They Would Do Anything For Ratings… But They Won’t Do That

bibleA while back, I stumbled across a fascinating interview with Brit Hume of the Fox News Channel. Hume was being asked questions by a non-Fox interviewer about the success of FNC, and why he believes the network has stayed on top of the cable news ratings for as many years as it has. After offering some fascinating insight and telling some intriguing stories, Hume voiced a pretty interesting observation. He expressed surprise that Fox News’ competition hasn’t bothered to emulate any of the network’s proven, winning formula for capturing the interest of conservative-leaning viewers in middle America who have long been turned off by the traditional media. He implied that the other news organizations have actually gone in the opposite direction, drifting even further left and demonstrating a sharper hostility toward the right.

He’s right, of course, and it’s really a pretty odd thing when you think about it.  After all, viewership is the livelihood of all television networks, whether they fall within the realm of news, sports, entertainment, or whatever. The ultimate goal is to earn strong ratings which means increased advertisement revenue and company growth. Anyone who suggests that these networks don’t exist to make money is a fool.

Yet, in the case of the cable news industry, a proven, lucrative model currently exists that the other networks just won’t touch. Instead, they continue to double-down on offerings that just don’t work, and repeatedly waste opportunities to bring in new viewers. They keeping giving shows to people like Joy Behar and a revolving door of wide-eyed, angry liberals, but they won’t even consider putting the spotlight, for an hour each night, on a formidable conservative voice who sees the world differently than they do.

Right now, CNN is reportedly even considering putting together a show co-hosted by raunchy comedian, Kathy Griffin. We’re talking about a woman who is best known for having the country’s worst case of Palin-Derangement Syndrome and simulating oral sex on Anderson Cooper. Does anyone honestly believe that she is the answer to winning over new viewers?

This same sort of tone deafness goes on in the entertainment world.

I’ve read a few articles lately detailing how “shocked” Hollywood has been by the huge ratings Mark Burnett’s The Bible television series has generated for the History Channel. The only thing truly shocking for me, however, is that anyone is actually “shocked” by the show’s success.

A few years back, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ proved that there is a HUGE appetite for biblical storytelling on film. Hollywood was “shocked” by The Passion’s success as well. The movie brought people to theaters who usually don’t go to theaters. It resounded big-time with America’s heartland, and after it became one of the highest grossing films of all time, many predicted that we’d begin to see more of these types of movies produced. Yet, we haven’t.

Just like Hollywood fiercely resisted Gibson’s film (he had to finance it himself because Tinseltown wouldn’t), they have continued to pass on projects from the biblical genre.

The audience obviously didn’t go away, as evidenced by The Bible. They’ve just been ignored.

Meanwhile, Hollywood seems to have no qualms finding the money to invest in sure-fire misses like anti-war films, movies based on video games, and all of those dopey comedies starring the Wayans brothers.

When it comes to appealing specifically to Christians, the product doesn’t even have to be about biblical literalism. Television shows like Touched By An Angel certainly managed to build a very strong audience, despite endlessly being mocked. Are such shows even pitched to producers anymore?

We always hear how cutthroat media-driven industries are when it comes to money being the bottom-line, and we tend to believe it’s true because we see how quickly promising television shows are cancelled if they’re not immediate ratings successes. We see that whenever a new show finds a strong audience (regardless of how perverse its content is), there are two others just like it that debut the following season. We watch people routinely being set up to humiliate themselves on reality television. We watch unscrupulous and addictive behavior exploited and glorified for entertainment purposes. We read of the extraordinary amount of money commanded by successful actors and media personalities, then watch how quickly the industries reject these people once their drawing-power starts to dry up.

Most of the time, the television and movie industries seem to be all about making a buck, which is perfectly understandable in a capitalistic society.

That’s why I find it so bizarre that the top decision-makers in these industries today will embrace just about any method for drawing viewership EXCEPT for appealing to conservative-leaning audiences who don’t share their liberal sensibilities. They are completely at ease disregarding that audience, regardless of what it costs them in revenue.

