Re: U.S. TV Shows Losing Potency Around World

From: Alan Patrick (
Date: Thu 16 Jan 2003 - 04:48:44 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: memes defined operationally (from article)"

    > I'm way off my subject here (and of course right on
    > your territory), but can the above really be true? I
    > thought that Mexican and Brazilian soaps and variety
    > shows like Don Francisco's "Sabado Gigante" (which
    > inspired Ted Rogers' "1-2-3" in the UK) were the
    > world's biggest TV product.

    I had to do some research on all this a few years back in the multimedia world (the one before the dotcom boom), and by and large Hispanic stuff is the most watched worldwide. However, the richest large group of watchers are the English speaking today, IIRC there is more English content produced than Hispanic. US content if anything was growing globally as it in general was perceived to be increasing in quality (in the mid - late 90's anyway). My experience from living in the US is that the bulk of the TV content is complete horseshit, but that the small % of good stuff is world-class - and that small % in US terms is a large number of hours in absolute terms

    The UK punches way above its weight in most arts-based fields, reasons given have been for eg social security allows artists to hone crafts without starving in garrets, the anti-industry culture sends more talented people into the arts than elsewhere, state sponsored quality TV creates a large Porterian centre of production excellence etc etc. However, most factors you could show existed elsewhere without the same success.

    I came to the rather boring conclusion that TV from the UK succeeded primarily because (i) it was in English so it was more easily saleable globally, (ii) UK people love TV, music & books (global successes) but are neutral on movies (UK failure overall) so there is good home demand for TV based stuff to kick off on, and (iii) they had a big empire so large amounts of "rest of world" had a latent familiarity with UK content/culture and will buy it over other stuff.

    An interesting study was what sold in various markets - for eg UK "gritty reality" TV soaps generally go down very badly in the USA but the Brits love them, whereas costume drama sells very well globally, as do British TV game shows (though often invented by a Dutch company.....). A field day foe memeticists studying the most comman memes in various cultures?

    Incidentally, an interesting prediction I was able to make was that satellite & cable in the UK would do far less well than in the US as the content served by the main broadcasters was much higher quality than the US
    (owing to stiff competition by a well funded BBC with a remit for quality). As it turned out I was half right, with satellite TV doing better than expected - mainly by paying astounding prices for sports broadcast rights, and that their cable competitors were nobbled by havimng to lay cable underground.

    Any other views are welcome....


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