CBS, Colbert and Contempt for America

Robert F. Kennedy Center For Justice And Human Rights 2013 Ripple Of Hope Awards DinnerRush Limbaugh and other conservatives have expressed bewilderment over CBS’s abandonment of the “American Heartland” by choosing Colbert to replace Letterman.

Ed Driscoll has contrasted the pick with the Letterman and Leno succession battle. But the real lesson of that battle is that while Leno won on performance, beating Letterman in the ratings, Letterman won on image, retiring as an honored figure, despite his abusive behavior, while Leno was booed out the door

Leno is no conservative, but he left with the baffled bewilderment familiar to many on the right of being the better man who is despised for his success, while his rival who failed miserably as a boss, a human being and a comedian, is leaving with a media ticker tape parade.

The issue wasn’t The Late Shift or Conan’s nervous breakdown; it was cultural. Leno appealed to a more middle class audience, while Letterman, like Conan, was the darling of a trendy wealthy liberal crowd.

NBC entertainment president Warren Littlefield picked Leno over Letterman after asking the guys he played basketball with which of the men they wanted to watch. It was a practical move that wouldn’t be repeated today.

Nobody would ask the basketball guys if they would rather watch Colbert or someone funny, because they don’t matter.

And that’s why Colbert was picked.

The number of people who watch a TV show stopped mattering years ago. If it did, Murder She Wrote, a show that had an older audience and high ratings, wouldn’t have been canceled. Instead there’s talk of rebooting it with younger multicultural leads in a different setting.

Network television doesn’t just fail to count older viewers; it tries to drive them away. A show with an older viewership is dead air. Advertisers have been pushed by ad agencies into an obsession with associating their product with a youthful brand.

The demo rating, 18-49, is the only rating that matters. Viewers younger than that can still pay off. Just ask the CW. Older viewers however are unwanted.

A network television show would much rather have 5 million viewers in the demo than 15 million older viewers. A cable show would rather have 1 million viewers in the demo than 10 million viewers outside the demo.

Colbert and Stewart have the top late night talk shows in the demo. That means 1 million ‘young’ viewers. That’s barely what Letterman was pulling in on a top network.

Networks, which already have high median ages, are doing everything possible to bring them down. CBS has a median age of 58 and is the oldest network. Colbert is supposed to lower their average.

Letterman’s show had a median age of 56. Colbert’s show has a median age of 39. That a 49-year-old comedian with an audience whose median age is 39 is considered a draw for younger audiences reveals just how thoroughly younger viewers are abandoning television.

But it’s only part of the story.

Emphasizing the demo took apart television’s family hour and turned prime time programming dark and adult to cater to younger viewers. The values of Middle America vanished from prime time and were replaced with an emphasis on liberal values and shock culture.

The demo however wasn’t good enough. Leno still beat Letterman in the demo. But the demo is just one piece of the puzzle. Younger viewers weren’t good enough. They had to be trendy and wealthy too.

The new “ideal” viewer combined youth with disposable income. These viewers were supposedly trendsetters. Television was remade on the Friends model full of cheerful consumption shows that showed young, wealthy and white urbanites socializing in an urban setting.

And there’s no real doubt that the Friends cast, unlike the basketball players, would have picked Letterman over Leno. Or that they would pick Colbert today.

The ideal television viewer is now in his twenties or thirties, lives in a city, has plenty of disposable income and is highly active on social media so that his or her brand choices influence their peers. He bought a new smartphone in the last 12 months and the next gaming console, he goes to bars and night clubs, spends $400 on video games and $300 on music. He is more likely to do these things than to become a parent, invest in stocks or buy a home.

It goes without saying that he is also an enthusiastic supporter of gay marriage, gun control and Obama. And that he hates anyone who isn’t.

CBS does not want Middle America to watch. Chasing away older and conservative viewers by picking Colbert is not a bug, it’s a feature. CBS would like Colbert to ‘upscale’ its brand by turning its dying late night show into a low rated program watched by wealthy liberal urbanites whom advertisers will pay much more, per person, to reach.

