fifty.

A quarter of a billion dollars would be downright incredible if Nielsen were right and OTA were small and shrinking.

Furthermore, the terrestrial superstation world was much smaller when this article came out in early April. Among other developments, CBS and ABC both jumped into the game.

Weigel's MeTV broke the top ten daytime and the top twenty prime time with very little original programming, almost no PR budget and no external advertising. A small independent leading an industry just through word of mouth is nearly unheard of.

There has been a remarkably clear regional pattern in the coverage of OTA television. The best and most comprehensive has come from Chicago, historically a broadcasting town and, not coincidentally, home of the first two major players, Weigel and Tribune. The second best has come from LA, another TV town. By far the worst has come from NYC, which does support some production, but not enough to affect the flavor of the city. This isn't a slam against East Coast journalists but rather a reminder that location still matters. If most of the people you listen to live within fifty miles of each other, you aren't truly getting a wide range of viewpoints. And if they also come from the same income level, and went to the same schools and...

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