Friday, September 9, 2011

Upfront about Upfront's

“The Promotional role of Network Upfront Presentations in the Production of Culture” by Amanda Lotz examines network Upfront presentations, specifically the processes broadcasters use to sell themselves and their audience to advertisers and the ways in which these promotional activities affect the landscape of commercial TV, and thus, culture at large. Lotz describes these ritualistic, commercially important, and very expensive Upfront presentations as a means for broadcasters to strategically assert their primacy within the industry, control and construct a network identity that appeals to particular demographics, as well as sell 75%-95% of their primetime ad space within a week of their presentations. The important take away from the perspective of a communication scholar is the articulation of real world broadcasting culture in which broadcasters seek to “sell audiences” to advertisers rather than “programming to viewers”. This is evidenced by the strategies employed by broadcasters in determining programming content, which centers around the creation of a “network brand” through the broadcasting of shows that fit that brand, and thusly creates a distinct “network audience” with network identity and loyalty. For example, the WB strategically created a “network brand” that appeals to younger adults and teens, a demographic they believed to be untapped by broadcasters as well as advertisers at the time. To appeal to advertisers wishing to connect with the younger audiences, the WB produced and broadcasted shows that would interest this demographic and subsequently generate an increase in ad revenue. It is in this way that the process of selling audiences influences and determines media content, and in turn shapes culture and society. Today, television has become so pervasive and omnipresent its effect on culture is undeniable. I believe that Lotz would further argue, that advertisers ability to affect the programming decisions made by broadcasters, gives them keys to a lock they should not be privy to. I tend to agree, when advertisers in the American media industry have the power to make a show a cultural icon, or a show that only lasts a two episode, the audience is hurt.

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