musings on marketing, media, public relations....and life, by David Reich
Reich Communications, Inc.
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Television is still, by far, the dominant mass medium in the U.S. But it's light years away from what it was 30 – 40 years ago, before cable took hold and before everyone was hooked up online.
It’s a different world, for sure. With literally hundreds of channels to choose from, plus on-demand and streaming programming, there's a dizzying array of program content. Some programming on cable and, lately, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon rivals feature films in terms on content quality and production value. In response, the broadcast networks have finally stepped up their game with some quality shows. Yes, broadcast still has plenty of lowest-common-denominator drivel led by mindless comedies and "reality" shows, but many are now calling this the new Golden Age for TV, based on content quality.
Nielsen says the hard-to-reach Millennials (18-34), highly coveted by advertisers, are spending 17 percent less time watching TV than a year ago, but it still averages nearly 22 hours a week. Across all age groups, adults spend an average of 36 hours a week in front of the tube. Boomers (ages 50+) watch much more TV -- 47 and a half hours weekly.
Probably the biggest change – and the biggest challenge for advertisers -- is how we watch TV. Even Boomers are now frequent DVR users, watching programs at their own convenience. But Millennials in particular are getting their TV across a spectrum of platforms, and traditional TV is quickly losing out as the primary way they watch TV. Increasingly, they watch TV on laptops, tablets and smartphones, usually with an absolute minimum of ads.
Radio, which doesn't get much attention in media circles, comes in a strong second. Across all age groups, we spend just under 13 hours a week listening to radio. Millennials listen less at 11 hours.
Smartphones account for 7-1/4 hours a week across all age groups. Millennials use their smartphones a lot more -- nearly 10 hours/week. Tablets account for 3-1/2 hours across all age groups and 3-3/4 hours for Millennials.
Yet another challenge for advertisers, of course, is how much their ads, regardless of the medium, are actually viewed.
Most of us have probably never heard of Mario Kreutzberger, but tens of millions of TV viewers here in the U.S. and throughout Latin America know him well as Don Francisco, host of Sabado Gigante.
The show aired its final episode last night, after 53 continuous years with Mario Kreutzberger/Don Francisco as the host. The show, which ran for 4 hours each Saturday evening, has long been a must-watch. It's hard to describe ... a combination of game show, audience participation, variety show, celebrity performances and interviews, skits and heart-wrenching human interest pieces, all pulled together and kept fast-paced and lively by Kreutzberger, now 72. Product placement was always a big part of the show, long before marketers knew the term.
Spanish TV's biggest star is an unlikely one. The Chilean-born son of Jewish-German immigrants, he began his TV career doing brief comedy segments on a local TV station in Chile in 1962. The show expanded in format and distribution in the 1970s, aired throughout most of Latin America. In 1986, the show moved to Miami when it began airing on Univision, giving it broad distribution in the U.S. while continuing to dominate throughout Latin America.
The final Sábado Gigante drew 3.4 million total viewers, and it ranked first among the 18-49 demos in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, San Francisco and Phoenix. Don Francisco also drew personal farewells on-air from President Obama and the First Lady, Marc Anthony, Plácido Domingo and Shakira.
I used to watch parts of the show periodically, as a way to practice my high-school Spanish. And ok, I'll admit, I didn't mind seeing the show's many long-legged muchachas dancing and bouncing around in short, tight skirts. But Don Francisco had a certain personality that kept me watching, even if I couldn't understand every word.
Kreutzberger has long been a solid supporter of charities and various causes. In interviews, he said he plans to continue that work and promises we'll see him from time to time on specials for Univision.
Last night's cable TV schedule included two notable shows.
The first, while termed by most as a political debate, seemed at times more like a much-hyped reality show. It had all the elements of reality shows that we've come to expect -- outbursts and outrageous name-calling by contestants, teasers by the hosts (in this case, moderators posing as journalists) before going to commercial breaks, and above all, the chance to win a really big prize. I have to admit, it was great theater when moderator Megan Kelly went after the rich guy from New York about his flip-flopping on positions and parties.
