Games and the System

Bosch image According to Nielsen data reported by Advertising Age, in the year 2018, “live sports generated 89 of the year’s 100 largest audiences” on “live plus one” TV in the United States.

This explains why there is so much money flooding into professional and quasi-professional sports now. The inherent suspense and ease-of-understanding in live athletics is now pretty much the only thing that can get large numbers of people to watch television on advertisers’ preferred terms — meaning with low control over their own exposure to ads and in-broadcast marketing messages.

Noam Chomsky is a doubly good source for making sense of the huge meanings of this news about the evolution of big business marketing, which remains by far the main engine of American off-the-job culture, aka “free time.” First, the Herman-Chomsky model of corporate capitalist media has much to offer anybody trying to figure out the filters that affect not just news reporting, but also broadcast entertainment content. Second, Chomsky has sharp and powerful things to say about the socio-political logic of sports fanaticism.

Oppression by Surfeit

mindcontrol 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.”

TV as Spyware

eyeball Been a while since I reported on the corporate capitalists’ progress in turning home television equipment into marketing spyware. As always, the progress is rapid.

Rentrak Corporation, headquartered in the same city as TCT, describes its work thus:

Rentrak is the television ratings database currency that measures local television and cable channels at a granular level in 210 markets across the United States. The service incorporates data from over 17 million televisions and is the only fully integrated system of detailed satellite, telco and cable TV viewing data commercially available that combines TV viewing information with consumer segmentation systems so advertisers can effectively reach their true consumer targets.

 

Big Brother was an amateur.

Voice of the Sponsor

The gulf between the public/on-air claims and the behind-the-scenes realities of corporate marketing is scandalously immense. If journalism still had a pulse, there would be frequent exposes of this all-important chasm. Alas, the capitalists own the media, so there is only silence.

Consider the example of one Thomas Morgan, the CEO of MediaD.tv, who is busy coaching big businesses about how “Internet TV has the potential to be the most powerful ad-supported medium ever created, if we learn to leverage the strengths of both television and the internet.”

Here is how scumbags like Morgan talk to their customers about the core of what their Orwellian careers are all about:

Finally, the gap between TV and online is not as great as people think. Let’s compare a 1000 people watching a full prime show on TV, and a 1000 people watching the same show online. If roughly 40% of them are outside A18-49 then the C3 model will discard 400 people to start. The remaining 600 view 22 commercials at say a $30 CPM so about $.66 per viewer X 600 viewers = $3.96 of revenue. Compare this to online: 1000 people view 6 commercials at say a $40CPM, so $.24 per viewer X 1000 viewers = $2.40 of revenue. Hence the parity gap. However, if we upped the ad load to 12, and dropped the CPM to $35 on average for all viewers, online would generate $4.20 of revenue per 1000 viewers, exceeding the $3.96 of TV. Parity achieved and exceeded!

Such is the nature of the planning of citizens’ most common life experiences in our glorious “democracy.”

Why No Uprising?

potato Answer:

Viewing of video on television, Internet and mobile devices — the Three Screens — continues to increase and has hit record levels.  Nielsen’s fourth quarter A2/M2 Three Screen Report reports that the average American watches more than 151 hours of TV per month, an all-time high.  They are also watching several hours of video on other devices: those who watch it on the Internet consume another 3 hours of online video per month, and those who use mobile video watch nearly 4 hours per month on mobile phones and other devices.

This un-discussed deepening addiction, a cardinal aim, requirement, and symptom of core-country corporate capitalism/market totalitarianism, also explains why most Obama voters haven’t begun to realize how massively and completely baited-and-switched they’ve been.

Quote of the Day: Truth for the Animals

Dmitry Orlov says it’s boondoggles chasing boondoggles.  The late, great Marvin Harris simply labeled it “intensification.”

Either way, the point is that overclasses do one thing and one thing only — pursue the tactics and strategies that carried them to the top of the societies to which they dictate the terms of life.

Alas, as both Orlov and Harris argue, this reliance on doing the same-old-same-old only gets stronger after class decrepitude arrives and the underlying conditions for further exploitation (and further life for the proles) begin to erode themselves.  Just when they most need fresh ideas, established overclasses instead only redouble the old ones.

Any brush with the news of the day provides ample proof of this thesis.

My task for today is to pass along the sub-news that the point applies to big business marketing as well as to macro-economic policy and geo-politics.

Consider this comment from Douglas Brooks, Senior Vice President of the Aegis Group’s Media Marketing Assessment unit:

When the fish get finicky, it makes you a better fisherman.  The presentation of the bait and how it’s delivered — getting it in the right spot at the right time — becomes critical.

This quote comes in a February 23, 2009 Advertising Age column reporting on how television marketers are seeing the effectiveness of their profit-seeking behavior-modification efforts increase, despite the times.  [Article title: “Guess Which Medium is as Effective as Ever: TV”]

Notice the reduction of the supposedly holy and wholly sovereign “consumer” here.  In this case, it’s to “fish” swimming past baited hooks.  Just as often, it’s to dogs, frogs, pigs, or chickens.

Them’s the terms of the trade inside the leading institution of cultural planning in America, folks…