Savvy: Understanding News and Marketing
So how do media attract eyeballs and persuade consumers to buy?
The news and entertainment divisions of the networks, and cable companies, have made headlines recently by courting big name talent, sometimes robbing the competition (i.e. Paula Zahn leaves Fox News to join CNN; David Letterman considers jumping from CBS to ABC).
Letterman decided to stay at is CBS, where his show is a close third in the late-night ratings after "Nightline" (Jay Leno's "Tonight" show is first). But some executives at ABC considered Letterman more desirable than "Nightline" because it has a younger audience.
Ownership Issues: In the past decade, big media have been compared to sharks, gobbling up smaller fish (newspapers, magazines, radio stations, etc) in an attempt to make more money, and in many cases, control the content. ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company; CBS is owned by Viacom.
Students can conduct some background research into what else Disney and Viacom own. Web site for background including global media chart: http://www.mediachannel.org/ownership/
Ratings: All television shows are rated, primarily by the Nielsen Media Ratings service. Each night, a rating is generated, indicating who is watching and how many viewers see a particular program. The higher the rating, the more people are watching and the more the network (or local station) can charge its advertisers for commercial spots.
According to Broadcasting/Cable magazine (3/4/02) "Nightline's ratings have also trended down in recent years, particularly among 18-49 year olds, the demographic that most advertisers seem to covet. Season to date, the program's 18-49 demo is down 6%, to a 1.6 (rating)."
Also, Ted Koppel's Op-Ed ( The New York Times) "Network News Is Still Serious Business."
Write two quotes on the chalkboard.
"it is perfectly understandable that Disney would jump at the opportunity to increase earnings by replacing 'Nightline' with the more profitable David Letterman show." -- Ted Koppel
"An advertiser will probably pay at least double, if not triple, to reach young people,18 to 34, than reach people over 55. The 18- to 34-year-olds are perhaps more impressionable. They are establishing a household, deciding what type of toothpaste, what type of soap... so advertising there has the potential of establishing a long-term relationship." -- Tom Wolzien, senior media analyst (from a NewsHour interview)
Discuss the quotes.
The following activity can be done in class or as homework.
Using the handout,
students watch one of the programs, logging the name of each commercial
aired during the program breaks. Students should bring the completed
sheet into class and be prepared to discuss:
After documenting the commercials during these two programs, students will have to determine the total amount of money brought in from all of the commercials aired during each of the two programs.
Have students calculate which show, "Nightline" or "Late Show" made more money.
Total Number of Commercials Aired X Cost of 30 Second Spot = total ad revenue for one night
Another factor to consider: the "lead in" program, usually the late night local news has a lot to do with how many viewers tune in to either "Nightline" or "Late Show".
Students may wish to consider if their late night local news is highly rated, it may "pull" that audience into the 11:35pm show. If their late night news is not highly rated, it may not be able to deliver the audience to the program which follows it. (A call to a LOCAL TV SALES MANAGER may help in determining the local stations ratings leading in to Letterman or Nightline)
Teachers: A Web site called Math In The Media may also be helpful. It has a complete backgrounder on television ratings. Check out http://www.scetv.org/k12/mathinthemedia.htm See Topic #1 TV Program Ratings.
Frank W. Baker is a media educator, who works for South Carolina ETV in Columbia SC. He is past president of the Alliance for A Media Literate America, a new national membership organization. In 1999, he co-authored a study of media literacy in state curriculum standards. The study is published on The Media Literacy Clearinghouse. Frank is also on the board of the National Telemedia Council, the nation's oldest media literacy organization.
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