I caught only the second half of the program, but it was enough to convince me that I am not one of the target voters the candidates are hoping to enthrall. It seems they're looking for Christians who talk to God, believe women should have no choice when it comes to their own bodies, and that this nation built of immigrants should close the door on them -- or at least, build a wall.
A couple of the candidates, even though I don't agree with their position on most issues, did come across as dignified and potential leaders of this great nation. Jeb Bush and John Kasich both presented themselves well, I think.
The hype and the nastiness of some candidates served to make this a bonanza for Fox, which probably drew ratings to rival past presidential rather than party debates.
The other notable TV moment last night was Jon Stewart's final Daily Show.
I've never been a regular follower of the show. I like Stewart, but if I'm up at 11, I'm watching the local news, Charlie Rose or Seinfeld reruns.
Stewart's final piece seemed a perfect balance to the GOP debacle (er, debate) that had just wrapped. Stewart's parting words, before protégé Stephen Colbert introduced Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, were a caution against misinformation -- or in Stewart's words, bullsh*t.
When it comes to preferences in music, movies and media, different age groups don't agree on much. But a recent poll by the Pew Research Center shows Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials do agree on which news sources they feel they can least trust.
All age groups say sources they trust least for accurate reporting are Buzzfeed and three widely-syndicated conservative radio shows hosted by Glenn beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
Although many listen to the opinionated radio shows, they may tune in more for the entertainment value than for trustworthy news reporting.
The Pew study found more of a discrepancy by age groups when asked which news sources they can trust. Millennials (ages 19-34) say they rely on two faux-news shows, The Daily Show and the recently-ended Colbert Report. Almost as scary is that this group also lists Al Jazeera America as one its most-trusted sources of news. Boomers and Gen Xers, maybe with wisdom that comes with age, said they don't rely on any of those programs for reliable information. They say they get much of their news from local TV.
Troubling, to me at least, is that newspapers didn't figure into the picture for reliable news. (And where do you think local TV gets many of its story leads? The morning paper.)
For 24 years, Bob Schieffer has helped make sense out of what too often seems like a senseless place -- Washington DC. As host of CBS' Face the Nation every Sunday morning, he'd ask tough questions of those we pay to represent us.
In his closing broadcast today, he said he's enjoyed every bit of the 58 years he's spent as a reporter.
Good luck, Bob, and thanks for your probing and your insights.
With the end of David Letterman's 22-year run in CBS' 11:35 p.m. spot, the network seems to be missing a real opportunity to keep a hold on the late-night spot. But instead, they're pretty much giving up on it until September when Stephen Colbert begins his new show.
In the meantime, CBS has an hour of "The Mentalist" reruns filling the hole between the local news and the promising new talk show being done by James Corden, who took over Craig Ferguson's spot a few months ago. When it was a first-run series, "The Mentalist" did pretty well for CBS. But now that the show is out of production, it becomes one of many re-runs that can be seen late-night on local affiliates and on cable.
Dropping the late-night talk show format at 11:35 puts CBS back in the dark days before they hired Letterman. Although he consistently trailed Jay Leno in the ratings, Letterman did build a solid and loyal following that was a profit center for CBS – more so than the reruns that had filled that time slot for many years.
So I can't understand why CBS is just giving up the slot. If I were CBS CEO Les Moonves, I'd do one of two things.
If Letterman would permit it, I'd run a "Best of Letterman" series of reruns until the new guy comes on board. It would hold the Letterman fans, and after all the hype of the past several weeks, it would probably draw lots of new viewers who never watched Letterman but would now tune in out of curiosity about what they've missed all these years.
If Letterman doesn't want to license those shows to CBS, preferring to have his final show mark the end of him on TV at all, there's another option. Start re-running past Late Late Shows with James Corden. There aren't a lot of them yet, but showing them at 11:35 might build an audience for him in his 12:35 spot.
