TV Programming and the Industry
This course examines some of the strategies and practices of the US television industry. We will focus on the dominance of the network structure, its fall in the 1980s, some specific programming and schedule strategies, and the importance of the audience to the television industry. We will also explore some more recent changes to the industry, including the loosening of government regulation, the convergence of television with other media, and the increasingly global nature of programs and networks.
- Office Hours
- Mondays 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM.
719 Broadway, Room 698
- Undergraduate Film and Television
721 Broadway, 11th Floor, Mailbox 145.
Susan Tyler Eastman and Douglas A. Ferguson. Media Programming: Strategies and Practices, 7th ed. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2006. ISBN: 0534636896
Media Programming is available at the NYU Main Bookstore, 18 Washington Place for $81.50. A copy is also on reserve at Bobst Library. Because the seventh edition was published within the last two months, used copies may be difficult or impossible to locate. However, I do not recommend using an older edition of Broadcast/Cable/Web Programming.
Additional required readings are available as PDF documents on the NYU ERes (Electronic Reserves). To access these readings, go to our ERes site. You may also download specific articles by following the link from this syllabus. You must have the latest copy of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader, to open and print these files.
An electronic copy of this syllabus, links to selected course readings, a current record of attendance and grades, and other class resources are available on Blackboard.
To access it, point your web browser to NYU's Blackboard site and log in using your NYU NetID and password. Our course should appear under the section "Courses You Are Taking." You may also find it in NYU Home under the Academics tab.
- Weekly attendance
Attendance at all class session is of vast importance and is required at every class session. Persistent tardiness will count as absences. Our sessions involve intensive group discussion of film and television clips, which can only occur in class. Unexcused absences will count against your final grade.
Complete each week's readings before our class session. The lectures will cover material that assumes you have completed that week's assigned readings. I invite you to re-read certain chapters or articles after the class to reinforce the lecture and screening from our sessions.
- Written assignments
All written work must be submitted on time except in cases of documented illness, medical emergency, or other compelling, mitigating circumstance. Other coursework, job requirements, and film shoots are not considered mitigating circumstances.
Late work will be subject to a lateness penalty of one-half grade per weekday. Work submitted more than eight calendar days late will not be accepted and will be recorded as a zero in computing your final grade. You must complete every assignment in order to receive a grade for this class.
In addition, all written work must be formatted according to the directions specified on the assignment sheet. Please print your paper and proofread it for grammar and typographic errors before submitting it. Excessive errors will result in a lower grade. Also, you should submit your work as a printed hard copy. Please do not submit assignments via email attachments.
Finally, I police plagiarism vigilantly. Any student who hands in work not their own will receive a failing grade for the course.
- Live TV Taping
Go to a taping of a show. As soon as you can work it in, this semester, go to a taping of a show. Take notes (or at least mental notes). What did you learn about the show from being in the studio? What (kind of) things are not revealed to the home viewer? Think about what we're discussing in class and analyze why some things are revealed to home-viewers and some are not. What is the role of the studio audience for this production? Write 2-3 pages summarizing what you learned and drawing some conclusions.
Due: Upon completion, no later than December 5 on Blackboard.
- Cable TV Flow
Spend some time with a cable television channel. Watch, log, and write an analysis of three consecutive hours of television on a cable channel of your choice. Include programs, ads, PSAs, IDs, news headlines, and promos in your log. It can be any time period on any day (before October 18). In addition, cheek back with the channel from time to time to get a broader feel for it. Note its "signature shows" and other original programming, its self-promotions, its advertisements, note its "branding" strategies. Then, do some research: find out who owns it (and what else they own), its intended and actual demographics, its typical ratings and its stated programming strategies. Analyze the channel position on your cable system (perhaps comparing it to other systems you know of) in terms of its advantages and disadvantages for gaining viewers. Who owns the cable system? Now synthesize your data, what does this three hour segment and your additional research lead you to conclude? Approximately 4 pages (more if necessary).
Due: October 17
Assume you are the CEO of this cable channel (from the previous assignment) and your stockholders have approved multiplexing of two additional channels. Describe the names and content of those channels and your scheduling strategy.
Due: October 24
- Media Reception of New Program
Select a new series debuting this fall. Analyze the reasons for the network's original selection and scheduling of the program, examine the audience shares obtained by the program over the season by tracing the ratings. A full list of the Nielsen's can be found in the Wednesday edition of USA Today as well as various web sites such as http://www.zap2it.com/television/news/ratings. What factors might contribute to the success or failure of the show? Factors to pay attention to include scheduling shifts, promotional strategies, special episodes, etc. You should also follow the popular discourse about the program, the way it is presented in publications such as TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, as well as Variety and Broadcasting & Cable, and similar periodicals. Write about three pages summarizing what you learned about the program's ratings and scheduling and provide some analysis of programming strategy in your conclusion.
Due: November 7
- New Program Pitch
Come up with an idea for a television series. Then prepare a 1-2 minute pitch to the class for a complete series idea. Be prepared for critique and reaction from the class.
Due: November 21
- Final Paper
Select one of the topics to be distributed in November that allows you to analyze aspects of the television industry in the context of cultural and economic issues we have discussed this semester. Your final paper should be approximately 7-8 pages in length.
Due: December 16, 4:00 PM on Blackboard
|Attendance and Participation||20%|
|Live TV Taping||10%||December 5|
|Cable TV Flow||10%||October 17|
|Reception of New Series||10%||November 7|
|Program Pitch||10%||November 21|
|Final Paper||30%||December 16|
September 12 — Introduction: How the Industry Works
- Anatomy of a "Homicide: Life on the Street"
September 19 — Network Broadcasting
- TV Pilots
- Media Programming, "A Framework for Programming Strategies." 1-35.
- Michael Curtin. "On Edge: Culture Industries in the Neo-Network Era." Making & Selling Culture. Ed. Richard Ohmann. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1996. 181-202.
September 26 — The Crisis of Network Television: Televisuality
- Entertainment Tonight, MTV, Starsky & Hutch, Miami Vice, CSI
- John T. Caldwell. "Excessive Style: The Crisis of Network Television" Televisuality: Style, Crisis, and Authority in American Television. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995. 3-31.
- Lucy Kung-Shankleman. "'The Status Quo is not an Option': Broadcasting's Changing Environmental Context." Inside the BBC and CNN: Managing Media Organizations. London: Routledge, 2000. 23-44.
October 3 — Cable
- Cable News Programming, The Daily Show
- Media Programming, "Basic Cable and Subscription Programming." 242-267, up to "Local Origination on Cable."
- David Morely. "Finding Out About the World from Television News: Some Difficulties." Television and Common Knowledge. Ed. Jostein Gripsrud. New York: Routledge, 1999. 136-158
October 17 — The Televisual and the Generic
- 24, MI-5, Smallville, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Steve Neale and Graeme Turner. "Introduction: What is Genre?" The Television Genre Book. Ed. Glen Creeber. London: BFI, 2001. 1-7.
- Adrian Page. "Post-Modern Drama." The Television Genre Book. Ed. Glen Creeber. London: BFI, 2001. 43-46.
- Lisa Parks. "Brave New Buffy: Rethinking 'TV Violence.'" Quality Popular Television. Ed. Mark Jancovich and James Lyons. London: BFI, 2003. 118-136.
October 24 — Dayparts: Nonprime-time Programming
- Network TV soap operas
- Media Programming, "Nonprime-time Network Television Programming." 159-185.
- Media Programming, "Television Station Programming." 186-215.
- Anna McCarthy. "Soap Opera." The Television Genre Book. Ed. Glen Creeber. London: BFI, 2001. 47-54.
- Phil Williams. "Feeding Off the Past: The Evolution of the Television Rerun" Television: The Critical View, 6th ed. Ed. Horace Newcomb. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. 52-72.
