Television executives were again told that the sky may eventually fall on network TV by two prominent media buyers at a Hollywood Radio & Television Society forum Tuesday.
In addition, Bill Croasdale, president of Western Intl. Media Corp.’s national broadcast division, sounded a warning against industry regulation by Congress, calling that prospect “the biggest danger facing our industry today” and maintaining that efforts to curb TV violence will extend to all programming content.
On the broader issue of where television may be heading, both Croasdale and Saatchi & Saatchi senior VP and director of TV information and new media Betsy Frank forecast the possibility of niche marketing — in the form of “a la carte affiliate lineups”– overwhelming the major networks, with more ad dollars spent on targeted buys and local spending.
“More than ever before, all of our futures will be about change,” Frank said, adding that it was unclear how vast changes would ultimately be.
Croasdale maintained that the current state of media buying — relying on age , sex and income –“is antiquated,” and that firms are already moving toward more targeted databases pinpointing where viewers shop and what they buy.
He added that the threat from niche marketing and a shift toward smaller, cable- or broadcast-based “networks” was real, citing the precedent of other major national advertising vehicles, such as Look and Life magazines, that have in the past succumbed to specialty media.
The third speaker, Nestle USA VP of marketing services John McMennamin, took a slightly more optimistic tone, saying “broadcast media will never be as important to us as they were in the past” but that several high-profile national campaigns (such as its Taster’s Choice spots) continue to work extremely well for the company.
On efforts to regulate content, Croasdale maintained that government won’t be satisfied to stop at violence and will seek to impose standards for sex and language as well. Such a scenario could allow for government-sponsored lists of which advertisers support controversial programming, he said: “If an advertiser appears on that list, he will appear on that list just once.”
Croasdale advocated self-policing as an alternative, saying advisories will keep some advertisers out of certain programs but that such has always been the advertisers’ prerogative.
For her part, Frank indicated that rough times lie ahead for ABC’s new “discretion-advised” drama, “NYPD Blue,” and handicapped the fall season with CBS winning Saturday through Tuesday nights, ABC taking Wednesday and Friday and NBC on top Thursday.
She also predicted that ABC’s “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” could be a surprise hit and projected that it will sink “seaQuest DSV” in their head-to-head battle Sunday, prompting HRTS and NBC Entertainment prez Warren Littlefield to offer a $ 100 wager on that outcome.
Not surprisingly, Frank picked three series with established lead-ins –“Grace Under Fire” (which will follow “Home Improvement”), “Frasier” (post-“Seinfeld”) and “Dave’s World” (between “Evening Shade” and “Murphy Brown”) — as the most likely new hits. She also flagged “Sinbad,””Boy Meets World” and “Lois & Clark.”
In HRTS matters, the organization announced six new directors: Bob Crestani of the William Morris Agency, producer Diane English, Western Intl.’s Dennis Holt, Fox Entertainment Group chief Sandy Grushow, CBS senior VP of movies & miniseries John Matoian, and Warner Bros. TV senior VP of creative affairs Fran McConnell.
Ollie Crawford, a 27-year vet of HRTS, was presented an honor and named exec director emeritus.