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The NY Times’ Dumb ‘Death of Network TV’ Story

Dumb stories run all the time, but when they’re played on the front page of the New York Times, they’re going to echo significantly louder than they should.

There’s no question that broadcasters are having trouble right now, just like every other advertiser-dependent medium. But Tim Arango’s piece, “Broadcast TV Faces Struggle to Stay Viable,” features so many glaring omissions I’d like to think some disconnected editor demanded it, and the reporter simply obliged.

Mostly, the article focuses on all the things that network TV has lost, but nothing that it’s gained. There’s no mention that the networks are controlled by major studios, which more often than not own — and occasionally profit quite handsomely from — the programs that they broadcast. There’s no mention of TV programs being sold on DVD, which has helped cannibalize syndicated viewing but also offset some of those losses. Arango cites “Lost” but never mentions the robust demand for selected hits like that one abroad, with Disney (which produces it) receiving an especially lucrative license fee for the U.K. broadcast rights.

Instead, there are a lot of references to broadcast TV being a different animal now than it was in the days of “All in the Family” and “Hill Street Blues.” Well, that’s about as big a “duh” as there is.

Years ago, a network executive was bitching about a TV-related story in one of the Times — I frankly forget if it was New York or L.A. — and muttered to me, “If they’re that naive about our business, you wonder what else they don’t know.”

Indeed, let’s all hope the guys writing about the stimulus package have a better grasp on that than Saturday’s story exhibited about network television.

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