More TV Woes: Advertisers As Well As Viewers Tuning Out

Truth is the media is much like the pizza business.

My own favorite pizza place years ago was John’s Party Pizza on Davie Street in Vancouver: a fantastic meat-laden pepperoni classic, loaded with cheese … sure, not great for the arteries or¬† the waistline, but perfect for watching hockey, enduring a rainy day, after a lousy day at work, after a great day at work … well, really anytime! ūüôā

John’s was a family run business … hugely successful for many decades (you could tell¬† by the phones ringing in the background and the increasingly long delivery times).¬† But well worth the wait.

And then …the unthinkable: the owners retired and sold off the place …or, I should say, their little gold mine.

You would think the new owners would just sit back, let the phones ring,  the orders go out and cash in handsomely. But no! Maybe it was the high purchase cost or their own bright new ideas (starting to see the media analogy?)  they changed the formula: seemed to my keen eye less meat and less cheese atop a thinner tomato base.

Sales must have started dropping …because they then introduced a new “feature”: TWO FOR ONE¬† (kind of like hiring two cheaper fresh young reporters¬†instead of one well-aged and experienced )!¬† I recall also noticing the crust became thicker …as the high quality but costlier topping ingredients became sparser. Not happy, you old customers? Well, how about THREE FOR ONE!!!¬† Of course, it seemed to me by now to be basically bread with pepperoni sliced so thin, it only had one side,¬† with a¬† “cheesy”¬†¬†(was it even real cheese?) type topping atop some sort of red “tomatoey” ¬†liquid.

John’s Party Pizza on Davie is no more: it not only¬†lost its old loyal customers but, with its apparent lower standards and lesser quality, ¬†failed to attract new ones …especially with so many other delicious options increasingly out there in the rapidly growing … and demanding … marketplace.

Which brings me back to television.

A story in the Globe and Mail this week (click here) reported Canada’s conventional television industry saw profits drop 85% last year. DOWN EIGHTY-FIVE PER CENT!

“The conventional broadcasters, which own over-the-air networks accessible to most Canadians, have been under pressure for several years as viewers abandon mainstream programming in favour of edgier offerings available on specialty channels.” the Globe wrote.

“The CRTC said Bell Media‚Äôs CTV network posted a $15-million pre-tax loss, Rogers-owned City and OMNI lost $40-million and Shaw Media‚Äôs Global earned $23-million. Those numbers could be worse next year, as a temporary fund set up to help conventional networks recover from the recession ‚Äď funded by consumers on cable and satellite bills ‚Äď is phased out and takes tens of millions of dollars out of the pockets of the networks.”

Now, before we rush out to organize a tag day for the media conglomerates, you should know their Specialty and Pay TV channels pulled in $934 Million in profits  last year along.

What this all says is that people are turning away from conventional channels …you know, the ones that provide local newscasts, that USED TO BRING some of the highest ratings of a station’s viewing day¬† … and especially Canadian content. Declining News viewership is NOT singled out in the Globe report or by the CRTC as being specifically responsible for the decline in profits … but the advertisers clearly watch those numbers.

And so do the corporate media owners.

“Earlier this month, Rogers Communications Inc. reacted to the weak advertising market by shuttering its fledgling CityNews channel and laying off employees at Omni, a conventional network with stations across the country that specializes in non-English programming. The moves cut 2.5 per cent of the company‚Äôs broadcast work force, or about 60 full-time jobs.” said the Globe.

Scary stuff …for those of us who care about the news business and it should worry viewers too: you may find local news watered down and served up these days in a “cheesy” sauce, but our society would NOT be better served without it.

Meanwhile, the ratings war in Vancouver is really worth watching … if the media were as interested in FACTUALLY covering themselves (not just puff promos) as much as they scrutinize others.

Wednesday night was, of course, a hockey night … but among those watching news, CTV at 6 p.m. scored a¬†2.0 ratings point, compared to Global’s 3.2 the important 25-54 age category … cutting the spread to¬†¬†the CLOSEST I’ve seen in years, from what used to be normally a five of six to one gap.¬† If they’re not concerned at Global, they sure should be!

Meanwhile, advertisers will go where the viewers go …and that’s why sagging newsrooms MUST change their ingredients:¬† MORE experienced reporters: BETTER writers; SKILLED investigators and, most importantly, COMPETENT and DEDICATED management, who understand that quality does cost.

The viewers know that …and so do the advertisers.

Harv Oberfeld

(By the way, for those interested in more on this topic, tune in to the interview I have done with Talk Digital Radio’s Jim Goddard.)