Television networks aren’t being foolish by driving away older viewers. They’re working closely with ad agencies that want the same thing.

CBS’s Hawaii Five-O may be highly rated, but it skews to older audiences, which is why it costs $58,000 to advertise on it, while Grimm, which has a smaller audience, charged $82,000. Both shows are about even in the demo,  but Grimm’s viewers are valued more. Blue Bloods may have fantastic ratings, but its audience is old, so it’s also down at the $58,000 level.

Unlike Mad Men, real ad agencies aren’t bastions of corporate patriarchy; they’re places where humanities majors get to advance a radical narrative. Advertising has been radical for some time now under the influence of creatives who always insist on pushing the limits. The creatives in ad agencies allied with television programmers, tugged clients at staid corporate firms into doing it their way.

And now advertising, for even mainstream brands, has become much edgier.

The Olympics multicultural Coca Cola ad and the gay rights cereal ads have courted controversy as an advertising strategy. That used to be something that marginal dot com brands did by firing a gerbil out of a cannon during the Super Bowl.

Now deliberately setting out to offend mainstream audiences is something that established brands do in a desperate race to show how youthful, how postmodern and how liberal they are.

Like CBS, they are increasing their brand value by demonstrating their contempt for Middle America.

If you can convince Coca Cola and Kraft to reject Middle America, CBS is an easy sell. The left has won by convincing the biggest companies in the country to build their brand by dumping American values.

Forget Kansas and Iowa; it’s San Francisco and Manhattan that matter.

It’s a terrible strategy for companies like Coca Cola and Kraft, but like Wal-Mart with its embrace of environmentalism and organic food, corporate leadership has trended to the left. And you can see why.

When looking back at the Letterman and Leno matchup. Leno won on performance, but Letterman ended up with the better brand. And corporations put the brand first. They assume that more sales will follow from having a hip brand, than a good product.

The marketplace has been artificially shifted to value some viewers over others. The ideal viewer has become a Frankenstein’s monster of youth, wealth, social media activity and geography put together so that liberal audiences matter and other audiences don’t.

Companies are no longer being polite about it. Coca Cola, Kraft and CBS are actively courting liberal audiences by mocking and rejecting Middle America.

Stephen Colbert, a man whose sole talent is raising one eyebrow while saying nasty things about conservatives, is the perfect face for the new programming of corporate contempt for America.

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  • Daniel Greenfield

    He says nasty things about conservatives in the guise of a character playing it straight

    • justquitnow

      Maybe it hurts because there’s truth to it.

      • Daniel Greenfield

        It puts me in mind of the quote about being savaged by a dead sheep. Except in Colbert’s case, it’s more of a dead fish.

        • justquitnow

          It only offends you if you resemble the awful type of person he is making fun of….

  • James Anderson

    Stephen Colbert IS middle America.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Like France is Middle America.

  • Seek

    Middle America, like it or not, is writing all those letters to Penthouse.

  • Seek

    Utterly ridiculous generalization. I could name hundred over the last decade that fit into neither category. In any event, that’s not a political judgment.

    • BagLady

      I think one can safely generalise when 90% of the population is illiterate.

  • lillymckim

    Colbert is a goofy acting grown man & just not funny, just a goof.

    I don’t need another Democratic paid comic/newsman & that depends on who he’s insulting as to which “hat” he puts on its then called satire. Nothing but spewing the far lefts propaganda we already have ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, HLN, & all of Hollywood.

    1. Jimmy Fallon

    2. Bill Maher

    3. Jon Stewart

    Need I say more?

    Won’t be watching.

  • Where’s the Beef?

    HAHAHA HOGWASH. The drive to the bottom of shock TV started when the traitor from Down Under Rupert Murdoch came to America and obtained citizenship under false pretenses. He then ran the multi-outlet empire into the ground seeking the “DEMO” by striving for the abject fear, disgusting and shock value TV. Simpsons, Married with Children, NY Post, all examples of how Murdoch drove your vaunted “Middle America” (read: white, fat and stupid aging population) into Siberia. Do not blame liberals for your empty Ayn Randian perspective driving this push by Murdoch which is only pandering to the Conservative investment class who want to see nothing but shareholder benefit no matter the cost to the company or society. It all plays into the same disgusting Conservative meme of I got mine, screw you. You are disgusting in your unabashed, wholesale attempt at retrofitting history to fit your current meme, which is only the exact same as the shareholders fawning over short term strategy, rather than looking at the long prospect. You are once again showing your true colors by blaming the messenger of the Conservative failing of America. Good job Business class America.

