Ed Driscoll

Fitting Network TV For A Toe Tag

If you enjoyed my “Atlas Mugged” article on mass print media and its successor, then you’ll definitely want to read this recent piece by Mark Harris on the Wired Website:

For 20 years, Ted Harbert worked at ABC. He started there right out of college in 1977, when the network, along with CBS and NBC, was the only game in town and was the hit factory responsible for Happy Days; Charlie’s Angels; Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots. By 1996, when Harbert was running ABC, those glory days were ending. All three networks were still colossal, but Fox had established its beachhead, and cable’s market penetration was almost complete. The ’80s had seen the rise of MTV. And CNN was by then a big deal, not just an incinerator for Ted Turner’s extra cash. ESPN was competing aggressively. Individually, none of these channels got much of a rating most of the time, but the damage was starting to add up.

“People would say, ‘Oh, they’re nibbling away, they’re nibbling away,'” Harbert recalls. “And we would always say, ‘Well, they can nibble, but they’re never gonna really take us.’ And then they took us.”

Detroit and the newspaper industry each thought the same thing–despite numerous predictions from futurists of diversification just around the corner in each industry. Why should Jurassic television be any different? And the Wired article doesn’t even get into the next wave of video technology, which is slowly beginning to level the playing surface in much the same way as the Blogosphere did to print.

And speaking of Jurassic and futurists, if you missed a recent edition of my Sillicon Graffiti video blog I did on the topic, I explore what Michael Crichton and Alvin Toffler had to say about the media and demassification: