The Dangers of Bifurcating Your Business
This was the heyday of network news, and “CBS Evening News” was the gold standard. It garnered a huge audience of blue-ribbon viewers hungry for information, and provided a platform that enabled top-drawer advertisers to move the right stuff into the homes, offices and garages of the right people.
Cronkite retired in 1981 after 19 years. The accession to his anchor chair by the sweaty—and ultimately discredited—Dan Rather started the long downward spiral of network news.
Today all three of the network news programs are on the skids. Penetration is a paltry 25% of what it was a quarter century ago. Here are the current numbers:
Total Network News Viewers (% of Population)
1980: US Population 221.8MM
CBS 18.5MM (8.3%)
NBC 17.4MM (7.8%)
ABC 15.9MM (7.2%)
2007: US Population 301.2MM
CBS 6.4MM (2.1%)
NBC 8.3MM (2.8%)
ABC 8.4MM (2.9%)
According to the Gallup Organization, the current network news anchors enjoy vast name recognition across America: 84% for Katie Couric, 78% for Charles Gibson and 77% for Brian Williams.
Yet the number of Americans that tune in to watch these celebrities is minuscule and shrinking. This would indicate that something is seriously wrong—either with the anchors themselves or network news.
How Advertisers are Destroying a Business Model
During the week of the New Hampshire primaries, I tracked sponsorship of the leader—”ABC’s World News Tonight,” which ran a total of 74 commercials over five evenings. Of those, 64 commercials, or 86%, were illness-, drug- and health-related. Even the food products (Healthy Choice, Swanson natural broth and Progresso) were pinned to health benefits. The top five categories:
1. Pain (6 products): Ester-C (2x), Requip, Aleve, Advil, Icy Hot and Bayer (3x).
2. Constipation (5 products): Danon Activa, Amitiza (4x), Miralax (2x), Afrin and Phillips Caplets.
3. Lungs/Breathing (4 products): Spiriva, Advair, Delsym Cough Syrup, Mucinex (2x)
4. Male Penile Problems (4 products): Flomax, Cialis, One-a-Day Men, Levitra.
5. Cardio (3 products): Vytorin (3x), Centrum Cardio (2x), Plavix (2x)
(See the illustration below for the complete list and number of insertions.)