The American Television Industry

The American Television Industry

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Towards the end of the 20th century, American television changed radically, as the three broadcasting networks that had dominated the medium for more than fifty years dramatically altered their business practices in response to social, cultural, and technological changes that encouraged industry practitioners rethink TV as we know it. Prior to these changes, the concept of 'watching television' in America was clear: the viewing of programmess beamed to a small screen in the family home, provided by three national networks with each program designed to hold the audiences' attention through each commercial break and on into the next show. Television was targeted at mass audiences using a well-worn formula of least offensive programming designed to promote network loyalty and ensure audience flow. Today, however, cable, satellite, video on demand (VOD), personal video recorders (PVR), and Internet distribution had altered the TV experience substantially. Viewers can now download programs and watch them on a tiny i-Pod while walking down a street or enjoy them on home theatre screens that rival the quality of the local multiplex. Unlike the first fifty years of television, today's major industry players can no longer rely on mass audiences and steady revenue flows from big-budget advertisers, and this in turn affects their programming and production strategies. Whereas the three broadcasting networks captured some 90% of the prime-time audience in 1978, today the five broadcast chains share less than 50% of the viewing audience. 'The American Television Industry' provides an overview of the transition from a half-century of oligopolistic market control and integrated production to an expanding array of programming services, content creators, and innovative products. Although star-driven dramas and comedies continue to attract a great deal of critical praise and audience attention, television is increasingly characterized by niche programming services that are trying to compete for the attention of audiences on relatively modest production budgets. In this environment, reality TV genres have emerged as attractive programming alternatives for cable services such as the History Channel and the Food Network. Moreover, cable operators such as Comcast, are delivering ala carte, on-demand programming of varying lengths. This trend reflects the personalization of TV, as TiVo provides greater control over scheduling, as iTunes offers new models of delivery, and as reinvents the relationship between the producers and viewers of the medium. With the number of competitors growing and the traditional network broadcasting schedule increasingly under siege, the major television networks and their studio partners are themselves re-imagining the nature of the business, aiming to compete with the reality TV boom on the one hand, while also reinvesting in big-budget dramas and comedies that are beyond the reach of smaller competitors. For them, the challenge is to transform traditional production practices so as to adapt to new delivery systems. Fox network's 24 is but one successful example of these trends, as the series is now available via broadcast, cable, broadband download, and DVD boxed sets. The producers also offer 'mobisodes,' ancillary mini-narratives that you can watch on your cell phone. Consequently, Hollywood's traditional distribution strategies--featuring network premieres, summer reruns, and off-network syndication--are being substantially refashioned to incorporate new modes of delivery, promotion, and production. Although the major broadcast networks continue to draw the largest audiences and command the highest advertising rates, they are in the midst of reinventing a broad range of practices and institutional relationships, from narrative strategies to revenue streams. In order to best portray these complex conditions, the book analyzes changes in television production, distribution and exhibition since the 1980s, uncovering the corporate strategies, technological innovations, and cultural transformations that have modified industry strategy, discourse, and practice. Making reference to numerous case examples, the text will delineate definitive trends and describe key industry players. These are indeed vibrant but unstable times for the American television industry and this volume explains the major forces that will shape the future of the medium in North America and no doubt around the world.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 208 pages
  • 156 x 230 x 18mm | 381.02g
  • British Film Institute
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 19 black & white halftones, 1 black & white illustrations
  • 1844573370
  • 9781844573370
  • 728,057

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About Dr. Michael Curtin

MICHAEL CURTIN is the Mellichamp Professor of Global Media in the Department of Film and Media Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara He is the author of Redeeming the Wasteland: Television Documentary and Cold War Politics (Rutgers, 1996) and Playing to the World's Largest Audience: The Globalization of Chinese Film and TV (University of California Press, 2008), and the co-editor, with Lynn Spigel, of 'The Revolution Wasn't Televised: Sixties Television and Social Conflict' (Routledge, 1997) and, with Richard Ohmann, Gage Averill, David Shumway and Elizabeth Traube, of 'Making and Selling Culture' (Wesleyan University Press, 1996). JANE SHATTUC is Professor of Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College, Boston, USA. She has written primarily about American and European television industries and how their aesthetic and industrial forms relate to class and gender. Her books include: Television, Tabloids, Tears: Fassbinder and Popular Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995) and The Talking Cure: TV Talk Shows and Women (New York: Routledge, 1997). She co-edited Hop on Pop: the Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002) with Henry Jenkins and Tara McPherson.

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