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24 Responses to More TV Woes: Advertisers As Well As Viewers Tuning Out

  1. motorcycleguy says:

    I would like to think I am responsible in my own small way by not purchasing products from advertisers on Global Entertainment….er …”News”… Hour. Same goes for those advertising on CKNW. Of course, that would mean admitting I watch/listen to them. Used to, though the lack of ethical investigative reporting drove me nuts. Now I don’t even watch/listen to see who I will not buy from.

  2. GeeBee says:

    Harv – I have disagreed with you on some things – but this story took ALL the words right out of my mouth.
    You NAILED it right on the head.
    If its possible to agree with someone 110% – I do.
    The ‘voice of experience’ shows.
    Thanks,

    (Response: It would be very boring if we agreed on everything. ūüôā h.o.

  3. morry says:

    John’s Party Pizza closed. Wannabes took over and failed.

    But check out Farina on Main and Lombardo’s on the Drtive. Way better!
    and the same goes for the News Media…. the new blogs and others are way better. i don’t miss TV version. We have all moved on.

    (the current Global News and CTV News are the bigger crusts with no meat or sauce… indigestion)

  4. SunWuKong says:

    “Meanwhile, advertisers will go where the viewers go ‚Ķand that‚Äôs why sagging newsrooms MUST change their ingredients: MORE experienced reporters: BETTER writers; SKILLED investigators and, most importantly, COMPETENT and DEDICATED management, who understand that quality does cost.”

    Is there a good example of a Canadian media outlet that’s done this in response to flagging ad and direct paying customers?

    (Response: Yes, BCTV in the 1960s and became a GREAT success. I’m not familiar with all the stations right across the country…but sure don’t see any doing that. In fact, many seem to getting worse…and I suspect would drop local news, if they could, and just run more American siotcoms. h.o.)

  5. tf says:

    Ahhh, I’m just old enough to remember John’s Party Pizza…you’re right, it was fantastic pizza. If only…
    Good analogy Harvey, thanks!

  6. frosty says:

    Sure…TV, newspapers and radio. By the way…no reply from Good, McComb or the PD at ‘NW re suggestion to give it some time. Shocker.

    By the way #2…googled best home made pizze…they say Culinary Circle. You don’t even have to get off the couch!

    (Response: I’m not surprised: the local media don’t like to hear what’s wrong with the local media. I suspect they know … and don’t want to draw any more attention to their own declining news coverage/quality (not just on TV but NW too). h.o)

  7. Larry Bennett says:

    I would have been very interested in knowing how the SunNewsMedia network is doing, though I realize it is not a local news outlet, and there are many who are still unaware of it, but I’m sure it is cutting into some of the locals. For Canadian news I generally watch only SunMedia, but switch over to Global for local news. Don’t know why, but I never switch to CTV or Omni, and never, ever CBC.
    And I must say that I don’t agree with any of my taxes going to support stations like Omni, for the specific reason that, if the market wants channels in Chinese or Hindi, or Tagalog, then it is up to those communities to pay for it, and to support their sponsors. Doesn’t do much for aiding the use of English, though. Your basic similitude of small business and media outlets “earning” their way, is of course relevant to all areas of life.

    (Response: The last list I saw gave ratings for top 40 news programs carried on Vancouver TV stations weekly (early, noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m. late): Sun News did not make into any rankng. h.o)

  8. Larry Bennett says:

    Sigh – because as Brian Lilley notes, it was established for those of us who have been shouting at our TV sets, for the pap we have been fed by the doyennes of the Main Stream Media. Tell me (anyone) how many folks do you think will follow George Strombobopopolous to CNN? “And none but thou shall be my paramour” – Oh, I forgot he has his paramour, and it is George!

  9. Bruce W says:

    Nailed it again Harvey, just as you did with your previous column “Turmoil In TV Land…”. Would be a real coup if the powers that be at Global, CTV, and the others actually took some of your advice.
    Not holding my breath, though. It’s very disheartening to think that all we’ll be fed by the “news” for the foreseeable future is the pap they shovel out right now.

    (Response: I’m sure many of those involved locally in the news business would change/improve things if they could. The BIG problem is a lot of the decisions …and the purse strings …are controlled by bean-counters and management in Toronto … and THEY are responsible for much of what has happened to local news here…. and elsewhere across the country. They pretend to care …but don’t …or simply can’t convince top management to spend enough to hire experienced reporters, writers, researchers and investigators to do really interesting/exciting news DAILY again … and attract back the viewers …and top advertising rates. h.o)

  10. 13 says:

    Barclay, Pendrell, Nelson, Bidwell just a few of the streets my family lived on in the West End. Johns Party Pizza was a staple. They delivered for a period of time using a hearse. Pizza Patio was a distant second to Johns. I washed dishes at the Metro Broiler on Davie.

