Dude, Where’s My Demographic?

According to the current Advertising Age, things were busy, if nervous, at this week’s National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE — pronounced to (sort of) rhyme with “nasty”) conference in Las Vegas. TV execs can’t figure out where the heck viewers have gone en masse.

Here is a snippet:

The broadcast networks have been struggling, and all six — Walt Disney’s ABC; Viacom’s CBS and UPN; New Corp.’s Fox; General Electric’s NBC; and Time Warner’s WB — saw decreases in their viewing levels this past fall (when new shows debut), particularly among the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults 18 to 49.

Some are blaming the Internet, and some are blaming station group ad buyers who play it safe, “ordering formulaic programming that is creating viewer fatigue”. Gosh, is that possible?

But all of this smells like opportunity to Mark Burnett, visionary of “non-scripted” programming. The producer of Survivor and The Apprentice told a standing-room only NATPE crowd that he had answers:

…he was developing two sitcoms with NBC, one that will feature a central character who embodies a brand. “We are trying to pave new roads,” he said.
The other new series? Mr. Burnett’s journey from t-shirt salesman to wildly successful TV producer. In other words, it is an unscripted series in scripted sitcom format about a developer of unscripted content who makes good and begins created more scripted fare. The mind boggles at the embedded metaphysics.