Friday, January 15, 2010

Local TV News: Politically Correct and Feminized

A recent article in Tucker Carlson's new site,, sheds light on why LOCAL TV news is so politically correct: it is aimed exclusively at women. discusses the issue here. From a "well known news anchor from a Top 10 Local station" comes the unsurprising news that local news broadcasts are infested with perky twenty and thirtysomethings that know nothing but terminal political correctness, and practice it, both in hiring and producing newscasts. A near total reliance on women (almost exclusively White) ages 18-49 by local news as well as national broadcast and print media has been driving culture inexorably leftward and towards terminal PC stupidity. As a result, the media is ill-prepared for the backlash by men, and older women, who as the economy falls deeper into recession, become more important economically and politically. The stage is being set for a titanic political-cultural struggle between women ages 18-49, and everyone else, over the direction of the nation and its future.

The writer of the article, notes that:

For the better part of my adult life, I’ve worked as an anchor and reporter at CBS, NBC and ABC affiliated newsrooms across the country — often complaining about the nanny-state liberalism that infects so much of news coverage. Arguably, local news is a more insidious and destructive force than the widely accepted liberal bias of networks and other national components of mainstream media. After all, study after study has demonstrated that local news is more widely watched — and, more importantly, more trusted than other forms of mainstream media. There is a case to be made that the steady drumbeat of hyped-up threats — SUV’s that roll over, kitchen-counter bacteria, road rage, swine flu, amber alerts and the stations’ willingness to enlist governments and institutions to solve those “perceived” problems, actually drives a lot of bad and unnecessary public policy.

But it’s a formula that has worked as a cash cow for your local TV station. It is no accident that most local TV stations market themselves with nanny-state slogans: “Channel 2: Working for you!” or “ABC 6: On your side!” You might say those slogans are a subtler version of, “NBC 5: Making your boo-boos all better!”

How did it get that way?

Here’s the formula. Highly trained Anchorman (booming authoritative, focus-group-tested voice at the ready) or better yet, Anchorwoman (compassionate voice and pouty face, furrowed brow at the ready), reads the headline, tosses to reporter. Hyperventilating reporter further frightens with victim sound bite, followed by sound bite from plaintiff attorney (”This poor victim needs to be compensated.”). Followed by politician sound bite (”I’m introducing legislation …”) followed by reporter tag, which may or may not include response from big, bad, deep-pocketed corporation. Interestingly, that last component — the response from the corporate evildoers, often becomes, in my experience, a throwaway part of many stories — something along the lines of, “The XYZ company denies any wrongdoing.” Or even, “The XYZ company was unavailable for comment at news time.”

I’ve even noted a pattern among some media-savvy trial attorneys. Often, they’ll fax or e-mail a press release of a pending lawsuit or action to newsrooms on Friday afternoons — enough time for a reporter to get a camera crew, head to the law office, get the sound bite for the evening deadline, but not enough time for the deep-pocketed corporation, with it’s multi-layered media information office, often located in a distant city, to respond before deadline time. So, the story airs, unchallenged, with the charges stewing and brewing over the weekend. The corporation is sucker-punched, feeding frenzy gains steam, politicians take note. Damage is done, forcing corporation to consider out-of-court settlement, sparing them more bad publicity, but most importantly, sparing the plaintiff attorney all of that hard work of trial preparation, but with an easy payoff .

As one news director I worked for once said, “There are lots of things to be afraid of out there.” Indeed, cancer, household bacteria, child predators, hot weather, cold weather, tap water, electromagnetic fields, vaccinations, Chinese food, Mexican food, racism, fertilizers, homophobia, hate crimes, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

And, who is most likely to be afraid of these threats? Well, the mainstream media machine, cynically and manipulatively, believes it’s that key demographic group, women ages 18-49. They, according to consultants and marketing executives, control the household remote and make the buying decisions. No. One. Else. Matters.

Later, describing the terminal PC and "Diversity" that infests local anchors, from the careful collection of Asian, Latino, Black, and limiting of White Men (to a very small number), the author writes:

Today, many large media companies have written policies — NBC/ General Electric and Gannett to name two — whereby station managers and executives cannot be promoted unless they themselves promote minorities and women. And where do managers go to ensure their own advancement, while hiring the perfect rainbow of staffers? The NABJ. NAHJ. NLGJA. NAHJ. These are the minority journalists associations. Black, Hispanic, gay and lesbian, Native American, Asian American. And curiously, among them, objectivity seems to be secondary to their particular form of advocacy and their “progressive” mandates. Each, in furtherance of their own mission is quick to claim victim status if quotas are not met or if their ideals are not expressed through “advocacy” journalism.

Now, local news is a money-maker for affiliates. Women, certainly don't find the terminal PC and "diversity" repelling. On the contrary, female audiences respond highly to these attributes, and cannot get enough of it. Why is that?

The author writes that women's natural compassion and empathy are at play, but my view is different. Rather, it is the constant competition for status and position among women, and their disgust at most White men who are at best, equal in status, that drives the "diversity" and PC nonsense. That further, women unless constrained and invested in society by a pretty permanent marriage to beta males and with beta male children, will always run hard-left in every possible way to produce an "aristocracy of big men." Women's innate desire to be Princesses (or marry into aristocracy), visible as a hard-wired behavior by little girls playing princess, pushes them left into this behavior. You cannot, after all, sell a group something it does not really want. No matter how slick the salesman.