    We had cablevision. Got about six chanels . Bob Fortune did the local weather and lived in the Davie building. Ron Morrier did all star wrestling for Old Dutch. Alan Hammel hosted Razzle Dazzlle.

    You would think that with all of the technology available to news people today that the product would be top notch. Seems that hard work and persistance paid better than mega bites.

  11. Doug Brown says:

    Excellent observation Harvey. I would suggest that the newspapers and radio stations (CKNW) have all started and solidified their spiral to oblivion in the eyes of many. Until they start to report the news with an unbiased slant and dig deep with their investigative reporting they will continue down the path they have created. Personally I cancelled my subscription to The Province and the Sun. I no longer watch news on any of the MSM (CTV, Global and CBC) Stations but obtain my information from Blogs like yourself, AGT Laila Yuile, Ian Reid and Bob Makin which gives me a good insight into both sides point of view. If the topic interest me enough I will research myself.

    (Response: Radio too is a hollow echo of what it used to be…a LOT of announcer copy, phone interviews, subscribed to services …and nothing like the real presence they used to have throughout the city. Like TV news, I felt radio was much better when it was owned by locals, not billion dollar corporations back East. h.o)

  12. e.a.f. says:

    What they serve up as news these days, would give me food poisoning if it were eaten.

    The Island News isn’t bad. CBC is o.k., the rest, who cares. There isn’t much, except the killings and car accidents.

    If they did anything of interest people might watch again, but beyond that, T.V. will continue to loose money. The regular t.v. shows are so bad, so many are “reality” shows, it easier to watch paint dry or read. Watching a bunch of wanna bees bullying each other, eating and cooking, not so much.

    It is more entertaining to watch 20 yr old Law and Orders, which I’ve watched 4 and 5 times already, then to watch most current t.v. shows on MSM.

    (Response: It’s not all bad..still see some good stories and series…occasionally. But that’s the problem… good stories, picture features, interesting features have to be a daily output …but that takes money and resources. What I can’t understand is they KNOW that…looking at BCTV’s history …and with a larger population, the advertisers would be there, if the viewers were attracted back by quality. h.o)

  13. e.a.f. says:

    was just skimming around and saw David Baines, with the Vancouver Sun, is retiring. There goes a great reporter who really did very good work.

    If there had been more reporters such has him, the msm would not be in such a pickle these days. I hope he has a great retirement.

    (Response: Sorry to hear Baines is retiring. He’s one of the best investigators/reporters they have! h.o)

  14. Barry says:

    Yes, the MSM has become a joke.

    So if I’m going to watch something funny, I may as well go to the real thing. That’s why I enjoy the Jon Stewart show and Colbert Report so much. While they are intended as comedy, they’ve done stories and interviews that put most “newscasts” to shame; and are entertaining to boot.

    With our crazy politics here in BC, you’d think there would be enough material for a daily comedy show. A hour a day wouldn’t be enough time to cover some stories.

    Could you imagine if some actress did a “Saturday Night Live” take on Christy? That I would tune in for! And you wouldn’t have to work that hard–just run most of her comments verbatim and let the laughs roll. The lady is a walking, talking satirists dream. Recall how Tina Fey harpooned Sarah Palin.

    (Response: There’s something VERY wrong when comedians …like Stewart, Colbert and Bill Mahr strip away the crud to expose reality and hypocrisy better than the professional media! Can you imagine if they “covered” not only Clark , but Harper and his muzzling of anyone he can, the Senate and Mike Duffy, and… it would be my favorite, Vancouver under Vision. Actually, the last one COULD be done here…and would attract HUGE numbers of viewers if ANY of the media had a reporter who covered it REGULARLY with a cynical attitude and sense of humour (And NO, I’m NOT going back to work!) h.o.

  15. D. M. Johnston says:

    You would think that TV would get it; obviously they don’t. News is not about someone’s bicycle being stolen, or – golly gee whiz – it rained today, it is about interesting items that may or may affect the watcher.

    In the past 2 months I have talked to several media reporters about some (maybe) newsy stuff about TransLink and the Road pricing extortion. It was only the wheelchair extortion that excited the reporters and the TV types were, I think they were embarrassed that NEWS 11:30 and later CKNW went after the story in a big way. The TV stations , well 30 seconds at best.

    I am tired of the TV news being a folksy pablum hour and I look at the 100 or more stations I can get and find that maybe 1 or 2 offer the news I want to watch. Unfortunately, they are not Canadian news stations.

    TV management had better read the tea leaves because in an age of product and branding, they sorely lack in both.

    Alas, being raised in the sticks south of the Fraser, the only restaurants of note were “Greasy Jacks” and “Venus P…….”

    I am of the age where I remember the Delta Queen ferry, running between Richmond and Ladner,; the BCE interurban in Richmond, and taking the CPR night boat from Vancouver to Victoria.

  16. BillyP says:

    I was recently talking with a former co-worker of yours ( the cable guy;) about the state of the local media and he concurred about the lack of NEWS or anything close to holding feet to the fire. I think it’s more directed towards putting nice, fluffy bunny slippers on than asking the tough questions while putting the bunions on the brazier. With the talking points and evasive non answers served up by most politicians anyway…..
    I have some answers to a few culinary dilemmas you’ve recently raised. Someone beat me to the punch on Lombardo’s for pizza, but you can get a great smoked meat sandwich at Kaplans, and just the thought of their red velvet cake has me shorting the keyboard with drool.

    (Response: No, no, Not Kaplans. Try Dunn’s on Seymour…opened last year… direct from Montreal, where it has been a staple for about 75 years. As for fluffy news, had an interesting note from a friend in the biz who pointed out that the night CTV led with Trump, they almost beat Global …so I was wrong in suggesting that stuff doesn’t work. Aha! I pointed out…it’s not the ones who do watch that stuff you need concerned about..it’s the hundreds of thousands WHO DO NOT watch or click off because that’s what they lead with so often! THEY hold the key to taking over from Global. h.o)

  17. Beth says:

    Every morning I go through my usual routine with coffee in hand of by- passing pay walls to get to various newspapers … I love the letter sections… one of the top 4 stories in The Province newspaper this morning was the weather lady from Global TV running from a spider on an outside camera?..really? after a Friday of secret pay hikes to the already well to do.. and floods happening here and in Alberta, trans-link funding, taxing the elderly, that was one of the top stories? anyways after that riveting story.. its onto the blogs like yours and all the others mentioned here, where we find the real news, as the MSM slips back into its coma, wondering why their reader-ship is dropping

    (Response: You know, doing this blog is just a hobby for me …no revenues: in fact it costs me for server/web hosting …it does take time …and has led to some former colleagues to denounce and reject me … but when I get more than 50 responses to a couple of pieces on the REALITY of what’s going on …and 500,000 hits a month, it’s well worth the effort. And fun too! h.o)

  18. tf says:

    One more comment on this –

    Do you think a story like the one below might have anything to do with the deterioration of our new?

    — “How Harper’s Office is Playing News Editor” — http://thetyee.ca/Mediacheck/2013/06/20/Harper-Playing-News-Editor/

    (Response: SPIN doctors are probably the second oldest profession in history. Every party has them and sometimes they do provide good tips and info that cannot be ignored. But a good reporter will see them for what they are, treat everything they provide accordingly and not show any party favoritism in accepting or rejecting info they get from them. h.o.)

  19. much2say says:

    Total agreement, especially on how good John’s Pizza used to be. There truly wasn’t a better pizza in all of Vancouver. Then it died.

    Your formula to return viewership is bang on. I don’t bother watching the news. That is an hour of my time I will never get back and all for nothing more than yet another cat rescue. When BC Rail happens and they aren’t on it, they have sealed their own fate. Hopefully, the current owners will have to sell to someone who has a vision to return the news media to the instrument of democracy it once was.

  20. e.a.f. says:

    Harvey, you don’t need to go back to work, just come in and do an interview with the reporter. You can imitate Duffy! O>K. you’re better looking.

    Back in, I think the 80s, CBC had a radio comedy team which did political satire. It was great. I don’t remember their names. It was a woman and one or two guys. They were hysterically funny. Its time for something like that but which station would actually be willing to run something like that. it would most likely have to be an independant.

  21. Cameron Bell says:

    I didn’t realize we had something else in common.
    When I lived on Cardero street and worked at NW and then BCTV in the late 60’s and early 70’s John’s was a lifesaver.

    I’d sampled pizza from all over the west end, including the original Pizza Patio which launched the Barnett’s restaurant empire. John’s
    was by far the best. I think the guy who delivered it in the earliest times could well have been John himself. Lamentable loss
    from the west end..

