Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dead Man Watching

Birthdays are the time of year when reflections of one’s mortality kick in.  I got a mid-year jolt this week learning about the University of Queensland, Australia study where “researchers have concluded that ‘on average, every single hour of TV viewed after the age of 25 reduces the viewer's life expectancy by 21 minutes, 48 seconds.’”  I immediately created a spreadsheet and determined that based on an average life expectancy and a real conservative assumption of my daily viewing habits, I’ll cut 4 years and 7 months from my time on earth.  Even if I don’t watch another moment of telly, I’ve wiped out 2 years. 
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Newton N. Minow’s famous speech was  51 years ago – May 9, 1961,  "When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. … I can assure you … [TV] is a vast wasteland.”
I probably watch more than the average person and I have discovered new worlds, new people and new experiences.  The ‘idiot box’ has been anything but – I’ve seen historic events as they’ve happened, I’ve been taken to places that I otherwise would never have gone and I’ve escaped the pressures of the day thanks to some extraordinary storytelling.
One of the great cultural shifts that I’ve adapted to since leaving Los Angeles is not having a television.  The hotel I stayed at for a few months had a dozen choices, but (gasp) no DVR capability.  I began watching TV on the laptop, something I once snorted at.  With my 48” screens safely ensconced in a pod somewhere in LA County it was worth trying, and now I’m an evangelist.
Hulu is fantastic.  One day after a show airs nearly all of my favorites are available for viewing for $7.99 a month.  Some shows take a month or so, but there are plenty of shows to watch and it’s a huge savings.  Netflix is great for movies and older shows, but for current offerings, Hulu is it.  In addition to “my stories,” I’ve been introduced to new shows – and with Hulu now producing their own content, I’ve become a fan of several of them as well.  (Battleground is terrific!)
Last week it was announced that Hulu’s owners have an agreement to buy out Providence Equity Partners' 10 percent stake for $200 million.  The deal would value Hulu at around $2 billion and allow Providence to double the investment it made in the company in 2007.  With 2 million members, that assumes $1,000 of revenue per user.  Given that the ads are embedded so you have to watch them, and a nominal subscription fee, the financial model is very much on par with traditional television.

Networks meet with advertising agencies in May of each year to pitch the new and returning content in exchange for guaranteed ad purchases before the season begins.  It’s how the network funds their portion of production costs.  The major networks hold their upfront meetings next week.  Hulu joined the process in April – becoming more of a content provider than just distributor.  Having unique content keeps people watching which means more revenue. 
On Wednesday, May 30 CBS will debut “Dogs in the City” – a canine-guru meets with clients who have relationship problems, domestic issues and lifestyle conundrums – all of which can be resolved via their dogs.  Perhaps one of the better benefits of being single is that I don’t have to rely on my dogs to fix my issues.  I’ll gladly skip this show in order to extend my life expectancy.

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