Women in today's post-Industrial society face a lot of status competition. Over clothes, social positioning, educational background, "ticket-punching," and the like. This is why women hated Sarah Palin, excepting older women largely outside status competition, and responded positively to Tina Fey's impersonations that presented the notion that Palin's failure to attend Harvard (instead of the University of Idaho and community colleges) meant she was "stupid." From "Mean Girls," to the professional workplace, female rivalry for status is non-stop and anxiety producing. Status including notably, the quality of man a woman attracts.

Women, as noted by essayist and PUA blogger Roissy in DC face a fairly ruthless competition for the top, most status-laden, Alpha male. Most attractive women can have sex with the Alpha male, but relatively few can get them to commit to a steady relationship. Certainly almost none in the thirties. Even among attractive, beautiful, intelligent women in their twenties, at the peak of their beauty, few can get marriage or faithful cohabitation from a dominant, attractive, powerful Alpha male with many options. Which is indeed, the most desirable man. Women can and do share, powerful and dominant men. Many of Tiger Woods mistresses were not porn stars or prostitutes (though some were), but waitresses, to wealthy and famous BBC Newsreaders. None felt a bit of shame "sharing" him with his wife and other mistresses.

But anxiety runs through women, in the fairly ruthless competition to land exclusively the Alpha male (the brass ring prize). Though many overestimate the duration and power of their beauty, nearly all recognize that it fails, and the undeniable decline in male attention, particularly by the most desirable of men, the Alpha Male, in women's thirties is fear-inducing event. No wonder women are filled with fear — their social anxiety over "getting" the Alpha male pre-disposes them to this condition. Moreover, women are filled with contempt and loathing for the men who provide competition for scarce jobs and status, and yet fail to become "Alpha" men — commanding, powerful presences. This is why women, from Sandra Tsing Loh, to writers in the New York Times to feminists at Double XX all complain about husbands not being "masculine enough" and instead, becoming "Kitchen Bitches." Men who cook, are "supplicating" (no "real man" would deign to do nice things for them regularly, since a desirable man has women throwing themselves at them all the time).

Women have a huge complaint with modern men: they are not masculine enough (i.e. not dominant, powerful, Alpha men), and worse they are in competition with them while expressing often "icky" (i.e. unwanted sexual/romantic attention). Attention that might dissuade the intentions or distract the attention of the Alpha Male. Modern women, most of them unmarried, have an objective: find and hold an Alpha Male. Successful romantic comedies aimed at women ("the Proposal," "The Ugly Truth," "27 Dresses," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding") paint a good picture of the Alpha Male, as does of course "Sex and the City." He must be attractive, powerful, socially dominating, and wealthy. He can be informal or formal, country or city, WASP or ethnic, but must meet these important criteria. Most of a modern woman's social life is spent rejecting or forestalling advances from unsuitable, provider-status at best Beta Males, and winkling out the comparative Alpha status of the putative Alpha males.

In this, PC and "diversity" plays a huge role. No wonder a female-dominated audience for local news gets a female dominated newscast with very limited amount of White males and lots of "diversity." With PC Dogma repeated endlessly. Women love princes, princesses, dynasties, fairy tales, and the like. Women also love authority from "fashionable" figures of glamor and wealth. This is a generalization of course, not all women have these values, or find the Kennedy political dynasty a tragic but "beautiful" story, or idolize fashionable NYC opinion setters. But, most do. Fashionable opinion detests Sarah Palin, and so do most women. See also here:

According to the poll, 51 percent of men see her in a positive light, with an nearly equal amount of women view Palin in a negative way.

"The gender gap on Palin is not simply a function of the fact that women tend to identify with the Democratic party more than men do," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Even within GOP circles, Republican men like Palin more than Republican women do. John McCain put Palin on his ticket in 2008 to appeal to female voters, but it looks like men are a natural constituency for her."

Of course. Sarah Palin did not go to Harvard, did not marry a powerful, Alpha Male who intimidates other men or commands respect and adoration from powerful people, and did not abort her Down's syndrome baby. These are all actions that make most women 18-49 despise her (Palin does draw support from older women outside the status-struggle).

PC and Diversity are ways to first, winkle out who expresses orthodox, "correct" political opinions, and secondly to create such barriers that only the "most Alpha" of White males can surmount them. A world filled with politically correct, "diverse" folks with careful measurements of Asian, Latino, and Black female anchors and reporters, with minimal amounts of White men, is the ideal for most White women 18-49, and finds of course approval by non-Whites as well. A recent episode of the "Dog Whisperer" at advertising agency Chiat-Day, showed almost no White males, but lots of gay men of various non-White ethnic backgrounds, and many non-White women as well as White women. A multicultural, diverse paradise for women!

Naturally, the opinions, the nanny-state aspect of government (in response to anxiety driven by status competition, competition for Alpha males, and disgust over Beta male attention) find an appreciative audience in women. BUT … the economic decline, the low state of marriage, and the pressure on co-habitation by men taking the brunt (about 75% of all job losses since the start of the recession in 2007 have been men) of unemployment and underemployment means a big shift. More split-ups, particularly for fluid, fragile, and short-term oriented cohabitators. Far fewer marriages. Which means in turn a LOT more men living alone and making their own buying decisions.

Particularly as the web poses a threat to local news (why wait until 10-11 pm when you can get local news at any time), the ability of local TV news stations to extract local advertising dollars is probably on a par with that of newspapers to extract classified ad revenue in competition with Craigslist. Particularly since local advertisers are not interested in ideology, merely sales revenue, more split up couples or ones not forming in the first place means more men making buying decisions, reached more cheaply on the web, well the shift towards internet advertising is likely only to accelerate.

Which is likely to set up the template for the struggle for the culture and politics of America. On the web, for the most part, the highly trafficked sites are male-oriented (though not all conservative). Sites such as Drudgereport, or Instapundit, or Hotair, or Comic Bloc, or Ain't It Cool News, or Slashdot, might vary in politics, but are uniformly "male" in orientation. They are mostly written and controlled by men, for a male readership. One generally uninterested in careful "correct" opinions, celebrity-famous people worship, princess fantasies, dogma denying reality on threats and non-threats, and careful "diversity" with meticulous, ethnic/gender/sexual orientation balances designed to minimize the "threat" of nerdy White men.

Meanwhile, TV, print media, big media, and movies are undeniably feminine for the most part. With an equal part of "Access Hollywood" and "American Idol" to "the View" celebrity-fashion worship and local news threat-fear mongering, the battle lines are drawn. On the one side, women 18-49 with considerable demographic and monetary strength, wanting everything their own way, like an episode of "Gossip Girl" that never ends. On the other hand, older women, and White males, who find that marginalization of their concerns is a massive threat. Against this rough stalemate are the wild cards: continued economic recession, and extreme economic stress, threats of terrorism-Jihad that the female PC-driven consensus cannot deal with (and is notably and unavoidably incapable of dealing with), and new technology (internet, internet-enabled smartphones) favored by early adopter men.

Certainly there does not seem to be much in common across the gender lines between ages 18-49, nor does there seem to be compromise or peace any time soon. One side must win, and the other lose. For decades, technology and business have conspired to make men the losers. Events and trends may make that, however, a thing of the past.
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Monday, January 11, 2010

Stick a Fork in Fox News (and the Wall Street Journal)

Stick a fork in Fox News (and News Corp profits). Recent articles in the New York Times and The Daily Beast show that Murdoch's adult children, and his current wife Wendi, loathe the conservative bent of Fox News that is more profitable (estimated $700 million to $1 billion operating profit per year) than CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and the news broadcasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC combined. Murdoch cannot live forever, and as soon as he passes, the Murdoch family will fire Roger Ailes and run Fox News (and its profits) into the ground. The WSJ too, will come under pressure to be a mere, "me-too" earnest, SWPL lifestyle rag, instead of a serious business newspaper with a conservative editorial page (mostly). Indeed in the Wall Street Journal, this process is already underway.

Why is this? Why does Richard Branson, owner of airline Virgin Atlantic, want a series of carbon targets/taxes? Why does the Murdoch family (or the New York Times controlling Sulzberger family) prefer political correctness over money? A lot of money? Terminal political correctness and "diversity" commitments have driven the NYT to near bankruptcy. You'd imagine that the Sulzberger family would do all it could to keep its money machine going.

The problem is, people with a lot of money, in their personal bank accounts, don't respond well to classical economic rewards. If a person has already, $20, or $80 million dollars, in their bank account, what do they care if the multi-billion dollar business empire they run goes belly up? It won't affect their personal consumption or status within their social group. Meanwhile, holding the politically incorrect, "normal" middle class opinions, is terminal to their social ambitions. James and Lachlan Murdoch, Elisabeth Freud, and Wendi Deng Murdoch all have considerable social ambitions, as does Richard Branson. They won't be invited to the right parties, be fawned over by the "correct" people, will in fact be considered (horrors) "middle class" and there is nothing that rich people hate more than being considered middle class.

This is the same impulse that leads Hollywood to sign "Free Roman Polanski" petitions and dismiss rape of a 13-year-old girl as "judgmental."

The parallels between decadent 18th Century French aristocracy and the peasant and bourgeoisie morality could not be more striking, than the attitudes of the Murdoch family, or Richard Branson.

News Corporation, long term, is finished. Lacking any ability to generate viewers, the Murdoch family (no one is immortal) will turn Fox News into a clone, harder left at that, of MSNBC with a fraction of the latter's tiny amount of viewers. The Wall Street Journal will become a SWPL parody, with no business news at all. Fox Broadcasting will turn into an earnest, PBS-style purveyor of PC moralizing with maybe the viewership of half of PBS.

Unlike the NYT, News Corp is even more highly leveraged, and so the Murdoch family will run it into bankruptcy and sale for assets fairly quickly. About three to five years, would be my guess. Enormous debt levels allowed Murdoch to make expensive acquisitions (such as the WSJ, which News Corp recently wrote down about $1.7 of the book value of the purchase), without diluting equity control, making shareholders very, very rich as the cash comes in. The high level of debt, however, requires the cash coming in, constantly. No one in the Murdoch family besides Rupert seems to understand this financial reality.

Of course this means more influence for conservative blogs and websites, when News Corp flips Fox News to MSNBC-lite, with anchors Markos Moulitsas and Maureen Dowd. Andrew Breitbart's investments in his websites looks more and more prescient. Eventually all of TV and print will be nothing more than a female/gay, SWPL ghetto. Which is not much of a sustainable business model, particularly in a depression, but there it is. Most rich people would rather be thought Politically Correct by their social circle than keep their business empire going.
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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Avatar Is More And Less Than It Seems

James Cameron's epic, "Dances with Smurfs," er "Pocahontas in Space," oh wait, "Avatar" is on its way to make astonishing amounts of money world-wide and domestically. Avatar as of this date has made 1.1 Billion in world-wide box office revenue. According to Box Office Mojo the figures are $393.8 million domestically and $781.8 foreign. This is serious cash. Why then, aren't studios desperate to sign James Cameron for another film? An "Avatar 2" or whatever he wanted to make? Jon Favreau with "Iron Man," Bryan Singer with "X-Men," and Christopher Nolan with "Batman Begins" all were quickly signed to sequels, with money thrown at them.