    Your pieces on news are very good – and I hope you keep grinding them.

    I’d suggest the primary problem is that – although they spent millions over the last few years — no lower level executives can muster any real curiosity about anything. Thus editors and reporters were
    selected, not for their interest (let alone skill) in exploring public matters, but for their cosmetic contributions.

    I’ll bet that executives above the ‘news’ level at the head offices of Corus, Bell and perhaps even the CBC, could be more easily persuaded to try to improve than the news exec’s who brought a mule-ish attitude to change, innnovation and discovery, especially with the craft of the video camera.

    (Response: Interesting words from the man who, as News Director, turned BCTV into the powerhouse it became. And I was always grateful HE and Assignment Editor Keith Bradbury did not hire reporters based on “cosmetic” appearance. We had the homeliest on-air reporters in television, but the public realized we were all experienced journalists and story tellers…and THAT’s what counted more. h.o)

  22. Larry Bennett says:

    Well, most of us guys mightn’t have noticed, but maybe the women did! Now there are, like any other business, as many, or more women than ever before. One of the very first was, I think, Barbara Frum, but I can’t say as she was really attractive. No offence, David! But there’s lots of babes now, but I couldn’t say one was better at her job than any of the others! (Can anyone tell me why the weather girls quit wearing nylon stockings or whatever it is they used to wear to make their legs look a little nicer?) Okay, okay, skip it!

  23. Keith says:

    Living in the Okanagan, the local news is terrible. The kicking of a guy by a cop that was recorded on a cell phone I have now seen probably more then 100 times. Same with the Vancouver Airport polish fella tazered and died.
    Here they call it the Okanagan very own news. But I guess on weekends they are closed as we get all kinds of stories from anywhere in the world except at home. Its so amateuristic in many cases. Then when the ratings come out the local TV station is on top with valley news reporting. No wonder, we only have one.
    I have also noticed more and more commercials. Sometimes I can watch a whole movie segment during a commercial break.
    So I have cancelled my cable, watch netflix when I like to watch a show or movie, and get the news from the internet. Love it. Hope many more will do same.

    (Response: Very sad. I’m afraid if management aren’t willing to fund local news in the big cities, with big potential audiences, they also won’t spend much more to improve local news in smaller places. h.o)

  24. William Muller says:

    The other day I stepped out on my balcony overlooking English Bay around 3pm and saw a CTV remote truck setting up near the Inukshuk. I assumed something serious had happened like crew members of a freighter ship going overboard or an oil spill. A lost killer whale perhaps?
    When I tuned in for the evening news it turned out St. John Alexander (the one with the voice) doing a 30 second live bit about the weather. No, not a weather report which was left in the able hands of Michael Kooz later in the show but a ‘report’ how lousy the weather has been. The truck left around 7pm. 4 hours of using a reporter, equipment and crew for THAT?

    Despite all that switching back and forth between CBC, Global and CTV during the supper hour CTV still keeps my attention longer. Really like Coleen Christie at 5 and Mike Killeen at 6. Still trying to warm up to Mike’s overly assertive (bossy?) co-host Tamara. (She really must have signed a cushy contract with all the time off she gets.)
    Extra bonus is the daily consumer report with Linda Steele.

    I find Global a little too smug and cozy and what’s with the chopper traffic reports every 10 minutes?
    I can see having those in the morning when you’re getting dressed while grabbing a bite of breakfast but how many people do you know who are at work in the afternoon tuning in to find out what their drive home is going to be like? Is it just a venue for the sponsor whose message quite often is longer than the actual traffic report?

    Overall I agree though, local news coverage leaves an awful lot to be desired and can be quite yawn inspiring.

    (Response: LOL! Weather, weather, weather …. it’s an easy “hit” and for some reason, surveys show people like weather stories. (I’m with those who say just look out the window!). Also FYI ,sometimes they are also editing lots of outside video that was fed or dropped off there for the story or even editing other stories in the truck that have nothing to do with that location and are then fed to the station. So they may have been multi-tasking …not just spending 4 hours there on a weather clip. I can understand watching traffic reports in the morning before leaving for work, but I’m not sure why they do TV traffic reports on the way home: who is watching that? Certainly I hope not those in traffic! Radio reports is all they can use! Those already at home don’t care…and if you’re waiting for someone, a hands-free cell call will let you know if they’re going to be unusually late. In a business strapped for money… evening traffic reports and helicopters etc seem like such a waste of resources. h.o)

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