Sunday, January 06, 2008

On The Twelfth Day Of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me....twelve Fearful Forecasts.

Normally I would say twelve fearless forecasts. I learned long ago that the trick with predicting the future is to be as vague as possible in making your predictions so that after the fact you can form the prediction to fit the facts. Either you do that or to come up with something so blatantly obvious that no one could possibly miss getting it right. Take this one for example, from last year: "I predict that the biggest housecleaning at the Upfronts in May will occur at The CW, with new series being created to try to create an identity of its own for the network rather than that of the two parent webs as well as build ratings. It will succeed in the first, not so much in the second." I pretty much nailed that one but it was patently obvious that The CW was going to have to cancel many of the series that they put on the air last season. It was equally obvious that those changes would give the network an identity that was more its own than it had in the first year. And in all honesty there was little or no chance that the network would make significant gains in the ratings. I had a pretty good record last year following those simple rules.

Ah but this year – this year you have the thrice damned Writers Strike, and while I support the writers 110%, it makes it hard to predict the future. I mean take a prediction about the Oscars. I can make a prediction that they'll be boring and generate complaints that they go on too long – that's a perennial one that you can make every year and I usually do – but how do you make that sort of prediction when you don't know whether the Academy Awards will be given on the scheduled date, if the Writers will still be on strike, if they'll grant a special waiver for the broadcast if they do go on the scheduled date and they are still on strike, and if anyone except the six Moguls and the Below the Line workers represented by IATSE will actually show up if they do and they are. I mean you can see the problems for wannabe Carnacs. Still, I've got my crystal ball out of hock and am sitting yogi like before it and with a growing sense of trepidation I look deep, deep into its depths to predict....THE FUTURE!

  1. I predict that the Super Bowl will run far outside of the time slot that FOX will allocate for it, to the point where most of the episode of whatever show the network is planning to run following the game will run outside of prime time in most of the United States. Despite this only half the people in the United States will complain about the game being too long and they weren't watching it anyway. (This is one of the "perennials" I mentioned earlier. In fact I just cut and pasted it from last year's list.
  2. I predict that the first quarter profits for the five networks will go down slightly despite the fact that they don't have to pay for those nasty old writers and for actors and such. The advertisers will start demanding give backs as ratings decline, but at the moment the networks have enough scripted product available in the form of shows that they held back as mid-season replacements that it won't be huge. But what happens when that material is gone and the nets have to rely on reality series, game shows and news department shows?
  3. Outside of the established reality programs such as The Amazing Race, American Idol, Big Brother, Hell's Kitchen The Apprentice, and Survivor new reality series brought out by the networks will be abject failures in terms of ratings. Despite this, the networks will run them to the bitter end rather than go back to the negotiating table with the Writers Guild.
  4. The networks will have greater success with repurposing shows from their various cable networks. There are people who don't watch the USA cable network let alone Showtime.
  5. The Writers Strike of 2007-08 will last longer than the Writers Strike of 1988. Neither side will be entirely happy with the result but one side will be far happier than the other when it is eventually settled.
  6. The Parents Television Council will continue to whine, bitch, moan, complain about language, violence, sexual content, and the "fact" that cable subscribers are forced to "subsidize" content that no one wants (despite strong ratings). They will continue to make protests at stockholders meetings imploring companies to not advertise on bad shows and work with the PTC to choose where to spend their advertising dollars. They will continue to insist that the ratings system is a failure and there needs to be an outside board to "correctly" rate shows presumably with considerable input from the PTC. They will continue to crow whenever they agree with an FCC ruling, and insist that the word of the FCC is unappealable when the evil networks take those decisions to court, but will insist that the FCC reverse its position immediately when the PTC doesn't agree with one of their positions. They will continue to send in obscenity complaints to the FCC for material that most sensible people would never regard as filth. The FCC, mindful of being overturned by the Second Circuit Court on the "fleeting obscenities" case will ignore all but the most blatant and obvious transgressions. Which will be nonexistent because networks are, on the whole, too afraid of the FCC's ability to levy fines of $325,000 per station. (This by the way is another one of those "perennials.")
  7. The 2008 Olympics will be the biggest thing on NBC all year, despite the fact that nothing will be shown live (because the damned foreigners didn't put the Games in the United States where they belong perpetually), the Opening Ceremonies will be totally messed up by Brian Williams and Bob Costas, there will be far too many "up close and personal" pieces profiling (American) athletes. Naturally the only ceremonies that are show will be ones where the USA wins, and the only time some events will be seen is when an American is competing. Meanwhile CBC (and it's various partners) will do a much better job of covering the Olympics by showing events when they happen, regardless of the nationality of the competitors. And they'll do the whole thing – from buying the rights to paying staff, renting locations and housing staff – for a fraction of the total what NBC spent to get the rights. Olympics junkies will flock to border areas where they can see the Canadian coverage and there will be a bump in the purchase of "gray market" Canadian satellite dishes to American households and sports bars. (This is a "biennial" – it is accurate every even numbered year.)
  8. Despite being named by everybody and their cousin as the best new series of the year, Mad Men will receive no Emmy nominations when the Emmys eventually occur. Also overlooked will be anything on The CW and every show on most basic cable networks regardless of quality.
  9. Despite the ample opportunity presented by the Writers Strike, Canadian private TV networks will continue to miss the opportunity to expose their product to their domestic audience continuing to adhere to the mantra that Canadians won't watch Canadian shows so why bother.
  10. Bill O'Reilly will continue to be Keith Olberman's favourite target for calendar 2008, primarily because O'Reilly continues to be such an easy target and he gets so upset when Olberman calls him on something. Why just this weekend Bill O (as Keith O continuously calls O'Reilly) shoved Obama campaign staffer Marvin Nicholson for standing in his way, had the Secret Service intervene, and lied on air about what happened. Olberman probably can't wait to get on the air Monday night. (For the record, I don't see FOX News – it's available but the cable company requires viewers to buy a specific package to get it and I can't be bothered with Bloomberg TV. For some reason that I don't entirely understand – well really I don't understand it at all – I do see MSNBC, and am rapidly becoming an Olberman fan.)
  11. Despite the concerted (I nearly – and foolishly – said "best") efforts of the US Federal Government and the Television industry, the conversion from analog to digital television in the United States will be screwed up so that there will be a small but vocal number of people whose TV stop receiving signals when the switch-off occurs in February 2009. I mention this now because publicity about the switch-off has already started, and the coupons to buy the converter boxes needed for analogue TVs to receive digital signals are already available.
  12. Katie Couric will be hosting the CBS Evening News at the end of 2008. I confess that she's gotten better at the job and watch her more often than either Brian Williams or Charlie Gibson. Her ratings will improve although by the end of the year they still won't take the CBS News out of third place, or even close to second place.

Bonus Prediction: Election night will be very interesting. (And yeah, for me that's another perennial, no matter what election we're talking about. There's something amazing about watching the votes come in and the results being decided.)

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