randombookstvtelevisionbookcasebookshelf-9ccebf3bb8e30c238d8b458dcbc5c786_hAt an industry conference, the head of NBC Universal has expressed the perhaps controversial view that there is now too much scripted television. Between the broadcast networks, the cable networks, and now streaming video companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, there is simply “too much” of a good thing.

“Nothing different has happened in the last month that wasn’t happening a year ago or three years ago,” [NBC Universal President Steve] Burke says. “The good news is people are watching more video than ever before, they’re just watching in places that often aren’t rated, and aren’t monetized.”

But “when $50 billion in market [value for media companies] flies out the window in a week, it’s an overreaction….They will just have lower growth rates than they’ve had.”

That may well be right. I’m not a great expert on the broadcast media market; I can’t say. But from another perspective, this sounds an awful lot like legacy publishers complaining about the “tsunami of crap” that self-publishing is bringing to the book market. After all, self-published books and e-books aren’t reviewed by most media outlets, or counted on most bestseller lists, so from the standpoint of “traditional” publishing, the money that goes to them is simply removed from the industry. And who knows how well-written those things even are?

But the people who buy and read those books would probably disagree. And likewise, the people who watch shows on Netflix and other places that “aren’t rated [or] monetized” would probably disagree with Burke’s prognosis. From their point of view, things are working just fine.


  1. Depressing to think that people today watch more video than ever before. That’s not so much bad in itself as it is for what people aren’t doing instead. All that entertainment makes it easier than ever in human history to lazy about, be a couch potato, become a diabetic (now at epidemic levels), or stay chronically unemployed. Two generations ago, when there were but three TV networks, people often got up and did something simply to beat the boredom. Now they can watch half-a-dozen movies a day on Netflix.

    I realized that most clearly when I watched Apple trying to hype their new Apple TV earlier this week. Nothing they suggested was of any real value. If Apple employees followed the same entertain-yourself ethos they promote, the company would still be working on its first iPhone.

    A bit over a century ago, Brits worried that their country was splitting into two groups, an entitled few who could do almost nothing for themselves and a great brutalized mass of workers. H. G. Wells described just that sort of future with the Eloi and Morlocks of his 1895 The Time Machine.

    Our future problems may break down a bit differently, but it is all too easy to envision something similar for our country. Will that be a stable future? I doubt it. Each group is likely try to destroy the other through envy or loathing.

  2. Oversupply is a legitimate concern for Television and Film because so much money is at stake and because the typical person only has a fixed amount of screen time available to consume things.

    The problem with Television isn’t that there is too much crap (like eBooks), but there are too many GOOD shows. A show makes money when it becomes a stand out hit discussed at water coolers and kitchen tables. A show can’t break out if people don’t have time to watch it. Also recall the paradox of choice where giving people too many choices results in paralysis and foregone consumption.

    With reduced choices, such as when there were only three networks, the average viewer knew with certainty they were always watching the best shows available. Furthermore without any basis for comparison they had no reason to suspect that the best might not be as good as it could be. The result was that past viewer’s utility was just as high if not higher then it is in today’s crowded market with far reduced cost for the producers.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.