The reason for the "dog not barking in the night-time" is that Avatar is not expected to be that profitable, despite the gobs of money it is making at box-office. Part of the reason is the high cost, but the other is that the movie really is not poised to reap a home video and TV rights sales, where Hollywood makes most of its money. Avatar is however, important in that it points out how Hollywood can make a bit more money: by releasing movies in 3-D, getting marginally more money from box-office receipts, and re-issuing movies that already exist in 3-D.

First, the cost of Avatar is reported by the Financial Times as $430 million, for production and US marketing. This makes the movie one of the most expensive ever made. Foreign marketing, including likely assistance for foreign exhibitors, who are financially pressed, to install IMAX 3-D systems likely impacts quite a bit of the otherwise impressive foreign box office (do note, that Avatar has about a 2-1 ratio of foreign to domestic receipts, an interesting point itself). It is likely that the net result is a lesser amount than the 40-45% range assumed for foreign box office grosses, when either "give-backs" or assistance in installing IMAX 3-D systems are included. Avatar netted approximate $57.75 million to the studio opening week-end (studios keep about 75% of the opening week-end box office) and about $158 million thereafter domestically. Avatar probably did less than $312.7 million net to the studio from foreign receipts. That should still be somewhere south of $528.47 million, so why aren't studios lining up to throw money at Cameron? Likely, real receipts from foreign box office are far less than even 40% of the $781.8 million currently reported. And things are not looking up for home video sales.

The Daily Beast reports that Avatar is showing on 3,600 screens, with 2,200, or 61% of them, 3-D IMAX. The 3-D IMAX tickets are about 36-40% more expensive than the ordinary movie tickets. This means that while the movie is popular, it is not as popular as people might think. And sales of home video, and TV rights, are still a mass-popularity game.

Edward Jay Epstein, author of "the Big Picture" maintains that Hollywood makes about 18% of its profits from theater box office, and 82% from home video (both sales and rentals), and TV rights sales (foreign and domestic). These also have much lower marketing costs, as well. In many cases, Studios use the theatrical roll-out as merely an extended marketing campaign for the DVD and pay-per-view releases.

Well, what of Blu-Ray? After all, the format is far more expensive, with say, "the Hangover" listing at $35 for Blu-Ray and only $29 for DVD. That's 20% more. Shouldn't "Avatar" on Blu-Ray be a natural sale? Making lots of money? Video Business reports that Blu-Ray for 2009 accounted for only 10% of home video purchases. Obviously there is a recession on.

To really enjoy Blu-Ray, you obviously need to pay (at least 20%) more for the Blu-Ray disc. You then need a Blu-Ray player (which list from $200 and up, though they can be discounted), and then of course, a Hi-Def TV. Those can be pricey, still around $500 and up. Though again careful shopping can find discounts.

If consumer incomes were rising as they were in the late 1990's, this would not be a problem. Hollywood would ride a wave consumer purchases of new players and high definition TVs to even greater heights of profitability. But it is not the 1990's. It is not even George Bush's economy. December job losses rose to 85,000 with the official unemployment rate at 10%, and the Labor Dept. "U-6" underutilization (those unemployed not looking for work, or underemployed) at 17.4%. This is in line with lower consumer spending for the Holiday season, with consumers purchasing mostly items on sale not spending as in past, pre-Recessionary holidays.

The economy is bad, and likely only to get worse. New health-care legislation (ObamaCare), Cap and Trade, Amnesty, are all likely to add new regulations and taxes on top of employers, making adding employees a pipe dream. Expansion that does happen will happen overseas, with fewer taxes and regulations. Due to population growth, the economy needs to add 1.9 million jobs every year. Since the onset of the December 2007 recession, the private sector employment which peaked at 115.8 million, has declined to 108.5 million. A loss of 7.3 million jobs, or around 6%. Public sector employment fell less than 1%, basically unchanged, at 22.5 million jobs. Most states are in severe budget trouble, with tax receipts tanking in ways not seen since the Great Depression. States are seeing double-digit tax revenue declines, contradicting the Obama Administration predictions of 3% growth for the economy.

With no wage increases and job gains in sight, and the economy terribly vulnerable to shocks, from oil supply (WTI and Brent Crude are both as of this writing above OPEC's $70-80 price band by considerable margins) to China, there seems little prospect of consumers rushing out and spending money on Blu-Ray players, Hi-Def TVs, and Blu-Ray discs. [The Financial Times is now comparing China openly to Dubai, noting that Tianjin has a development with buildings modeled after each continent, and an indoor ski slope, just like Dubai. Shanghai is filled with apartments and condos that are empty — wealthy Chinese lacking other investment opportunities and facing no property tax buy and hold luxury apartments. The skyline of Shanghai's residential districts are dark at night with empty buildings. This indeed echoes Dubai.]

Video Business again:

U.S. consumer spending on DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals business rose 4.1% to $6.5 billion in 2009, according to Rentrak Corp.’s Home Video Essentials, which collects point-of-sale data. During the year, kiosk revenue grew 94%, with the Redbox-dominated channel approaching $1 billion in revenue, more than enough to offset a 3.2% decline in the bricks-and-mortar and online sectors combined.
Consumer sales of DVD and Blu-ray, in comparison, fell 13.7% to $12.2 billion, Rentrak estimates.

Redbox, the story notes, grew 94% (admittedly, from not very much to start with) in revenue for 2009. Clearly, consumers like entertainment cheap and convenient.

