Highly interesting report today by Ad Age reporter Jeanine Poggi. Poggi discloses some important aspects of how the big business marketing endeavor known as “television” functions. Turns out one of the major devices there is refusal to permit what’s called “a la carte” TV subscriptions.
The basic problem is this:
A significant amount of TV viewing comes from casual viewers watching channels that are available to them, but that they likely wouldn’t want otherwise. Networks that fall outside of the top tier include independents like ReelzChannel and Ovation, as well as networks owned by conglomerates like Viacom‘s Centric and Discovery Communications‘ Velocity and the Military Channel.
If people could subscribe to plans of their own choosing, the channels that draw this excess viewing would be dropped and disappear, meaning that the price of ads on channels people actually want would increase, while — horror of horrors! — people might actually watch less television.
Poggi quotes an insider with an utterly exquisite surname:
“If people watch the same amount of TV, only getting channels they want, the supply of ratings points would remain constant for the most part,” Mr. Parent echoed.
But Mr. Parent doesn’t believe the same amount of content would be consumed on TV. “There would be less casual viewing and a drop somewhat in surfing,” he said. “It might drive some people online to watch certain shows. If out of the 10 networks there’s nothing on you want to watch, you will turn it off.”
This, of course, cannot be permitted:
[M]edia buyers are skeptical the industry will ever allow consumers to cherrypick individual networks.
TV networks are staunchly against the idea, fearing consumers wouldn’t pay for their smaller networks like MTV Jams or Cloo and might even blow a hole in revenue for midsize players.
But advertisers could also suffer if cable bundles break up and smaller channels thin in number, which would send more viewers to the bigger networks and drive up prices of reaching a mass audience.
This openly secret core aspect of institutional reality is, as always, a sharp disproof of the #1 alleged reason for allowing private business to run the media environment: “We give people what they want.”