A number of years back, a friend who produces cable TV shows introduced me to the phrase, “Feed the Monster.”
That saying refers to a bedrock reality: that content— something to put on– is TV’s primary need.
Something always has to be showing, in other words.
Gone is the era when the local station, an affiliate of CBS, ABC or NBC, the once-ruling Big
Three networks, would “end its broadcast day” and go off the air for the night, after playing The Star-Spangled Banner and showing Old Glory with standard file footage of patriotic, mostly military images.
Then– the White Noise of static, until morning.
But that’s all over and done with.
For, in the multi-channel broadcast universe we now have, no down time can be allowed –and the need– to feed that Monster– is greater than ever.
You have to shovel content into the open, munching maw of the same ever-ravenous Moloch, 24 hours of every last, livelong day– or you risk an annihilating loss to the competition.
But it’s a curious thing– if I refer in conversation to some TV show– even some cable show, very often I get in return the declaration, “Oh, I don’t watch television.”
Sometimes this comes with, “Actually I don’t know anyone who watches television anymore.”
Well, you poke around a little and you find, often enough, these same hipsters admit that they are familiar with certain trendy cable shows.
But, they hasten to say, these are recorded for later, or acquired at leisure, perhaps through Hulu.
It’s just un-hip to speak of watching something when it’s shown.
And yet, someone is watching. Quite a few someones, it turns out.
In fact, according to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American– that guy or gal –is watching more than 4 hours of TV each day– 28 hours per week. This is 2 months of nonstop TV-viewing per year.
It’s estimated that someone 65 years old will have spent 9 years of that lifetime glued, in the famous phrase, to the tube.
It seems the Telecommunications Revolution, in the synergies of creating new media, has actually expanded, rather than limited, the ultimate audience for TV.
At least there are all those cable news shows, to say nothing of Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and the rest, eh?
But, even as the news broadcasting stars of Current TV and MSNBC do their hard-hitting reports on the frightening amount of money cascading into political campaigns, now that the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 “Citizens United” ruling has cleared the way, a very large and obvious connection is not being acknowledged often enough: this money is going primarily to television.
That is where most of what is raised goes. Into political TV ads.
The 2008 Presidential election was reckoned the most costly in American history. And for 2012, thanks to the Supremes, that record is going to be blown away. There are no limits on what can be donated– and spent.
You’ll see. As a new onslaught of anti-Obama ads comes on line, they will run on all channels, including the “liberal” ones.
These may come from red-state interests– but ah, the money that puts them up there will be evergreen.
Because TV not only gobbles up content, let’s not forget that it more significantly consumes dollars.
Where they’re shoveling those billions.
Feeding the Monster, for real.