Discover more from Dana Blankenhorn: Facing the Future
Cable News (1980-2023)
The real lesson of Tucker and Lemon isn't what you think it is
Broadcasting is dead.
Radio is dead. TV is dead.
Networks no longer invest in these channels at all. Click around some time when you have a chance.
What most people didn’t know, until today, is that cable is also dead.
Most of what you see on major (and minor) cable networks is the same dreck you see on broadcast, reality shows and game shows that cost very, very little to produce. Scripted shows are out. The surprise is that re-runs of this crap can get a rating. Networks don’t even have to produce much new.
What everyone wants is streaming. They want to justify that $10/month (then more) of your money, paid exclusively to them, the programmers. That’s where all their money goes. It’s going to Peacock, it’s going to Paramount Plus, it’s going to MAX. They need to be the “big three” networks because they aren’t. They’re fighting for 5th, behind Google’s YouTube, Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Netflix.
Even Disney must cut corners to stay in the game. They have total domination over sports, and they’re cutting people at ESPN, which has its own problems I’ll explain later.
In that kind of world, where do you think Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC fit in?
The total audience for “cable news” is just a few million people. Most are, like me, over 65, the demographic no one wants. The only way to extract income, for streaming or for shareholders, is to cut big salaries.
That’s the real lesson of Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon. Traditional “anchors” cost big money and it’s a job anyone can do. Throw some makeup on, read the teleprompter, maybe show (a little) personality. Job done. We don’t need to pay $1 million/year for “talent.”
The days of “talent” are done with unless someone can justify their salary with money in the owner’s pocket.
Who “wins,” i.e., who is the last one standing?
Probably NBC. Comcast has cash flow. NBC has learned how to segment the market with MSNBC, CNBC, NBC Now, NBC News and Local Now. That’s five bites at the remaining cable apple, five channels they can sell to the “skinny bundle” boys like YouTube Plus. And the cost is nominal – a few sets at the NYSE and 30 Rock. Reporters are no longer stars at any of those shops.
CNN and Fox are out in the cold. Their owners are going to squeeze all the juice out for profit until there’s nothing left, then throw the remaining goodwill at one of the big boys.
And that’s the way it is.