Monday, October 29, 2007

The Death of Quality TV

In a discussion of the decline of quality Sci-Fi TV programing, in this case Battlestar Galactica, in the niche market of cable channels like the Sci-Fi network, Space in Canada, James Bow concludes;

Clearly what has happened is that the vaunted 500-channel universe
has not delivered the democratization of programming that was promised twenty years ago. We used to believe that any niche program could find itself an audience here, but we forgot the other side of the demand/supply equation: television costs money to produce, and sometimes good television costs a lot of money to produce.

Well actually we didn't forget that good TV costs money to produce. What some folks forgot was that the bottom line always was the basis for all commercial TV production. Which is why we have the rise of reality TV programs, including whole channels devoted to reality TV like the Food Network, Home and Garden channel etc. All this costs far less to produce than a regular network show which of course has real writers (unionized), directors (unionized), actors (unionized), techies (unionized).

In other words the 500 channel universe did not democratize TV nor did cable. What has happened is that the business tycoons who own the studios and production companies have expanded into a variety of other entertainment and amusement businesses and are using TV to support these endeavours. In doing so they are looking to create cheap productions and that has resulted in a plethora of union busting bottom line programming hence reality TV. The sound you hear is the owners cashing in.

Look at the Sci Fi programming on mainstream channels; ABC, NBC, CBS that were launched last year and were canceled; Surface, which was excellent and had potential, Threshold, and Invasion. Gone. In some cases they barely lasted one season. While the networks cash in on them by issuing them on DVD.

Just as the Sci-Fi network did in killing Babalon 5 and later Farscape. They still profit by issuing them as DVD's and with mini series tie ins.

Quality TV programing especially science fiction and drama is now too costly to produce, not because it is, thanks to the advances in CGI technology, but because the bottom line is so low in production costs that anything that is quality is priced out of the market. Thus reality TV is the thin wedge of union busting in TV land.

Nor has the 500 channel universe opened itself to DIY programming, in fact it has closed off access. It is still controlled by the same corporate interests the owners of production and cable companies.

While fears that the 500 channel universe would be the Deathstar to commercial mainstream TV such has not been the case. Instead mainstream TV and its cable, movie, news, DVD rivals are the New Empire; resulting from interlocking corporate ownership .

The sucking sound you hear is not Darth Vader, it's the decline in quality TV production as the Empire expands in the inevitable mediocrity of the bottom line.


Blade Runner

Dr. Who Curse

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