Actually, there's yet another option which CBS already tried when Craig Ferguson left. During the few months before Corden started, CBS had a series of guest hosts, including many show biz people who you wouldn't expect to see in that role. Some turned out to be pretty good doing soft interviews, and at the least it kept the talk show format alive in that time slot on CBS.
It seems that CBS is just throwing in the towel at 11:35, waiting for Colbert. But as viewers surf over to Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, they'll get comfortable with either or both Jimmy's, and some won't come back – even for Stephen Colbert.
It makes sense to me, but what do I know? I'm not getting anywhere close to the $54.4 million Les Moonves earns, so he must know a lot more than I do. Maybe.
A new report from Nielsen, the TV ratings people, shows not only what we're watching, but how we're watching it.
It used to be very simple. A program was on at a certain time and either you watched it when it aired or you didn't see it at all. No DVRs or video on demand. Not even home recording on VHS or Beta.
But today, viewers have so many choices -- not only what to watch from among hundreds of channels and tens of thousands of shows and movies on demand and Netflix and Hulu. The choice now is also about how to watch -- live or delayed on your giant flat screen or on a variety of other smaller screens from computers to laptops to tablets and phones.
The report says Americans watched "traditional" TV 141 hours a month in the 3rd quarter of 2014. But live viewing dropped a little more than 4 percent, or 12 minutes a day, to 4 hours and 32 minutes on average. Instead, we spent an hour more per month watching time-shifted programs via the internet, which includes streaming services like Netflix.
For advertisers, the obvious challenge is getting their ads seen despite fast-forwarding. Many on-demand outlets now disable the fast-forward function so we can't zip through the ads. So instead, it may end up working the way it did in the "old days," when commercials breaks meant a run to the bathroom, refrigerator or a fast click around the dial to see what else is on. Or with today's technology, we might be checking texts and emails.
Less than half of us now watch TV programs as they air live, Media Daily News reports.
Only 41 percent of us watch the live broadcast, as time-shifting grows in popularity. Watching via DVR is what 43 percent of us now do, as 19 percent use video on demand.
The move to viewing TV on so-called second screens -- mobile devices, PC, laptops and tablets -- isn't happeniong quite as quickly as pundits had been predicting. The vast majority -- 91 percent -- still watch TV on a TV. Laptops account for 12 percent of viewing, tablets 5 percent and somehow 3 percent manage to watch programs on their smartphones. It adds to more than 100 percent due to duplication -- watching on a regular screen and also on a second screen.
Programs like sports and major news events understandably score a higher amount of live viewing.
A Gallup poll just released shows that Americans' confidence in news media continues to decline. A startling 18 percent of Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in what they see on TV news, and only a small number more -- 22 percent -- say they have confidfence in what they read in newspapers.
Surprisingly, to me at least, almost the same percentage of people -- 19 percent -- say they have confidence in what they read in online news sites.
The small vote of confidence in online news has remained the same since 1999, when Gallup last included internet news in the poll. What's upsetting to me is the sharp drop in confidence in so-called traditional news sources like newspapers and TV, which had been in the mid-30 percent range 15 years ago.
Gallup says confidence in newspapers has dropped by more than half since its peak, which was 51 percent in 1979. TV news had its highest vote of consumer confidence in 1993, when it stood at 46 percent.
Some of the decline, Gallup says, is due to increasing political polarization in the U.S. Liberals are a bit more trusting of the media than conservatives, which had a small impact on the overall numbers. But Gallup also attributes the decline to the changes in where we get our news and the proliferation of news sources. Even as newspapers fold, more and more cable outlets have news reporting. And where we used to have 3 or 4 major TV news sources and our local daily paper, there are now so many more places where we can get our news, especially online and on cable.
I have to blame some of the decline on the owners of papers and TV outlets, who too often sacrifice quality reporting for the bottom line. The beancounters force cuts in their reporting staffs, which leads to less coverage and sometimes less accurate reporting. That, coupled with the constant battle to be first, causes mistakes to be made. And every time a network or a major paper has to recant a story or admit they missed some details, the news consumers lose confidence.
It may be a cycle from which there's no jumping off. Time will tell.