One has to wonder if that’s what’s going on right now with NBC and The Tonight Show. Host Jay Leno has long pulled in strong ratings for the network. Though he’s no conservative, he appeals to middle America and is one of the few late-night comedians who occasionally takes stinging shots at President Obama in his monologue (though it took him a few years to get there). Leno is a proven, lucrative commodity, yet NBC is going to replace him with Jimmy Fallon – someone who isn’t a proven ratings draw, but did “slow-jam” with President Obama, which apparently makes him cool” among the liberal elite.

For the record, I haven’t watched any of Mark Burnett’s The Bible. I thought The Passion of the Christ was a good film, but felt several other films that year were better. I’ve never seen an episode of Touched By An Angel. I don’t care for Jay Leno and very rarely ever watch The Tonight Show. But the numbers don’t lie.

There is a huge amount of money to be made by appealing to the masses in middle America. I’m smart enough to recognize that not everyone has the same tastes that I do. And if it was my job to invest in projects that make lots of money (like it’s the job of the big wigs in the media industries), I’d shelve my personal preferences, not worry about impressing my ideological peers, and pay close attention to what a strong market, like the American heartland, actually wants.

It’s just commonsense.

 

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration, and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. His first novel, entitled "From a Dead Sleep", is now on sale! He lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
  • milocook

    John: I don’t think there’s anything willful about it. I just think that they’re so disconnected and unfamiliar with conservatives or religious folk, that it simply never crosses their minds.

    I have however said many, many times online and elsewhere – the networks could totally erase FOX News from existence if they would just do one thing – represent the conservative side of the news in a fair and reasonable way. They don’t. At best, they throw conservatives a bone or find a token conservative pundit and ask them loaded questions. Now THIS, I do think is deliberate, but it’s basically condescension. They simply refuse.

  • JohnInMA

    How would ‘modern’ television and film studios intertwine what they see as critical and current ‘social justice’ themes (e.g. gay marriage, income disparity, etc.) into such religious and wholesome programming and productions???? There is the dilemma for most producers. The desire to highlight the nation’s, if not the world’s social problems comes through with every new program and nearly every new episode. Oddly placed snarky lines are evidence to me that even when these ‘themes’ don’t predominate, there is still a way to send the message. I suspect for many in the industry the worst horror would NOT be facing their party klatch friends in Hollywood or Manhattan after having produced the kind of programming you suggest, although that would be a bad dream. The biggest horror would come if they were SUCCESSFUL.

    I think the key is not in forcing such a change, which is far from “organic” in my view. They key lies more in the newly rising cable stations and perhaps movie production outfits that are slowly coming in to fill the void. Just as TVLand started producing it’s own material, although I find most of it unwatchable, so could other outlets that routinely make profit from older, more wholesome reruns. There are at least a handful of stations that are in that position, and there are a few movie production operations with religious or at least less gritty themes that could follow the Tyler Perry model. I’m not suggesting anything about Perry’s content, just that he has been successful at giving the finger to traditional Hollywood (both their money and their production backing), located in a city most probably seen as populated by “rubes” within the entertainment elite, and built his company from the ground up. It’s doable when you find a niche that will support you.

    Only money will eventually speak to the studios.

  • smlgov

    The last sentence nails it. “It’s just commonsense.” Liberals don’t do commonsense.

    • gray_man

      “common sense” develops from life experiences. Most libs have no life experiences, they live in a fantasy world.

  • DanB_Tiffin

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    The Liberal Mind answers the question. This book is the first systematic analysis of the political madness that now threatens to destroy the West’s greatest achievement: the American dream of civilized liberty.

    In his penetrating analysis, Dr. Rossiter reveals modern liberalism’s assaults on:

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    b) The ability of families to raise children to be self-reliant and mutual

    c) The morals, rights and laws that protect our freedoms

    ”Modern liberalism’s irrationality can only be understood as the product of psychopathology. So extravagant are the patterns of thinking, emoting, behaving and relating that characterize the liberal mind that its relentless protests and demands become understandable only as disorders of the psyche.” The Liberal Mind reveals the madness of the modern liberal for what it is: a massive transference neurosis acted out in the world’s political arenas, with devastating effects on the institutions of liberty.

    Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr., M.D. ‘‘The Liberal Mind The Psychological Causes of Political Madness’’ 2006, – on the back cover!

    Seriously folks, know your enemy, and an enemy they are!

  • GlenFS

    CM and Chuck’s observations are brilliant in explaining how a corporation who’s purpose is profit will seem to act against their self-interest. Pathological ideology trumps all else, including profit motive.

  • Debdeb

    My question is about cable and not Hollywood. [Hollywood is alien to me] Are you saying that it is the distribution channels of the media that are stopping conservative information? That could make sense. The distribution systems benefit from the government in charge [i.e. decisions on stimulus money that builds infrastructure for networks, who is appointed to the FCC, etc]. Maybe it is about money. What good is content without distribution?

  • Chuck

    John, I really have enjoyed reading your editorials and have decided to respond. In reference to this article and others you have written; my belief is that many liberals suffer from “pathological liberalism” or PL. PL occurs when people are stuck in a dysfunctional thought process that is founded on liberal tenants rather than common sense, good judgement and reason. Beliefs are founded and decisions are made based on what the liberal ideal is and the negative consequences are ignored. For example, it is more important to provide everyone health care regardless of how it is payed for. If the system fails due to a lack of money or government ineptitude, they (the liberals) still did the right thing. It won’t be their fault if it does not work because they were right in doing it. In regards to their news programs, it is a major liberal initiative to promote liberal beliefs. It does not matter if no one wants to listen or they are loosing money. Like an addict, they are willing to tolerate any consequences so they can do what they really want to do. Along with PL, comes very little insight and awareness and more manipulation, rationalization, denial and displacement. The more defense mechanisms, the stronger the pathological behavior. Think of the most dysfunctional relationship you have ever witnessed. It defies all logic and rational thought but that couple still gravitate toward each other. Why don’t they just break up and live healthier lives? Listen to their excuses and defenses. They have to go to therapy for years to gain the insight into why they were attracted to a person who caused so much havoc in their life. PL’s are similar. Like much pathological behavior, PL’s could not exist without enablers. Currently, the media is enabling the Obama administration. Don’t they ignore a lot of issues? And like any pathological behavior or belief system, they like to reinforce their liberalism by not being diverse or having others challenge them. If a liberal was open to other ideas and solutions, then they would not be PL. I could go on and on. To be fair, any ideological belief could end up having a pathological element to it if the person closes the door on reality. So, the news channels you speak of are just stuck in their dysfunctional thought process. Liberalism is the answer, not success, improvement and money. That is pathological.

    • John Daly

      Thanks for weighing in, Chuck. I think you’ve pretty well nailed it. Nothing is grounded in reality, but rather intentions.

  • cmacrider

    John: Well thought out and well written post. However, it fails to answer the question why they don’t ” shelve [their] personal preferences, not worry about impressing [their] ideological peers, and pay close attention to what a strong market, like the American heartland, actually wants.”

    Let me make a modest suggestion. The political left is built on certain metaphysical assumptions. One of those assumptions is that every new generation can completely ignore the lessons learned and the values and traditions embedded in the previous generation’s social structure. For these Postmodernists life has no grand historical narrative and every generation is “free” to invent their own history and construct their own value system unfettered by the past. Therefore to promote or give credence to values and beliefs which have a historical reality would threaten the whole rotten and contradictory metaphysical structure generically known as postmodernism.

    • John Daly

      I agree. Much of liberalism is built on the mindset you’ve described. I’m just amazed that in industries obsessed with the bottom line, they will do just about anything to build viewership other than tap into the conservative ideology where there’s easy money to be made. I get the media’s motivations. I’m just amazed by how influential their own righteousness is.

      • cmacrider

        John: Maybe they realize that by tapping into a market which is based on the idea that society has a historical narrative of tradition would cause the destruction of the very pillars upon which their whole superstructure is built. If your house is built on pillars in a lake … you can’t afford to cut down one of those pillars even if you have a market for the wood in the pillar.