The Corner

Terry Teachout On Showtime’s Reagans

From his blog:

by relegating The Reagans to Showtime, CBS has publicly acknowledged, albeit implicitly, the growing weakness of Big Media. Now that the common culture is a thing of the past, lowest-common-denominator programming is harder and harder to pull off, as is lowest-common-denominator editing. To do it, you have to keep lowering the denominator further and further. When your overhead is as high as it is at CBS, you can’t afford to give offense, nor can you afford to be sophisticated. Above all, you don’t dare try to lead the culture anywhere it doesn’t care to go—not if your job is to keep your numbers in the black.

The new media impact on Big Media in two ways. The first is the megaphone effect I spoke about a moment ago. The second, which is of at least equal importance, is that they compete with Big Media. If you’re reading these words, you’re not watching CBS, or anybody else, nor are you sitting in a movie theater or reading a print magazine. If you’re using iTunes to download two tunes off Radiohead’s last CD, you’re not buying the CD—though you might do so at some point in the future.

Five years ago, opponents of The Reagans would have failed to sway CBS because of their inability to make enough noise. The network would have taken the high road and stared them down, and been praised for its courage by other Big Media outlets. And if it were only a matter of noise, CBS would have done the same thing today…but it isn’t. Today, CBS is fighting for its corporate life. So are NBC, ABC, Time, TV Guide, the Reader’s Digest, and all the film studios and record labels. They can’t afford to ignore the noise anymore, no matter which side of the political fence it comes from. And they won’t.

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