Which brings us to a wider point. Consumers over the decades have consistently chosen convenience, and cheapness, over high-quality sensory entertainment. In the 1980's, first cheap cassette tapes and then CDs won out over higher-quality vinyl, and the music machine of choice was the Sony Walkman and its imitators, not the high-quality home stereo. This followed over with personal CD players, and finally the Ipod and other MP3 players. People preferred music in portable packages, even if it meant giving up an immersive experience and superior sound. That the convenient packages were also cheaper, the Ipod really taking off when various models could be had for less than $170, was a bonus.

According to the Financial Times, Hi-Def TVs are less than 12% of the global market. See the picture below:

[Click Image to Enlarge]

This seems overly optimistic to me, as so far, the price point for adoption of new gadgets seems to be around $150 or so total cost. Apple's tablet device, whenever it reaches down to that level, is likely to be far more significant (given its rumored video capabilities) than fantasies of 3-D Hi-Def TVs, and ESPN's planned investment in a 3-D sports network. Consumers just don't have the money to spend, beyond that level. Unless consumer electronics companies can get the basic technology down to a very low level (i.e. a TV that costs around $150 and can play Hi-Def 3-D content with a built-in-player or high speed connectivity), 3-D at home is far away. People don't have the money.

What is potentially far more lucrative, is the technology Disney has, with "Keychest" that would authorize content to be streamed to any device, mobile phone, Ipod Touch, computer, internet-connected TV, and the like, from a central stored server. There, the technology is on the back-end, with compression and robust data networks not pricey consumer electronics being the key to content. Again, note the economics: mass-oriented content for cheap (this material is likely to be viewed on the equivalent of a Sone Walkman or Ipod for video) devices at cheap prices is likely to be the rule. The story of high-quality content devices and storage, such as Video Laser Disc, Mini Discs, and the like has not been a happy one compared to cheap and "good enough."

Avatar's true meaning is likely to be, instead of a rash of movies in 3-D IMAX, a few select movies in 3-D that eke out a few more dollars in extended, 3-D showings, that are a small margin for studios to transition (if they can) to the Itunes/Ipod world of cheap content anywhere, any time. Either purchased for cheap or rented even cheaper. With the "winner" whoever can provide consistently a high quality and low price mass entertainment line-up. A 3-D version of say, "the Goods" with Jeremy Piven is not going to save the movie industry, which faces a long-term decline in tickets sold (though this year had a partial recovery) and very high costs, with a few hits subsidizing the many failures.

Screenwriter William Goldman once observed that "nobody knows anything" with respect to profitability. Yet the golden age moguls, Warner and Mayer and did know something. Their movies almost always made money. Avatar might just be the last hurrah for the old-line Malibu Marxists before cheap, fast, anywhere, anytime media overwhelms their business model. Because it doesn't look like consumers will be shelling out $1,000 anytime soon just to watch a bunch of blue cats crossed with stilts, re-enact Pocahontas.
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Friday, January 8, 2010

Feminized TV: How PC Kills Revenue

The plot should be a no-brainer. TV Broadcast networks, free to anyone with a TV antenna, ought to be reaping recessionary rewards as people cut the cable or satellite payments and surf online and over-the-air. But TV Broadcast networks are still losing viewers. Some of it is simply bad programming (NBC is reportedly thinking of yanking Jay Leno's 10 PM show off the air after the Winter Olympics), but a lot of it is the simple inability of the networks to make anything that is attractive to male viewers. Lost in all the hype about female decision-makers driving 80% of all consumer purchases is the fact that men make up close to 50% of the population. A recent interview with "Criminal Minds" showrunner Ed Bernero at Deadline Hollywood Daily illustrates why: despite men at the top of the Networks, nearly all the executive staff is female (or gay). Which means, PC kills revenue.

As always, read the whole thing. But several points are worth excerpting:

EB: Television viewership has been declining for about 10 years. The internet has been blamed. Everything has been blamed. Except for what I think the problem is: that the networks own the shows, and they completely think that they make them. They don’t any longer let the people who make shows just make them. The networks have notes about everything. They are intimately involved in every aspect of the process. And I think it’s hurt the process.

DH: Network/studio idiocy is infamous. But if you can link it now to network ownership...

EB: That’s when the erosion of viewership began. I also think one of the things that’s really hurting us is political activism of any stripe. Michael Jordan had it exactly right, he was my idol -- when he was asked about a political question at one point and he said I’m not going to answer it, and they said why not, and he said: Because Republicans buy gym shoes too, right? That doesn’t exist anymore, that kind of smarts.

Any time someone says anything right, left, whatever, I think we lose viewers. And somewhere around the country somebody says, I’m not going to watch what Hollywood does anymore. I wish we would go back to just being entertainers. Anytime we sign a petition that says let’s ignore the fact that Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old, we lose viewers. And I think that has reached a critical mass. We live in a very polarized country right now. So why would someone like Megan Fox want to diss middle America?

And it’s not just that they’re not going to watch her material, they’re not going to watch mine. There are people in Kansas who are going to say, you know what? Screw Hollywood. Because we are sort of thought of as this monolith, and I wish people would take that into account.
DH: That probably comes from the fact that you are from the middle. The Rust Belt.

EB: Yes, very much from the middle. I eternally fight internal battles about developing things that only appeal to the East Coast and the West Coast. For years I’ve been trying to do a Western, nobody’s interested in doing a Western, how can that be? Every time someone does a Western movie, people flock to it. It’s like, we’re continually programming to people who are least likely to watch us. People in Nebraska aren’t watching things on the computer, they’re watching television. Why aren’t we programming things for them? We only program things that appeal to New York and Los Angeles and in many ways spit on the rest of the country.

