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Times They Are a-Changin’: the Paradox of Broadcast Television

Broadcast television has undergone a series of changes in recent years. In case anyone forgot, broadcast television consists of the following networks: ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, the CW, and PBS (and even a few other networks, e.g. Memorable Television [METV]). The biggest change of course was the digital switch that took place on June 12, 2009. On that day, the broadcast networks converted their analog signals to digital signals. The purpose of such a switch was to provide viewers with clearer broadcast channels, as well as the addition of subchannels. Naturally, the digital switch was not without problems, in particular weakened or loss signals for some stations.

Another major change for broadcast television would be sports coverage. One example is March Madness. In the past, CBS would cover all the NCAA Tournament games. Then ESPN began covering the play-in games which debuted in 2001. In recent years, the second round (field of 64) and third round (field of 32) of the NCAA Tournament would be shown not only by CBS, but also TBS, TNT, and TruTV. Then the divided coverage was extended to the Sweet Sixteen.

Then, starting with this year, TBS covered half of the Elite Eight, as well as both Final Four games (while CBS still covers the championship game). In my opinion, CBS should be the only network covering the Elite Eight, Final Four, and championship game while sharing coverage of the earlier rounds.

The other example of sports coverage would the college football postseason. Beginning with the 2010 season, all the major bowls (e.g. Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl) would be covered by ESPN. Before that, they were all shown by the broadcast networks. The newest version of the college football postseason, the playoff system, might play a factor in television coverage (at the moment, ESPN will be providing coverage).

Another issue surrounding broadcast television would be its primetime coverage. Although the broadcast networks dominate the ratings for the most part from September thru May, they usually take the summers off, thus showing reruns and movies. However, there have been a few television shows being aired during the summer (e.g. CBS’s Under the Dome and ABC’s Rookie Blue). In addition, shows that got the ax but still had unaired episodes are sometimes aired during the summer. Meanwhile, the broadcast networks have pretty much left Saturday nights to their cable rivals, unless of course they are airing sports events or movies.

If I were an executive at one of these broadcast networks, I think I would be more aggressive at drawing in the primetime audience when it comes to Saturday nights and the summer. I would also be trying to air more summertime series. As for Saturday nights, it would depend on the time of year. College football dominates Saturdays from Labor Day Weekend through the beginning of December, thus I would take advantage of that scenario. From early December through the beginning of February, movies would be shown on Saturday nights. For the rest of the year, I would try to bring in some new television series, preferably an action/adventure or a comedy.

This is what the broadcast networks should do- be more aggressive in expanding their coverage in such areas. The question is, are they up for it (aside from any contractual obligations that might stand in the way)?

Image: Courtesy of: http://www.vhemt.org/oar.htm

Andrew Linn

About the author, Andrew Linn: Andrew Linn is a member of the Owensboro Tea Party and a former Field Representative for the Media Research Center. An ex-Democrat, he became a Republican one week after the 2008 Presidential Election. He has an M.A. in history from the University of Louisville, where he became a member of the Phi Alpha Theta historical honors society. He has also contributed to examiner.com and Right Impulse Media. View all articles by Andrew Linn

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