October 31 — The Audience: Institutional Point of View
- Signal to Noise: Life with Television, Commercials, The Daily Show, Date with Your Family
- Media Programming, "Program and Audience Research," 36-79.
- James Surowiecki. "The Way We Watch." The New Yorker. February 17-24, 2003.
- James G. Webster, Patricia F. Phalen, and Lawrence W. Lichty. "Audience Research in Advertising." Ratings Analysis: The Theory and Practice of Audience Research 2nd ed. Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Association, 2000. 13-34.
November 7 — The Audience: Cultural Point of View
- MST3K, Freaks & Geeks
- Ien Ang. "New Technologies, Audience Measurement and the Tactics of Television Consumption." Living Room Wars: Rethinking Media Audiences for a Postmodern World. New York: Routledge, 1996. 53-65.
- Joseph Turow. "Targeting the Audience." Media Systems in Society: Understanding Industries, Strategies, and Power, 2nd ed. New York: Longman: 1997. 115-142.
November 28 — Deregulation
- Free Speech For Sale, Disney Promotional Video
- Michael Curtin and Thomas Streeter. "Media." Culture Works: The Political Economy of Culture. Ed. Richard Maxwell. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001. 225-250.
- Jennifer Holt. "Vertical Vision: Deregulation, Industrial Economy and Prime-time Design." Quality Popular Television. Ed. Mark Jancovich and James Lyons. London: BFI, 2003. 11-31.
- Robert W. McChesney and John Bellamy Foster. "The Commercial Tidal Wave." The Monthly Review 54.10 (March 2003).
November 21 — Programs
Pitch assignment due today. Pitch your show idea in class today.
- Media Programming, "Basic and Premium Subscription Programming." 279-310.
- Optional Reading
- Alfred Brenner. "The Premise" & "Story Conference." TV Scriptwriter's Handbook. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 1992. 34-46.
- Robert J. Hilliard. "The Proposal" and "Program Pitch." Writing for Television and Radio, 6th ed. Albany: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1997. 462-466.
November 23 — Above and Below the Line
To be announced.
November 28 — Scheduling
- Media Programming, "Prime-Time Network Entertainment Programming." 121-158.
- Paterson, Richard. "Planning the Family: The Art of the Television Schedule." The Screen Education Reader: Cinema, Television, Culture. Ed. Manuel Alvarado, Edward Buscombe and Richard Collins. New York: Columbia UP, 1993. 144-153.
- Lisa Taylor and Andrew Willis. "Conceptualizing and Measuring Media Audiences." Media Studies: Texts, Institutions and Audiences. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999. 147-155.
December 5 — Syndication & Globalization
TV Taping Assignment due on Blackboard.
- Highlander: The Series
- Media Programming, "Domestic & International Syndication." 80-120.
- Chris Barker. "What is Global Television?" Global Television: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997. 27-69
- Michael Curtin. "Globalisation." Television Studies. Ed. Toby Miller. London: BFI, 2002. 43-46.
- Serra Tinic. "Going Global: International Coproduction and the Disappearing Domestic Audience in Canada." Quality Popular Television. Ed. Mark Jancovich and James Lyons. London: BFI, 2003. 65-87.
December 12 — Alternatives to Commercial Broadcasting
Final assignment due on December 16, 4:00 PM on Blackboard.
- Public Access flow
- Media Programming, "Public Television Programming." 216-241.
- Media Programming, "Local Origination on Cable" and "Community Access on Cable." 267-273.
- Patricia Aufderheide. "Access Cable in Action." The Daily Planet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000. 139-153.
- Ralph Engelman. "The Struggle Over the Future of Community TV." Public Radio and Television in America: A Political History (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1996). 246-265.
- Toby Miller. "Television and Citizenship: A New International Division of Cultural Labor?" Communication, Citizenship, and Social Policy: Rethinking the Limits of the Welfare State. Ed. Andrew Calabrese and Jean-Claude Burgelman. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999. 279-292.