  • Wassup

    Why is Walmart having some organics on the shelves a bad thing?

    On the advertising front, we see this “being trendy” pushed in various industries, not just tv ads. Mostly it is,vendors trying to lure clients to try their ad platforms, social media plug ins, etc… I think the attraction is that performance doesn’t matter as just doing it. Squishy measurements like “engagement” and “reach” that aren’t quantifiable as far as attributing sales to those activities. Basically a system with no,accountability, but companies will pay good money to,try it and hope for positive return. Yes, rambling a bit, I’m not a pro like Mr. Greenberg.

  • bigfred41

    The networks are first and foremost interested in making as much money as possible but they do insert liberal bigotry whenever and wherever they can. The same goes for most directors, producers, actor and especially liberal network news anchors like lowlife Brian Williams.

  • Gislef

    But would they run them if they got viewers and didn’t sell advertising? That’s the core of the article.

  • justquitnow

    Then who pays for it? Who takes the time to produce the show, edit the show, make titles for it, etc. There are two competing powers in the entertainment business…and they represent the starting point or impetus behind every show ever conceived going back to the Greeks….and that is creativity (art) and commerce (ads). If someone doesn’t want to create something for it’s own sake and someone else can’t think of how to profit from it, then nothing gets done.

  • bigfred41

    So you revel in not having any strongly held beliefs about justice. You are correct, that gives you an existence without strife*. Kind of like a cow enjoying standing in his field, chewing his cud and humming “Don’t Worry Be Happy”.

    You’ve got a lot to be proud of.

    *Except for coming to FPM and doing your name calling, of course.

  • justquitnow

    This assumes that the world needs or ought to be parsed the way you do in the language that serves the world view of same. It doesn’t. Also,..I wasn’t even talking about being active in politics…I’m talking about making that judgement on everything, political or not….

    I’m rereading The Republic atm. Justice is actually on my mind.

  • bigfred41

    Yes, being “non-judgmental” is a purported virtue, in modern amoral society. You can have it.

    Also, don’t confuse me with Democrat or Republican. Being conservative means being primarily concerned with individual justice. Being liberal means being totally group based and therefore essentially amoral, as in having marches for murderers like Mumia or the Jena 6 thugs because they are from the supposedly “oppressed’ group.

  • Wolfthatknowsall

    I hope that you have a good translation of the book. One of them was translated to make ancient Athens seems like a progressive paradise (which is an oxymoron) …

    I’m not sure that Socrates would have joined you in praising “justice”, as you understand it …

  • bigfred41

    Who says that I wasn’t poking fun at your reverse-racism? That’s my right, because I have a life of total privilege, right?

  • bigfred41

    Who says that I wasn’t poking fun at your reverse-racism? That’s my right, because I have a life of total privilege, right?

  • justquitnow

    My comment was not racist against you bigfred. You have lost all perspective on what is racist. The rest of your post is in a language I don’t understand. FPM is now going through and deleting harmless posts…what a lame cult outlet.

  • justquitnow

    That’s not at all what I said, but hey the filter’s working as designed right?

  • bigfred41

    Holder saying that he was the victim of “racism” because he was being grilled for obstructing congress… now that’s an example of having lost all perspective. When a white student sued because she was denied entrance to U. Mich in favor of a less qualified black, the press immediately asked her if she was a “racist”. Those instances, plus an almost infinite number of similar, are the backdrop of how reverse-racism dominates everything in this sick country.

    The rest referred to the fantasy of “white privilege” that is now being fomented by blacks and liberals.