Berneros argument (again, read the whole thing) is that the relaxation of fin-syn rules (he notes he has been writing cop shows for about 12 years) has changed network relationships from simply buying shows from providers to owning them and making MBA weenies who know nothing about film or TV production into suddenly, film-makers. That moreover, politicizing things to make one feel better on the cocktail circuit is a disaster. As is the elitist view that only the viewpoints of LA and NYC matter, that the "stupid hicks in the middle of the country" will in fact watch anything the hip and cool people put on. Clearly, this is not the case, and the contempt for Middle America has hurt the networks.

But just as important, has been the process by which men have fled or been expelled from television, particularly broadcast television, which in turn has become a gay/female ghetto. More below:


DH: When you look at the CBS lineup, I guess it’s the network that seems to have a lock on crime with the multiple CSI’s and Criminal Minds – but it’s controlled by two women, Nina Tassler and Nancy Tellem. And my understanding is that they are looking for more shows that have more female appeal. I just wondered what the deal is.

EB: That’s a point I’ve thought about a lot in developing over the last few years. Let’s see if I can say this without ending my development career. It’s very female, development. Development staffs are almost all female. It’s not that easy to get a male skewed show through development.

DH: Interesting.

EB: Most of the network television audience now is primarily women, but I think that’s because the shows are developed to appeal to women. I don’t know that there are too many shows that appeal to guys anymore. I’m not sure why that is, but I think that it may have something to do with the fact that most development staffs are women. I know it’s the case at CBS. I know it’s the case at ABC. Not that these are not brilliant women, but there’s a completely different sensibility in men and women, in what men watch and what women watch. Part of the erosion of network television is that men watch sports – there’s not that much on for them. There are not shows that have male themes. That’s all I want to say about that.

DH: And yet at CBS, besides the crime shows even the popular comedies are male-oriented, Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory.

EB: But Two and a Half Men is not male-oriented, it’s made to appeal to women. Charlie Sheen is playing a bad boy who can be changed…

DH: It’s got a lot of jokes that my husband likes.

EB: But it’s safe.

DH: What is male oriented?

EB: For example, almost all dramas are families, they are work families – ER is a good example, Criminal Minds is a good example. We have a character who is the mother, a character who is the father, a brother and a sister, we have the younger brother that everybody protects, we have the cute cousin…it’s very much a family, and I think that very much appeals to women.

You don’t see loners anymore, you don’t see a Mannix or a Rockford Files or something where it’s a tough guy standing against the world. It doesn’t appeal to women. Guys like a guy who stands up for right, and the Hawaii Five-0 that we were going to write, the issue was sort of like living up to your father, being a cop in a world where your father was a great cop, that’s really a male theme. Women don’t really compete with their mothers; men compete with their fathers. I know I had gotten into many conversations where people didn’t understand why it was important that the character be in competition with his father…men compete with their fathers.

DH: Men compete with everybody. Everything’s a competition.

EB: Right. Two and a Half Men is an example. Those two don’t really compete with each other. It’s not really two brothers living with each other, because two brothers living together don’t get along that well.

DH: Aren’t they like The Odd Couple?

EB: But The Odd Couple is different, because in the 1970s, the "Odd Couple" didn’t like each other. They competed with each other in ways that these two don’t. Because at the base of it all, they [Two and Half Men’s characters] really love each other.

DH: More like My Two Dads.

EB: It’s a subtle thing, but it’s very female-centered. Now, I don’t mean to say that I don’t love doing shows that women like – women like Criminal Minds, and women weren’t supposed to like this show. Our core audience is 35-40 year old women, who I think are an amazing audience. It didn’t surprise me at all, when you put on the show where those women are the primary targets of these monsters, and you put on a show where our team saves women from them every week, I don’t know how this couldn’t appeal to them.

DH: And women are very interested in character, as opposed to what you’re saying -- that sometimes men just like a straight-on hero who does it right.

EB: Yes, I think it’s extremely difficult to get a male themed show on television.

DH: The people who are running the networks are men, but the so-called creative executives, that whole level is mostly female.

EB: If you say this, make sure that you say that I’m not necessarily saying that’s bad…

DH: Just that it’s true.

EB: The TV audience is primarily female, so it’s not a bad thing…

DH: But if you have something that works on that male level, it’s hard to get it through.

EB: What gets made that’s considered for men – it’s really just T&A stuff. It’s not stuff than any guy I know really wants to watch, you know, the stuff with jiggling boobs and all that. Something with real sort of male themes and male strength and things I want to watch in a drama….

DH: The things men want to be respected for…

EB: Yeah, sort of the things that appeal to us, the things we compete for. Macho in a different sense, the kind of things that we think makes us a man. It doesn’t really exist right now. I really don’t want it to seem that I think it’s a problem that women are in development, I don’t think it’s as problem at all, I just think it’s an interesting time that we’re in. And maybe long overdue – maybe television for a long time was made for men and it’s long overdue.

DH: I’m hearing the hero thing, how important that is to men, it’s not just about being understood in a touchy-feely way.

EB: No, not at all, it’s more about being misunderstood, but doing right anyway -- it’s Rockford and Mannix and all that kind of thing. Those kinds of icons don’t exist anymore. But I also love Glee. I watch it with my wife; I loved Desperate Housewives in the first couple of years. It’s not bad, it’s just something that I notice. And I think specifically what happened with Hawaii Five-0.

