Saturday, February 18, 2012

Here's What's Ruining Cable TV

As this blog is essentially the repository of anything I happen to have going through my mind at any given moment, I find that I'm totally forgetting some important political topic.  So, instead (and perhaps to your relief), I'm going to write about an interesting discovery I made regarding cable television.  It seems that the corporate powers that be are not so sensitive to what we would prefer to watch, even with hundreds of channels to choose from.

It seems that corporate advertisers really love having macho-male men endorse their products.  Usually this means sports stars.  But advertisers, ever anxious to megaphone more of their propaganda into your ear at less cost to them, have turned to other "manly" men.  You might have noticed how Old Spice has been endorsed by Bear Grylls (as if you need deodorant out in the wilderness), and the spokesperson for Ford is Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs.  Had Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) not been killed, we'd be seeing him on more commercials as well.

This is part of an overall growing trend where advertisers really don't want to shell out the big bucks to sports figures anymore because their agents have priced them so high that they're almost out of the market.  So, to get the "manly" man they want to advertise their macho products, the producers of major cable programming have been strong-armed into producing shows which feature such men.

Maybe "strong-armed" isn't the right word.  After all, the History Channel is owned by a consortium of A&E Television Networks, Disney-ABC Television, and NBC Universal (which, in turn, is owned by Comcast and GE).  The ones being strong-armed are the junior producers, given a strict edict to find the manliest man shows available -- all so they don't have to pay more money to Jeremy Lin, Aaron Rogers, or Albert Pujols.

Hence, we tune in to Discovery, History, Animal Planet or The Science Channel - formerly havens where we could flee to in order to get something, anything, to feed our mind - only to find stuff non-educating and non-interesting: The Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, Ice Fliers, American Chopper, American Loggers, Sons of Guns, Storm Chasers, Ax Men, Gold Rush, Full Metal Jousting, Swamp People, Hillbilly Handfishin', etc., etc.  Thank heaven for Mythbusters!

In short, this is why we find no history on the History Channel, no discovery on the Discovery Channel, fewer animals on Animal Planet and less science on the Science Channel.  Shit, next thing you know, they're going to stop showing music on MTV.

(Oh. Yeah.)

This trend was revealed to me by Steve Boettcher, the co-producer of "Pioneers of Television" which has recently aired on PBS.  He has watched this trend from the inside.  But he is part of a growing trend of independent producers and filmmakers who are trying to transform Milwaukee into the new home for independent films, which is possible because of our low production cost, close proximity to Chicago, and close ties to many in the independent film industry.

Who knows?  Maybe Milwaukee will help solve this problem by producing independent shows that feed the mind instead of advertisers' pocketbooks.  Maybe then, corporate interests will see the huge market they have unwittingly alienated.


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