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Dead Tree Alert: Broadcast TV Is Dead (Unless You're the President)

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Illustration by John Ueland; Stamos: James Stenson / NBC; Clooney: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty; Tierney: Paul Drinkwater / NBC; James Stenson: NBC

Illustration by John Ueland; Stamos: James Stenson / NBC; Clooney: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty; Tierney: Paul Drinkwater / NBC; James Stenson: NBC

I’ve got two pieces in the magazine this week, but I wanted to link them in the same post because they are, in a weird way, about the same thing. The first is Here’s to the Death of Broadcast, and if you’re a regular reader you’ll know it’s basically a polished-up version of an argument I’ve made on this blog: that the very circumstances causing the “death” of big-network TV (cable, the Internet, the resulting smaller audiences) have ended up making for better TV.

One of the data points I cite in that piece is that Friday Night Lights, a show that probably would not have lived past a year in the Big Three days, has survived precisely because of a deal with DirecTV, which is one of those satellite companies delivering all those channels that are shrinking the big networks’ audience. It was bolstered by the recent news about FNL nearing a new two-season deal, so: NBC, DirecTV and Ausiello–you better not screw this up for me. 

I also have a Tuned In column this week about the Barack Obama TV blitz this past week or so. The web headline is The Obamathon: Is the President Doing Too Much TV? (The original print headline makes it much more clear that I think the President is not doing too much TV, but I guess the web overlords wanted something more come-hither.) In it, I look at the comparison people have been making to FDR’s fireside chats (which FDR did sparingly so as to increase their impact), arguing that today one fireside chat has to be replaced by a set of targeted appearances because of, yes… the fragmentation of the mass-media audience: 

F.D.R., however, was able to roadblock attention in American homes on the only mass broadcast medium in existence, one so new and intimate it still seemed like magic. Obama is in a mediasphere that includes broadcast, cable, blogs, Twitter and sundry home-entertainment boxes. To persuade in this world — and the President is not just the decider but also the persuader — you have to go multiplatform.

If you watched Leno and ESPN and 60 Minutes and the press conference, maybe Obama was overexposed to you. But in that case you may not be the person he needed to reach. Read the rest, if your attention has not been fragmented.

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