Bernero, obvious does not want to burn the bridges with the women he has to sell to, year after year. However, he acknowledges that TV simply cannot touch on what men want to see. Which is not families, nor relationship dramas, or hunky gay vampires, nor hunky doctors. But rather, individualists who are somewhat loners, who do the right thing even if they don't get rewarded, because doing the right thing is in fact difficult and a test and proof, together, of their manliness. Together of course with competition, of winning and losing, and keeping score.

Two And A Half Men, is indeed all about how the Bad Boy Charlie Sheen, can be tamed and changed, and how the female audience can laugh at the Beta brother Jon Cryer, who is a loser because he is not a bad boy. While Hanes has dropped Charlie Sheen (very late) from its ads, it is unlikely CBS will drop Sheen. First, he's the show, and second, women forgive ANYTHING from a bad boy. Anything at all. Womens groups have not been picketing CBS to fire Charlie Sheen for allegedly putting a knife to his wife's throat. They are unlikely to do so as they are unlikely to call for Roman Polanski's arrest. Women love the bad boys, Sheen's alleged actions only make him more of a bad boy. Presumably to be tamed by the "special" woman.

Meanwhile Cryer's character, is there so obviously for women to laugh at.

What is interesting is how Bernero essentially cops to CBS and other networks "Prime Time Crime Time" being oriented towards women. A "family" filled with relationship issues, in the workplace (I have never had any workplace be a "family" —I either produced revenue to more than cover my full cost of employment or I was gone, and I suspect most folks have the same experience), with emphasis on relationships within the family and romance for the lead female character. Absent the criminals, it might as well describe Hospital Soaps such as "Mercy" or "Grey's Anatomy."

This is why you don't see either a very male-oriented "A-Team" on television, or at least broadcast television, or private eyes who used to dominate TV: Mannix, Rockford Files, "Simon and Simon," or heck "Jake and the Fatman," and "Riptide." It is worth noting that "Jake and the Fatman" ran until 1992. Back in the 1950's through the 1970's, private eyes and fairly "loner" types such "Wild Wild West" (can anyone imagine such a show today?) or "Rockford Files" which ran through 1980.

With the loss of these shows, has come the loss of the male audience. Which means lower ratings, and lower advertising dollars, no matter how much spin on female-driven purchases marketers put forward.

PC kills. Sure it is "nice to have" all these "diverse" staff, with White males being at the top and the rest female or gay. [A recent episode of "Dog Whisperer" at Chiat/Day was revealing —nearly all the staff was either female (and many of them non-White) or gay. How that enables them to understand and sell to the White middle class particularly White men is a mystery to me. But perhaps nearly 60 years of go-go post-War prosperity made advertising fat and happy, instead of lean and hungry.]

Contrary to Bernero, the idea that it is "time" to have TV all-female, all-gay has real consequences. For NBC, it means money left on the table, that go to Video Games and cable outlets like USA, and to a lesser extent F/X. White women alone are not enough to drive profitable ratings. There simply are not enough of them. The small size of the Black Middle Class (approximately 5% of the total population, or 40% of the 12.5% of the Black population) makes them irrelevant. Hispanics prefer to watch Spanish-language TV. An all female and all gay development staff cannot produce shows that reach men, for the most part, and won't stick with the few that have potential (NBC's late, lamented "Life," with perhaps one of the most masculine, and self-contained loner types shown in decades). Reaching for more women as CBS plans to do, means fighting with ABC, NBC, FOX, and CW for the declining pool of White women (and a few "fabulous" gay men). This undoubtedly suits the prejudices and whims of the female development staff, and is "easy" in that it does not stretch the limits of their imaginations, but it will not fix the problem.

Bernero is undoubtedly correct that fin-syn rules, allowing networks to own shows, and thus making development execs who know MBA spreadsheets or (perhaps, given the revelations in business and politics regarding personal relationships between bosses, certain intimate knowledge of their bosses) into pseudo-showrunners, based on things that have nothing to do with making successful TV shows, has been hurtful to the ability to make shows viewers want to see. So too, anti-Middle Class, Coastal Elitism and politicking of any sort.

But as documented extensively on Whiskey's Place, viewer declines began decades ago, in the 1980's, before Cable TV, before Satellite TV, before the internet, before bit-torrent sharing of TV shows, before fin-syn. Before even, FOX Broadcasting. In the era of rabbit ears and only three networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC. The decline began, when men fled TV. Slowly, as more and more shows became female-oriented soap operas. More rapidly, as the development executives became more and more female (and gay). Finally, the last of the old-line TV shows were canceled or concluded in the early 1990's, and TV became a female and gay ghetto.

If TV remains merely a female-gay ghetto, then viewers will never return. Because the missing viewers are men. Video games, and specialized niche networks programming to men, such as Spike-TV and USA Network, will continue to grow in profits, with little competition from Hollywood and the major media companies.

The danger for Hollywood, and networks generally, is that TV's "proven" format of serial dramas, and comedies, can be easily adapted on the internet, with devices that free people from watching broadcast TV. Contrary to Bernero, a lot of TV (including undoubtedly, Criminal Minds) is consumed online or through a computer. Flo TV promises TV on the go, anywhere and everywhere. Apple is promising a tablet device that can provide both an e-reader and mobile TV, connected through Wi-Fi. Various cell phone companies are experimenting with mobile TV, including NFL games. While I will address this issue (portability and convenience versus an "immersive" but expensive experience) in a future post on Avatar (and why the movie is both more and less than it seems), the sum experience of consumer preference has been for convenience and portability at an affordable price over high quality and an expensive, immersive experience.

