Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Perfect Storm - Part 6

The Third Media Age was categorized by an explosion of technological development. Cable television was made possible by advances in new telecommunication technologies developed during the space program. Without satellites orbiting the earth, cable television would not have been financially possible. Cable television offered up to 40 new channels. Today that number is well over 200 and growing. Many of the new channels embraced MTV’s style of narrowcasting. It brought about an explosion of media choices.

Cable networks were interested in finding a niche market, one that they could control and dominate. One of the reasons why marketing became such a powerful force during this time was because cable networks had to distinguish themselves from each other. Before the cable age, there were only three television networks. Marketing was not a concern because the viewer had few choices to consider. That all changed with the arrival of cable television and MTV.

Cable networks saw themselves as unique brands. The Weather Channel realized there was an audience for 24-hour weather coverage. CNN appealed to news junkies, while ESPN appealed to sports enthusiasts. Lifetime Network was only interested in women. History Channel appealed to history buffs. Each new cable network looked for its unique audience and developed programming to meet the needs and interests of their viewers.

During the late 1970s, the video cassette recorder (VCR) became available to the general public. The VCR revolutionized the way people viewed television and watched movies. Perhaps nothing has changed television more than the VCR. For the first time, viewers could determine what they wanted to watch and when they wanted to watch it. The VCR was the perfect companion to cable television.

One of the most significant developments during this age was the creation of massive ownership groups. Media organizations were concentrated into powerful corporations. In the years following, five major media corporations have emerged, which control about 90% of media that is distributed in North America. Organizations such as News Corp., Disney, and CBS Corporation are a collection of movie studios, broadcast networks, cable interests, news outlets, internet, record labels and publishers. They had enormous power and the ability to move an artist, product, or project across a wide range of platforms. Most viewers are unaware that this is a form of advertising and marketing. For example, an individual could appear on a talk show, a television network and cable news program to promote his or her new movie or book. But most people don’t realize they are owned by the same corporation.

As a result of the creation of these ownership groups, the few people that run these massive corporations are in a position to determine what you see and hear in the media. That includes both entertainment and news.

And finally, the Third Media Age led to a decentralization of media. There was no escape from its grasp and control of our society. Media was readily available with cable, broadcast, video cassettes. Video images were everywhere from in-store to billboards. All this was intrusive, but it became a way of life.

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