Reaping the remains

This has been one of the hardest posts for me to write so far, because the topic is quite complex (yet again, very simple), but I thought I better write two posts (here and here) as sort of primer before this one.

If you were running a Commercial TV station, it’s been easy to remember what it’s about, because the name contains the proper order: Commerce first, TV second. That’s how it used to be run until this very day. A number of channels with free programme, because it’s financed by advertisements that interrupt it every few minutes.

This is the story of a Supplier, and quite a good-natured one. Because it’s built around the viewer, and it’s free. Boom. Instant success. And it allowed for perfect vertical integration. You could own the whole production and distribution chain, thus maximise your profits.

And there’s Supplier’s Evil Twin. It takes whatever chunks of content it can get, but they must be cheap, and combines them, held together by ad-glue┬«. Combine that with its Good Twin and you have an idea what Commercial TV is about.

The reason why this system could exist for more than 25 years (one might say only, compared to the US), is because everyone who was everywhere but before the screen profited from it. TV, ad agencies, all industries. The audience’s benefit was that they got to see things they had never even thought or dreamed of.

But when broadband internet became affordable and computers turned from hi-tech to commodities, the game changed. Now there were even more things no one had ever thought or dreamed of, more clutter that could soak up more ad-glue®, a whole new forest of trees with low-hanging fruit. Ads could be displayed over unlimited time, because they were part of the content from the very beginning (which is not exactly true of course, but when the internet became a mass phenomenon, ads were already everywhere).

So now the TV fruitpickers are about to go out of business, they were to slow to get to the new easy picking grounds. So what are they doing? Instead of seeking excellence, improving their business for long-term sustainability, their CEOs try to satisfy their shareholders with short-term action and lobbyism. What they now want is deregulation, the removal of the chains that restrict the hourly ad allowance. They want an exclusive lifting platform for themselves, because, as they argue, their fruitpicking keeps dozens of other industries alive.

Funny that these people, who laughed at the music industry for their failures ten years ago, now are mobilizing massive forces to persuade politics to change the system in their favor. It’s hard to imagine that they don’t know that they’re in the same situation now, committing the same mistakes, but they prefer to ignore it. Except it’s not really funny, because a politician’s sight hardly goes beyond the next election period, so it’s quite probable they will give in.


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