Friday, February 3, 2012

Shifts and Switches

Michael Curtin describes the shift from the major networks provided a wide audience with largely popular (and somewhat neutral) shows to an array of specified shows over many cable networks as the development of the “matrix media”.  “Matrix media” is the development of modern television systems thanks to the invention of a matrix switch. A matrix switch, or “an array of switches” (p. 13), has high bandwidth capabilities for an assortment of people watching different programs. Each individual will still experience full bandwidth capabilities because transmitted information is broken down and reassembled after traveling to the individual’s screen. Essentially, this means that television stations now provide viewers with hundreds of options simultaneously, to more specialized audiences, because of the changes in production due to this technological shift.

The television industries both embraced possibilities provided by this technological shift and feared the potential loss of power it could create. The major companies and networks acquired smaller stations, such as NBC’s ownership of Bravo, to help capture the audiences that their more neutral programming missed. Previously, shows that appeared to attract the widest audience received airtime, in order to gain the highest ratings, and many audiences were excluded. However, smaller stations could attract niche markets and not require as high ratings to remain on the air and profitable. On the other hand, networks are resistant of this shift because it reduces the number of people watching prime time network television. In combination with the invention of DVRs and online viewing sites, show ratings for networks have dropped and many internal industry struggles have revolved around these changes.

These technological shifts have forced the industry to change, although it might be hesitantly. According to TiVo, only a third of television today is consumed during it’s live broadcast. This means that people are generally not watching advertisements in a traditional way. They have to be more appealing to entice an audience, with the ability to skip all ads, to watch or remember their brand while fast-forwarding. Also, companies have tried to make viewing experiences more interactive, largely through websites, and create shows people feel the need to watch live such as American Idol! result and performance shows. While networks have attempting to change in some regards, their continued lowered ratings (even in regards to this seasons Idol) implies there may be more room to improve, or lowered ratings may be an irreversible trend and they may simply have to adapt their advertising style farther.

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