Old Media Isn't Collapsing – It's a Lot More Complex Than That
By Staff News & Analysis - November 25, 2013

Cord Cutters And The Death Of TV … The TV business is having its worst year ever. Audience ratings have collapsed: Aside from a brief respite during the Olympics, there has been only negative ratings growth on broadcast and cable TV since September 2011, according to Citi Research. Media stock analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson recently noted, "The pay-TV industry has reported its worst 12-month stretch ever." All the major TV providers lost a collective 113,000 subscribers in Q3 2013. That doesn't sound like a huge deal — but it includes Internet subscribers, too. Broadband internet was supposed to benefit from the end of cable TV, but it hasn't. – Business Insider

Dominant Social Theme: It is true that TV viewership is going down, but there are many complex factors involved. This is a business story not a cultural one.

Free-Market Analysis: This Business Insider article shows us clearly that we need to be sophisticated analyzers of consumer information in order to understand the trends taking place in US media.

Or not.

We read the Business Insider article over several times and, like many feedbackers, we emerged with the idea that US television in its many forms is subsiding because people aren't watching so much of it anymore.

We're not quite sure if that's what Business Insider journos have decided.

Those involved seem to believe that the US consumer is fairly happy with quality TV fare and that overall great programming like "Two-and-Half Men" or "The Big Bang Theory" will be searched out no matter where they reside.

Again, we are not so sure.

But here is an elaboration by Business Insider:

In all, about 5 million people ended their cable and broadband subs between the beginning of 2010 and the end of this year. Time Warner Cable, for instance, lost 306,000 TV subscribers in Q3, and 24,000 broadband web subscribers, too. And Tom Rutledge, CEO of Charter Communications, told Wall Street analysts he was "surprised" that 1.3 million of his 5.5 million customers don't want TV — just broadband internet. "Our broadband-only growth has been greater than I thought it would be," he said.

… Fewer people are watching TV. This is the macro problem: Ratings are falling across the board. They have been for years. It's not too surprising that broadcast TV ratings are down. The major networks have faced increasing competition for years from niche-interest cable channels and the better-quality programming on places like AMC and HBO. But ratings for both cable and the broadcast networks are down.

Even ratings for some major TV events are in decline. People just don't watch the World Series like they used to. Recently, viewer decline is led by young people … So why are ratings in decline? We're at the beginning of a major historical shift from watching TV to watching video — including TV shows and movies — on the internet or on mobile devices. This is going to hurt cable TV providers.

Nearly 5 million cable TV subscribers have gone elsewhere in the last five years. The number of subscribers remaining could sink below 40 million later this year, according to this data from ISI Group, an equity research firm (at right). Cable and broadband companies are increasingly unable to retain customers

… People who are unplugging from both cable TV and broadband internet are likely going to free wifi. So if fewer people are watching cable TV and fewer people are paying for Internet service, does that mean that we just don't care about watching our favorite shows anymore? Not necessarily. Free wifi — at work, in coffee shops, and on campuses — is making it easier for consumers to get the shows, movies and videos they want without subscribing to any kind of cable or broadband service …

The operative analysis above resides in the following paragraph:

"So if fewer people are watching cable TV and fewer people are paying for Internet service, does that mean that we just don't care about watching our favorite shows anymore? Not necessarily."

Of course, here at The Daily Bell, we do NOT for the most part have favorite shows. But according to Business Insider many people do and they will follow them anywhere. The idea, then, is that great television binds the US culture together and that television is inevitably produced by top programming brains in Hollywood and Los Angeles.

Our perspective is a bit different. A decade ago or more we were predicting not just the diminution of mainstream media, but its virtual collapse. Our perspective, shared in white papers and various articles, was that the entire "fortress media" of information scarcity was subsiding.

At the time, we predicted the Internet would create an era of information plenty in which those mainstream entities that did not tell the truth about the world would have a difficult time garnering subscriptions in the numbers that they were used to.

To set up an operation like, for instance, Murdoch's far-flung media empire would have taken tens of billions in the 20th century. In the 21st century, Murdoch's sunk costs of printing plants and television facilities would prove irretrievable, or so we predicted – fairly accurately it would seem.

At the same time it would cost a virtual pittance to garner an audience similar to Murdoch's using the tools of on-line media. Matt Drudge provides us with the validation of this sort of perspective. Operating with a fairly tiny staff, Drudge was able to dominate Internet news early on and built a regular audience to 10 million viewers or so.

To gain the same kind of numbers doubtless cost Murdoch billions more. And even with that outlay, the merciless economics of the Internet began to squeeze Murdoch and other moguls. It is print newspapers and magazines that have felt the crushing blows of the Internet first. But now the visual media is subject to the same kind of attack.

Except in this article – the one we're analyzing – Business Insider isn't quite willing to come to that same conclusion. The thrust of the article is that although the technology is changing the programming may remain.

But let us advance our hypothesis once more: The entertainment and news media of the 20th century was built around the proposition of information scarcity. The gatekeepers of the day were fully in control; it cost millions and even billions to build successful world-spanning information operations.

But today the Internet often functions without those gatekeepers and we do live in a milieu of information plenty. The result, in fact, is that people aren't actually all that apt to follow their "favorite shows."

Maybe people only watched them in the first place because there was nothing else on.

The power elite behind the mainstream media must be increasingly desperate, it seems to us. Control of programming – propaganda, really – is its lifeblood.

Without the persuasion of fear-based scarcity memes it will be difficult to convince people to submit to ever-larger and more onerous globalist facilities of control. This is perhaps the reason that there are so many precipitous media moves being made in England, the heart of the Anglosphere's Western domination.

Just recently in two shocking and widely reported campaigns, the Tory Party has actually removed literature and speeches from the Internet – scrubbing a vast portion of its post-20th century narrative.

At the same time, Prime Minister David Cameron has launched a determined effort to ensure that various kinds of alternative media will not be available to the British public under the guise of removing pornography from Internet websites.

These two Orwellian policies seem to indicate to us the depth of desperation that elites must be feeling. Such dramatic policy choices – so publicly obvious – would never have been taken in the late 20th century.

But today mainstream media's controllers seem willing to do almost anything to return to the pristine state of 20th century information scarcity when viewers and readers knew basically what their leaders wanted them to know – and anything else was considered "conspiracy theory."

That those at the top of the media food chain are still trying to mimic this 20th century model tells us two things: First, that the past century's model was effective and second, that those who placed it there have no idea how to combat the modern paradigm.

The Business Insider article appears optimistic that 20th century "programming" will persist into the 21st because it is the people's "favorite." Our bet is that television programming continues to unravel and those who believe in it will be in for a rude awakening.

Yes, they will find that people are more than willing to explore new avenues of entertainment and information. And they will have to continue Cameron's strategy of selective censorship to slow the movement away from traditional media to new programming and information options.

After Thoughts

How's that going to work?