Explaining TV

This is perhaps the best explanation about broadcast television ever:

If you own a broadcast channel, your job is to develop as many shows as possible that attract a wide audience. The formal term for most of these shows is “produced for a mass audience” but the common term is “relentless crap.”

This compares with cable or subscription television: 

But if you own a cable channel, your first goal is to develop a handful of “hits” that get you on that bundle to get guaranteed monthly income from tens of millions of subscribers. The rest of your lineup can be cheap “Law & Order” and “House” reruns, for all you care. Ratings don’t matter as much if advertising doesn’t matter as much. America’s “best” shows — like “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” — are all ratings dogs, each struggling to get a Nielsen rating higher than 3. But it doesn’t matter, because AMC’s cost structure allows for a few elite shows, one huge show (“Walking Dead”), and a lot of reruns.

And if you have ever wondered by Sky’s bundles are so annoying:

Television audiences hate the cable bundle, because they think they’re paying for television they don’t want to watch. But they don’t often appreciate that (a) the bundle is created by media companies, not cable companies, and (b) it’s at least partially responsible for the golden age of television that we’re living through. It’s created a motivation for no-name cable companies to make great entertainment.


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  • Greg

    Sky seems to be running alot of adds these days its getting to be like free to air, we only watch three channels of what we pay for as for the rest :(

  • peterwn

    Probably the biggest change in TV (or video in the broadest sense) has been the cost of infrastructure (from studio to TV set or cinmea screen, etc). Until recent years the cost was horrendous, for example the only way ordinary people could indulge in video was with a super 8 camera and you thought twice (Peter Jackson possibly excepted) before filming anything because of the cost. Nowadays (assuming you have a computer) you can create movies using a $100 – $200 camera with minimal running costs, and the likes of Youtube allows you to show off your video to the world.

    Similarly the cost of professional production has plummeted where it is in the reach of small companies, tertiary education institutions etc. This has also enabled televising of Parliament and the making of shows on a shoestring budget. Contrast with the the thoughts in the early 1970’s that after the Budget the Finance Minister would be whisked to Avalon (30 minutes drive) to appear on TV to talk about the Budget. He can now do this in the Beehive.

    • Hazards001

      Yep, the introduction of reality TV and the total dumbing down of the majority of the population! Hence my reply to cadwallader

  • tarkwin

    I really really really hate Sky. The worst is that Soho channel which was cobbled together with the few decent programmes from the other channels and then you had to pay to watch it! I refuse to! The only decent product is my sky – you only have to watch what you want and you can cut out the nauseating ads. Mind you, after watching Third Degree last night relentless re-runs on Sky were starting to look pretty good.

    • spollyike

      Agreed, especially the news that we are going to have a new State founded by the government.

      • tarkwin

        I don’t know what was worse, that article or the bullshit ad-lib whip around to raise money to get some dodgy character out of an Asian jail because the evil government wouldn’t pay his debts. It was like watching a cross between an early Telethon and some kind of John Campbell cloning. Please tell us T.V 3, what have we done to deserve this utterly contrived shite masquerading as current affairs?

  • Mediaan

    Don’t use Sky, but check at other people’s places occasionally. Can see why the owners are trying to bale out. It offers little.

    Do use Freeview, and it can be great.

    Both Korean (Arirang) and Chinese FTA channels, both with some high quality docos and world news.

    A lot of posing fatuous slush from Germany, I think it is DW but can’t remember. Beautifully articulated announcers and promotions of self-important pseudo-artists.

    At odd hours they run TED which can be amazing – someone with technical or other expertise standing up and spouting to an audience on anything at all.

    And Al Jazeera at programmed hours for some more world news.

    They have the equivalent of MySky too, so you can diary and keep programmes to watch later.

    • Mr_Blobby

      Yes freeview satellite is great value, move you dish, a little, and put in a 2nd transponder and pick up optus D2 as well. Just love Russia today and Press TV.

      • emmess74

        RT and Press TV? WTF

        RT is awful – blame the Americans for every thing. Even when they can’t find a bad side, they find some way to give Russia credit for it.

        Haven’t seen Press TV but knowing what the Iranian government I should ask ‘Are you a terrorist?’

      • Mediaan

        Thanks, sounds like good advice. Would love to pick up other FTA satellites.

      • Mediaan

        Just found livestation.com on my tablet, offering a dozen more international TV news stations. That’s including (as well as the two you mentioned) Channel NewsAsia, France24 and ENCA South Africa, all runnable and FTA. Choice of languages. Others by subscription.

        All you tech-savvy people yawning out there, apologies for boring you.

  • Mediaan

    On a little laptop or tablet, I have found China’s daily world news still runnable at
    http://cctv.cntv.cn/lm/newshour/01/index.shtml. Parched for serious news, after the TVNZ and TV3 slush.

    Others with more skills say you can do the same all over the world, especially if you access it through an anonymizer.

    Why don’t Sky just run our real life courtroom proceedings all day? Would beat what is on now. Or police watchhouse cam, or Work and Income cam. All public places.

    If 3rd Degree want a fresh topic, maybe they could fire off a lot of Information requests like Cameron Brewer (good work) and come up with where our money is going.

    • Mr_Blobby

      Our courtroom proceedings would be a little slower than days of our lives, with more breaks, but definitely more interesting than the dribble served up on TV.

  • Cadwallader

    I have a TV which only gets switched on for the occasional DVD. I find the msm channels utterly pointless.

    • Hazards001

      Me too…haven’t watch TV since my divorce and happy to stay single so I never have to watch it again.

  • St_Hubbins

    Sports fans would probably disagree with the criticisms of Sky TV. I’m a big fan of televised golf, rugby league, motorsport, horse racing and other sports. Without Sky, I’d see next to none of it. I remember well when we only had 2 channels on TV.

    As far as my household is concerned, MySky is the greatest invention of all time (well, perhaps second behind electricity considering we need juice to power the TV and MySky box),

  • Mr_Blobby

    Dumped Sky nearly 6 Years ago have never looked back.Have saved thousands.