Consumers preferred cheap walkmen from Sony in favor of expensive home stereos. Later, they preferred a lesser audio experience with sampled MP3s in a convenient, portable form in the Ipod to the high quality of CDs. Apple already offers Itunes downloads for various TV and movies, some of them free, as does Amazon's Un-box, and streaming video at both Youtube and Hulu has generated millions of viewers. When given a choice between cheap, portable, and convenient, and a "family gathering" of the type Bernero mentions, consumers tend to choose cheap and portable and convenient. Moreover, declining marriage rates and very likely, in the recession, declining co-habitation rates, means more individual watching, alone, instead of gathered around the family TV set.

The future is likely to consist of cheap, networked devices playing streaming media, with ads, anywhere and anytime. Providers from Apple, Google and its partners, Flo-TV, and more, are going to be hungry for content. Content that appeals to at least half the gadget buyers, men. Content that can be provided, theoretically, from anywhere: New Zealand, with low production costs, or Canada, or Australia, or even somewhere outside Hollywood in the US. By independent producers, who keep costs low and stories tightly focused on the audience, be it male or female.

And what are we likely to see on these mobile, networked devices? Why, private eyes, and loner-type cops, and maybe even Western tough guys. Made cheaply, rapidly, for a voracious market. Supported by advertising dollars, often with in-show ads or with commercials that cannot be skipped (Apple has a patent for just such a technology). Men generally tend to be the early adopters, and they are unlikely to be consumers of say, "Cold Case" with a hefty dose of feminized PC moralizing by women and authority figures, or the mocking of doofus guys like "Two And A Half Men."

The threat, is then that networks could cease to exist as both advertisers and viewers move to mobile devices, that serve men as well as women. Unthinkable? That is what Detroit thought, with the introduction of cheap and reliable Japanese cars, at the end of the 1970's. I suspect the changes to network TV will be far more rapid. Because the "diverse" and politically correct staffs at broadcast networks will simply order the band to play louder as the ship sinks.

PC kills revenue. Among other things.
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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The World is in the Best of Hands

The elites of Europe and America fawn over leaders such as Jose Luis Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain, and Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa. But what are the men really like?

Zapatero is akin to Mr. Bean, and Jacob Zuma is reported on doing the following:

[Click to Enlarge picture of South African President Jacob Zuma dancing at his Polygamous Wedding]

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Mr. Bean is pictured below:

[Click to Enlarge Mr. Bean]

Jose Luis Zapatero below:

[Click to enlarge Zapatero]

Here is a smaller color version of the Financial Times photograph, cropped however to not show the incongruous mixture of athletic shoes and traditional tribal dress.

From the Financial Times website:

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma on Monday married Thobeka Madiba, his fifth wife, in a private ceremony at Nkhandla in KwaZulu Natal state.
Mr Zuma, 67, who was elected to the presidency in April, is a Zulu traditionalist who practices polygamy.

Ms Madiba – formerly known as Thoebeka Mabhija – is 36 and a socialite from Durban. She will be Mr Zuma’s third current wife.

Mr Zuma’s defence of polygamy and other Zulu values became more pronounced during the late 1990s and has been controversial among many liberal South Africans. So has the size – and cost – of his domestic establishment. He is thought to have 19 children. However, his latest marriage appears to have attracted virtually no critical comment.

“No-one seems to be shouting about it any more,” said Jeremy Gordin, author of a biography of Mr Zuma.

Mr Zuma’s second wife, Kate Mantsho Zuma, committed suicide in 2000. He divorced his third wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, now the home affairs minister, in 1998.

Ms Madiba has attended a number of official events with Mr Zuma.

South Africa is already a disaster, with one in four men admitting rape, according to BBC reports, with those admitting rape reporting 75% had their first attack during their teens. Gang rape considered a form of male bonding. Widespread criminality make South Africa a place where almost no business can be done without the considerable expense of armed guards.

Spain, is not quite as bad as South Africa. But most of its recent economic growth over the past decade appears to be of the nature of a gigantic ponzi scheme akin to "flip that house." Nearly all of Spain's apparent wealth being connected to real estate. There are only so many houses on the Costa Del Sol for sun-starved English and Germans that can be built at a profit, after all. Unemployment is nearly 20%, and the investment in "green" initiatives has been a bust.

But a picture is worth a thousand words. South Africa is one of the "better governed" African nations, and its President dances around in a manner totally unsuited for a man of 67, much less one that age who is head of state. A man that age marrying a thirty something woman is ridiculous, and undignified. Polygamy, itself, is incompatible with any nation that wishes social stability and peace. South Africa's rape statistics are entirely predictable results of polygamy and tribalism. A nation that produces a President dancing around in a polygamous marriage ceremony is sure to be a place that is hell on earth for most of its people.

Spain is not as bad, but is among the worst managed nations in Europe. Something remarkable given Greece's chronic inability to budget within its means and Italy's rampant corruption. Zapatero is at least as bad a manager as Mr. Bean, while nowhere as funny.

These are the men routinely celebrated in the pages of the press and by elites such as David Brooks. Who feels that America's "stupid people" have quite unreasonably lost faith in public policy conducted by "serious intellectuals" in the Obama Administration and Democratic Party. After all, David Brooks, part of the educated class that he reckons superior to ordinary people, decided to support Obama based on the cut of Obama's pants. Seriously. The same folks assure us that Jacob Zuma and Jose Luis Zapatero are serious men worthy of respect.

Not clowns to be laughed off the stage, along with their nations and people. Remember, the world is in the best of hands. David Brooks said so.

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