  • Wolfthatknowsall

    Since the comment you made, and I replied to, has been removed, I will give you my reply here:

    I don’t know about him (bigfred41), but I was to be a senior in college, inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, with a 4.00 gpa, when I received a notice from the Dept. of Education that my Basic Educational Opportunity Grant (now, the Pell Grant) would not be renewed for the school year 1978-79. The reason given: Affirmative Action.

    And so, I worked my way through college, and into a Ph.D. .

    It worked out fine for me, but it is a “personal anecdote of reverse discrimination” that affected me directly. And note that a Democrat was president, at the time.

  • bigfred41

    South Park wimped out, bowed to Comedy Channel’s *mandate* and didn’t show Mohammed’s picture. Your claim that all is equal is false.

    South Park continued to show Jesus in some really sleazy contexts, with feces often being involved.

    Seinfeld’s buddy did the bit about urinating on the portrait of Jesus.

    Sarah Silverman does her bit about how she’s glad Jesus was crucified and how she’d like to do it again.

    It’s not about what’s funny, it’s about what is censored versus what is glorified. Sounds like you are actually the one with the insular exposure.

  • bigfred41

    You mean like when I was seeing a black girl and would get the want-to-kill you glares from the blacks when I walked holding hands with her in public? (While the same park would be filled with black guys and their white skanks.)

    Or how about switching up just a little (since I really came here to do some Mozilla bashing): when I lost a (gay) client when I wouldn’t proclaim that I was for gay marriage.

  • bigfred41

    It sees that only you are open minded and fair (while repeating the dominant dogma of America: liberalism).

    Meanwhile, try to be more clear if you are being constantly misunderstood.

    (Something funny about you, though. Something doesn’t fit, not quite the usual liberal bigot that comes here.)

  • bigfred41

    No strawman, you simply say the usual things. To wit: “Unless you read FPM or like-minded media, you don’t come front loaded with racial resentment from reverse racism.” Anybody with a newspaper in America sees a tidal wave of black crime, especially but not limited to violent crime. Yet the newspaper writers most everywhere never mention the racial association, while they do run constant stories about how whites are “racist” for being wary of blacks. The same for local tv.

    The same for national tv, which ignored the black racist nature of the knockout game, which blacks themselves called Polar Bear hunting. On and on and on.

    Yet you want to say the slur that FPM makes people think a certain way.

  • justquitnow

    Yeah I’m reading the commie version of Plato’s Republic….double derp.


    sarah silverman proves once again that women can not be comedians.

  • Wolfthatknowsall

    JQN, I have taught philosophy at the university level, and for many years. Greek philosophy was an emphasis, and I can tell you that there are numerous translations of Plato’s Republic. Some of them are quite good. Some of them amount to little more than a paraphrase, rather than a translation.

    If you haven’t read Jowett’s translation, you probably haven’t read an accurate Republic.

    I have no knowledge of what a “double derp” is, sir. However, the more modern the translation … and especially if it is little more than a paraphrase … the less likely you are to understand what Plato was saying. And note that paraphrases usually have an agenda.

    A word to the wise is sufficient …

  • trickyblain

    Interesting take. However, couldn’t one argue that when comparing, say, Bloom v. Jowett that they were both biased in translation? Jowett as a Christian Platonist and Bloom, influenced heavily by Strauss, as a Pagan Platonist?

    Wouldn’t the next question be “were the Greeks closer to Christian morality or pagan morality”?

    Finally, what aspects of the later translations (I’m assuming you’re referring to Bloom but may very well be wrong) convey Athens as “paradise”?

  • Wolfthatknowsall

    No doubt, at all, about bias in the translation of ancient texts …

    For example, when I look at the Greek in the Gospel of John, although I am not a Catholic, I can see where some of their cardinal doctrines come from. For example, at the Last Supper, when Jesus says, “This is my Body”, the Greek is “eimi” … present indicative. The Catholics therefore have a strong argument for their doctrine of Transubstantiation.

    At this point, people might say, “But the Greek is a translation of the original language, Aramaic.” That opens up a whole new can of worms.

    The point is that translations reflect the biases of their translators, and the worst are paraphrases of translations.