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Wednesday, Jan 8, 2014
Recent trends in black and white viewership are changing TV's big picture, making it not so black and white.

A few months ago, I took on the topic of daytime TV convinced that, in 2013, after decades of population expansion and demographic shifts, there was no way that the daytime audience was still primarily stay-at-home moms….  But, in the process of researching and writing the article, I learned that despite a few evolving trends, the primary audience for daytime TV was, yes, stay-at-home moms. 


Recently, when I decided to look at the concept of what I call primetime TV’s “self-segregation”—that what whites are watching and what blacks are watching are two distinctly separate lists—I assumed that I would, once again, find a deep and troubling divide. I had more than just a hunch to go on for this assumption. Back in 1996 I had read a stunning list, the top 10 shows among African-American viewers for a random week as determined by the A.C. Nielsen Company. It contained such shows as Living Single, Martin, New York Undercover, and Family Matters.


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Thursday, Jul 18, 2013
Even while it mostly stands pat, Emmy’s surprise acknowledgment of Netflix original programming heralds mainstream success for a new broadcasting model.

It still remains to be seen whether 2013 will prove to be a true watershed in television history, like 1999/2000 (the debuts of The Sopranos and Survivor), but if this year’s Emmy nominations are any indication, then the future of TV is well upon us, and Netflix is leading the way.


Amidst the expected roll call of usual suspects in the drama categories you will find House of Cards, the political thriller shepherded by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright (both of whom received acting nominations). The significance, of course, is not that a prestige production is getting recognition, but who is producing it, and where (or, rather, how) it’s being broadcast. Netflix entrée into the TV game is now, as of this moment, a big deal—and the real deal. It’s not really a question of number of nominations (though the tally is respectable, nine for House of Cards, and a few more for the revival of Arrested Development) – it’s just the fact of being nominated at all. And neither is it a question of the other big TV numbers, ratings, since the Netflix model throws the outdated modes and metrics out the window (mostly by ignoring them, or at least being very cagey).


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Monday, Mar 11, 2013
The "magic" behind those "numbers" that determine what stays and what goes on TV.

A few years ago I had the chance to be a Nielsen “family” (though I live alone) and catalog, for all posterity, a detailed record of my TV viewing habits. Eventually—I assumed— this raw data would be processed and reported to the masses, with my viewing choices powerfully impacting the national viewing audience. Tough work, but someone’s got to do it.


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Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011
With the WWE's biggest event of the year on the horizon, fans and sponsors might want to take a closer look at its blatant homophobia and reconsider the wisdom of handing over their money to a bigoted and retrograde institution.

Head of the WWE Vince McMahon doesn’t like to be thought of as a hick. He really doesn’t like it.


Unfortunately for him – and for those fans who desperately want to see wrestling present something worth watching – his every attempt to show that he’s not a classless rube, simply re-enforces just what a classless rube he is.


The WWE is heading into its biggest money-season, with their flagship event Wrestlemania on the horizon (Sunday 3 April). What better way to lead into it than with a string of homophobic slurs, drawing on a long history of homophobia in the WWE’s top headline stars – strong good-guy supermen who are the heroes to countless children?


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Friday, Mar 25, 2011
As with so many trends, the increasing prevalence of transnational television is either a building block in a utopian post-national society enabled by the democratising power of new media, or the inevitable by-product of the audience fragmentation and personal atomisation occasioned by new media.

With the finalé of the Showtime/BBC series Episodes having been broadcast at the end of February (20th in America, 21st in the UK), a few words about transnational television seem appropriate.  Media sales across national boundaries have long been a part of broadcasting culture.  ITV’s imports of American series drew both criticism and ratings during the ‘60s, and the syndication of American shows remains an important part of Channel 4’s platform.  Likewise, British shows like Dr Who have found regular homes on The Sci-Fi Channel in the US, and telenovelas, produced in Central and South America, have increasingly gained popularity with the Hispanic diaspora around the world.


While these imports and exports laid the groundwork for television’s transnational economy, they are increasingly being superseded by new programmes, jointly funded by companies based in different nations, expressly designed to appeal to audiences across national boundaries, and simultaneously broadcast in several countries at once.  These range from glocalized franchise shows like Who Wants to Be A Millionaire and Big Brother, which replicate the same format with different casts, crews and contestants in different nations around the world, to prestigious, big budget drama spectaculars like Rome.  Of course, as with so many trends in contemporary media, the increasing prevalence of transnational television is either a building block in a utopian post-national society enabled by the democratising power of new media, or the inevitable by-product of the audience fragmentation and personal atomisation occasioned by (again) new media, depending on your own degree of technological optimism or pessimism.


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