Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Emmy Ratings | Lefsetz Letter

Goin’ down…down, down, down, down, DOWN! As Don Nix so famously wrote.

What did they used to say, tweeting would save event television? That live was everything?

Utter hogwash.

You’ve got to read the pundits’ comments on why the Emmy ratings tanked. The shows were too sophisticated, they didn’t feature meat and potato actors, the performers are left wing… Bottom line, NOBODY WANTS TO WATCH!

The music business got over this. They learned it was a world of niches, other than the Grammy Awards, which are coasting on the payments of CBS and will lack innovation until the contract runs out and the whole enterprise craters.

Welcome to corporate America, where no one has a stake and as long as you’re getting paid, you don’t care and the goal is to hit your bonus. I was at lunch the other day with a futurist, he specializes in disruption, he’s been advising banks, telling them that within five years the banking landscape will look completely different, the internet will rule, that most millennials have never been in a branch and they’re sick and tired of the charges and what do the CEOs say they’re gonna do? NOTHING! Because they’re all on short term contracts and if they take action it will hurt their numbers and their stockholders will freak.

That’s how the techies stole the country in the first place. Everybody in charge was asleep at the wheel, believing change was never gonna come, that they were entitled to their business.

What kind of crazy fucked-up world do we live in where the hottest medium, i.e. television, has horrific ratings for its awards show?

One in which we all watch different shows and need another life just to watch television there’s so much product.

And why watch? If you’re interested, the highlights will be all over the web and you can find out who wins instantly.

This is a funny process to watch. Sports were king. But as soon as people get the right to cancel ESPN they do. That’s the main motivation for cutting the cord, the ridiculous fee paid for the sports channel that nobody watches. Hell, the old wave sports ESPN covers are uninteresting to the millennials. They’d rather watch gaming on Twitch or wherever.

Awards show are obsolete. And as Howard Stern said they’re for wankers. If you need an award to validate yourself you’ve got much bigger issues. The best so often don’t win, and the winners aren’t remembered. So why do we need awards shows ANYWAY??

With my precious viewing time I don’t want to be locked into a multi-hour self-congratulatory show. At least MTV had it right in the old days, the awards were secondary to the show. But now not only have the VMAs been eclipsed, but MTV too. Who wants to wait to see a video? Those are on demand items online. Same deal with radio. But every time I say radio’s tanking I’m inundated with lifers who tell me I don’t get it and their stations are burgeoning. Then I go to an event and ask how many people’s kids listen to the radio AND NO ONE RAISES THEIR HANDS!

Radio can be reinvented, be about news and talk and interaction. And the music stations need culture, but we see none of this on the terrestrial band. As for digital, do you know ANYONE who listens to Beats 1? I’m sure Zane Lowe is regretting his move to the service. Hell, Tuma Basa had a far greater impact at Rap Caviar. Then again, Beats 1 was hatched under Jimmy Iovine, hear his name lately? He’s been banished to the backwater, because he’s just too old and doesn’t get it. He not busy being born is busy dying.

And contrary to the ridiculous concept that today’s audience has a short attention span, look at the bingeing of multi-episode shows. People just have an incredible shit detector. They tune out if it’s not great. Come on, admit it, how many times have you pulled up a vaunted show and watched an episode, or even ten minutes, and shut it off and never returned. But you’re supposed to tune in at an appointed time to see this lame show that is so self-centered it appeals to nobody? And even if it appealed to the audience, few would still watch it, because WHY?

Why should I?

TV is not scarce. Awards are not scarce. And we’re all stars of our own movie. Just look at the number of YouTube videos uploaded every day, every MINUTE!

Maybe awards shows are history, like vaudeville, like variety shows. To everything there’s a season, turn, turn, turn. Unlike the Oscars, TV is in its heyday, we’re all addicted. Fewer movie tickets have been sold every year, grosses only go up because prices are higher. And the content is narrow.

But on TV you can see EVERYTHING! There’s a channel, a show for every interest. I’m not big on research, but at least Netflix uses its data to make the shows people want to watch. Netflix knows what I like. Do the Emmys know what I like? Of course not, they’re holier-than-thou. That’s the entire entertainment industry before disruption.

Then again, the music business believes we’re only interested in a narrow slice of product, at this point hip-hop. Give Netflix kudos for making a broad spectrum of shows and PROMOTING THEM! Do you see Spotify promoting that which is not popular, just because it’s GOOD?


So ignore the caterwauling. The TV business is healthy, and will only be more so in the future. Because it reflects real life, even better than the old king, music. Sure, some channels are gonna go by the wayside, there’s a limit to how many outlets a customer will pay for, but we live in a nation addicted to the flat screen.

But that does not mean it cares about the Emmys.

I LOVED Merritt Wever in “Godless.” Jeff Daniels played against type and knocked it out of the park in the same series. They deserve awards, they were better than the show itself. You’re’ telling me we’re reverting to the millennial ethos where everybody gets a trophy? That the tripe on the networks should be rewarded? If you think the people propping up those shows don’t have high-speed internet and DVRs and Netflix you’re wrong. Ain’t that Hollywood, they’ve got contempt for everybody else. But the truth is the audience is more sophisticated than the purveyors. It was no different during the era of Napster. But oldsters still want fans to buy and listen to entire albums, it’s like they’re living in 1979.

We live in an overbooked, on demand culture. It takes a lot to reach us and if you don’t hook us we move on. We’re willing to go deep, but only when we want to. We need entertainment, but not necessarily yours.

Welcome to the new reality.


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