Wednesday, January 13, 2010

When did television shows become brands?

The current buzz around Hollywood is the battle between two late-night comedians, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien. But the buzz should really surround the question as to why this is a battle at all.

Conan O’Brien, the host of The Tonight Show, a show with less-than-desirable ratings since Jay Leno departed as host in May 2009, was recently quoted as saying that “The Tonight Show brand would be negatively affected if it started after twelve midnight instead of at its 11:35 pm start time.” When did television shows become brands?

There is no question that consumer products, restaurants, and even theme parks can easily be embraced as brands as a result of their consumer experience and customer service. Coca-Cola, Nike, and Disney are recognized throughout the world as top brands, but, television shows? When did we describe the Mary Tyler Moore Show, the Dick Van Dyke Show, Bonanza, or even Friends as brands? The experience of watching a television show does not correspond to drinking a soft drink, wearing a pair of tennis shoes, or visiting a theme park, so what is the connection? And what about reality TV? How does the length of Kate Gosselin’s hair create a brand?

While we are talking about TV shows, when did Simon Cowell become the embodiment of the Idol brand? While his comments are not always kind, his picks have not always won the final competition – and due to Ellen DeGeneres’ fans, the future of Idol may survive just fine without Simon. Besides, don’t people watch that show to watch people sing and sometimes make fools of themselves?

With so much content available to television viewers, it would seem that the buzz should be about the quality of that content – which would easily explain why HBO continues to win awards – its emphasis is on a quality consumer experience without constantly talking about its brand.

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