The economics of TV pundit panels

by on February 23, 2012 at 11:20 am in Political Science, Television, Uncategorized | Permalink

@ModeledBehavior tweets:

Who’ll write “the economics of CNNs extremely, extremely ****ing banal pundit panel”. Surely, there must be a reason for it?

Except he spelt out the entire word.

The goal is to keep people on the same channel, by whatever means possible.  The true end of the debate event means the TV will be turned off or the channel switched.  It’s not like the old days when on Saturday night the people who wanted to see “Mary Tyler Moore Show” then wanted to watch Bob Newhart afterwards.  There is no real sequel to these “debates,” or at least no appropriate sequel which can be enacted with the aid of a television.

So they will do everything possible to stretch out the event.  Furthermore, the viewers actually want to talk to each other about the debates, so the continuation should be something which does not command too much viewer attention.  No Evil Knievel.  The panel is a signal of “now is the focal time to make fun of these guys with the other people on your sofa,” don’t stop, keep up the jokes guys, and the panel members, perhaps unintentionally, try to stretch out that period of your witty mockery for as long as possible.  Which isn’t that long, but hey they have to try.

1 Andreas Moser February 23, 2012 at 11:26 am

I would be happy enough if I could convince my wife to watch a whole debate even.
But after 15 minutes, she already wants to switch back to some stupid reality show or an animal documentary.

2 corey February 23, 2012 at 11:40 am

Pretty sure your wife’s choice in TV has more actual content than a political debate.

3 CBBB February 23, 2012 at 11:55 am

What are you kidding me? Those CNN/MSNBC/Fox News “debates” are inane. I’m sure a pride of lions on the Discovery Channel have more intelligent commentary then the clowns on most of these debate shows.

4 mrpinto February 24, 2012 at 1:07 am

For once, I’m with CBBB. What valuable information about the candidates are you actually gleaning from the debates?

5 Morgan Warstler February 23, 2012 at 8:27 pm

You should be able to win arguments like this

6 corey February 23, 2012 at 11:44 am

I think a lot of it has to do with giving viewers an “inside” look, and making them feel like the exclusive recipients of Beltway knowledge, arming them with stories that allow them to signal superior political knowledge. Note how most of the discussion really isn’t about what was discussed at the debate but the meta-level of how the statements will “play” with various groups.

Many political discussions – particularly since the advent of blogs – go this way. Person A complains about substantive stance taken on whatever issue by a politician, person B launches into a discussion of how the stance “plays”. Post-debate panels facilitate intellectual signalling and as such are valuable products for certain kinds of viewers.

7 Rich Berger February 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Have you seen CNN’s ratings lately? They even get beat by MSNBC.

8 Todd February 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm

True, but no one watches any of these cable news shows anyway, unless something important is on fire or someone famous dies.

The highest rated cable news primetime show gets lower ratings than re-runs of NCIS on the USA network. This whole post is about a sideshow of a sideshow.

9 JWatts February 23, 2012 at 3:25 pm

While the debates won’t be the most popular program at the time the play, they will rank in the top 10 programs in the time slot in viewership. The debates have consistently gotten about 5 million viewers. That’s not to shabby considering they are on their 20th debate.

10 Todd February 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm

The debates in December drew about 6 million, the debates in Jan. drew about 5, last night’s drew about 4.7.

People are tuning out.

11 Yancey Ward February 23, 2012 at 1:01 pm

What explains the things CNN does? Stupidity as an explanation occurs to me before anything else.

12 Greg Ransom February 23, 2012 at 2:35 pm

This explains David Gergen?

13 Bill February 23, 2012 at 3:12 pm
14 TallDave February 23, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I used to find them interesting, but eventually my hunger for information bandwidth completely outstripped the medium. I stopped watching them when I stopped hearing anything I hadn’t already read online three times.

But they serve a purpose, I guess. Funny, I used to think the notion a Western democracy could ever become an Orwellian dystopia was a farfetched, until the Internet came along and I witnessed the awe-inspiring fury of of commenters righteously outraged at the existence of one tiny little news outlet that dares voice a dissenting worldview. Even though it’s massively outgunned by the rest of the media, the indignation against dissent is such opponents contemplated investigating their private lives and we now get yearly studies purporting to prove watching the network makes you dumber.

15 mrpinto February 24, 2012 at 1:13 am

I think the complaint against Fox News, if I might assume you’re absent subject, isn’t that it dissents, but that it misrepresents. William Buckley dissented also, but not in an intellectually dishonest way.

I’m pretty far from being a leftist, so I don’t have that dog in the fight as they say. Still, it’s clear as the nose on your face that Fox News is a bad way to find out what’s happening in the world – AT BEST. And I’m talking about the actual news. When it comes to the punditry – is there a logical fallacy that Hannity and O’Reilly have not managed to put on the air?

Intelligent news cannot be found on the television, period. Anyone who tells you otherwise is smoking something or selling you something.

16 TmC February 24, 2012 at 12:13 pm

“Fox News is a bad way to find out what’s happening in the world ”

True enough, but still better than the others available.

17 TallDave February 24, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I think the complaint against Fox News, if I might assume you’re absent subject, isn’t that it dissents, but that it misrepresents</I.

Yes, but that's according to their worldview. Conservatives have been saying exactly the same thing about the rest of the MSM for decades.

I agree on the general point about TV news, though.

18 msgkings February 24, 2012 at 1:35 pm

+100 to mrpinto

19 Jim February 24, 2012 at 11:49 am

Also, snark is an appropriate survival tactic for powerless viewers in an increasingly surreal world of foundational corruption and waste.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: