Last week I came across a survey question: What is your favorite TV station and why?
I am not sure I have a broad allegiance to tv stations per se. I think historically my allegiance such as it is has been towards programs rather then stations – few programs seem associated in my mind (“branded”) with a particular station or channel.
I think this is true to the general population, not just me, and that has implications for the future of your business: if you are a TV station, then you are in very serious risk of becoming a low-value added, no differentiated distributor.
If people can separate the time and place of a program from its broadcast, as was the premise for the survey, and they have already mentally separated it from the channel, then what is the point of the channel anyway in such a world? What value are they adding if any other then dumping the program’s data stream into just one leg of a distribution channel?
Maybe the idea of a “favorite channel” is not unlike feeling a branded attachment to a can of soup from the supermarket because of the trucking company that delivered it from the warehouse near the factory to the warehouse near your local store.
That said, I have bee noticing, especially among cable stations, differences in styles and approaches to their programs. Overall I think the level of production values are similar for stations such as Discovery, TLC, and History Channel, or E!, MTV and VH1, or CNN/Fox News/MSNBC/CNBC, even if the particular productions are different.
I am not really thinking specifically about demographics here but rather the overall look and feel that is chosen by the producers of content. History Channel shows I have seen tend to be dark, foreboding, and ominous lately, while Discovery combines gee whiz goofiness with some educational engineering and demonstrates the value of actually acting on inquisitiveness with a bright and matter-of-fact look and feel.
But to me, I am not sure those types of branding associations with a channel are strong. The shows can (and do!) switch channels – witness American Chopper now on TLC. In fact, I think the producers may be out ahead of the viewers – the producers choose the production values for the viewers, but if viewers were more savvy that they like certain production values more then the channels on the remote control, then the channels would not be necessary. In fact, at least from a distribution standpoint, neither would the channels – producers could clearly distribute via the net in any number of ways if they chose to.
The TV channels may provide some funding and other financial benefits to the producers, but the details of that are rarely public and rarely rise beyond the level of rumor and gossip except for industry insiders.
Now, if that kind of financial information was as available for entertainment as it is for sports salaries, then it would be easy to have rooting interests in TV stations.
Jerry Seinfeld famously said that in sports, with players changing teams so often with no sign of loyalty, we no longer root for teams, we root for laundry. For me, when it comes to choosing a favorite TV station, I have to demur for the same reason – I don’t see what is there to actually care about on a particular channel that the channel itself brings to the table.