It would be difficult to think of any business that's more competitive than TV broadcasting. The average viewer in the United States has dozens of TV channels from which to choose.
Each year, the TV industry spends millions of dollars trying to make successful new TV shows. And each year most of these attempts don't even make it to air (broadcast).
First, Get Their Attention!
The success of a TV show (and, therefore, your own professional success) will depend in large measure on your ability to effectively capture and hold an audience.
And, once you do, you'd better have something interesting to communicate or they'll quickly consider other options.
"But," you say, "I don't want to worry about all that; I just want to make TV shows that interest me."
That's great, but who's going to pay for them?
Let's take a quick look at our Reality 101 course notes.
TV productions cost a lot of money, especially today. To cite just one example, in 1966 the budget for each full episode of Star Trek was $100,000. In 2003, each episode of Enterprise, which is similar in form, cost about $100,000 per minute to produce. Today, the cost would be much higher.
Before people put up that kind of money, they have to believe there will be some kind of return on their investment.
Depending on the type of production that return
may be to communicate a corporate message effectively, to get
viewers to understand a series of concepts or, in the case of
commercial television, to generate profits by selling products.
Hit the Target (Audience)
As we've noted, target audience indicates the specific segment of a potential audience we're "aiming at."
Regardless of the type of production, you must start with a clear understanding of the needs and interests of your specific target audience.
Advertisers spend millions of dollars determining these things.
Depending on the products they want to sell, advertisers will have certain ¥ demographic preferences.
For designer jeans, for example, the target audience would be fairly affluent teenagers. The same advertisers wouldn't be interested in sponsoring reruns of Murder, She Wrote, which appeals primarily to an older audience.
By the way, the principles of determining the needs and interests of your target audience also apply to something as simple as producing a video for your class. If only an instructor will be evaluating your video, you'll take a different approach than if it's intended for a graduation party. In either case, meeting the needs of your target audience is the key to success.
Let's look at just a few of the issues involved.
Using Audience-Engaging Techniques
Although people may want to believe they are being completely logical in evaluating a program, their underlying emotional reaction influences their evaluation. Even a logical, educational presentation evokes -- for better or worse -- an emotional response.
This is a key concept, which Benjamin Franklin (a noted persuader) put this way:
What types of production content are most apt to engage our interest and affect us emotionally?
First, we have an interest in other people, especially vicariously "experiencing the experiences" of other people.
We're interested in people who lead interesting (romantic, dangerous, wretched, or engrossingly spiritual) lives.
Part of this involves gaining new insights and being exposed to new points of view. This includes learning new things.
Here's something else to keep in mind.
Viewers like content that reinforces their existing beliefs and, right or wrong, they tend to react against ideas that run contrary to their beliefs.
As an example, a number of years ago a small East Coast TV station did an exposé on a local police chief. An undercover reporter (one of my former students) put a camera in a lunch box and filmed the police chief clearly taking a bribe.
When the segment was broadcast, there was negative reaction -- against the TV station.
It seems the police chief was popular with many influential people and having the truth presented in this way challenged their commitment to him. This reaction on the part of many viewers was justified by cries of entrapment, a liberal media bias against a law-and-order official, etc.
This wasn't the first time a messenger was blamed for the message.
The same negative anti-media reaction took place when former U.S. President Richard Nixon was forced to resign from office for engaging in illegal activities while in the White House.
To see how this came about, rent the Academy Award winning feature-length film, All the President's Men. This film represents an important piece of U.S. history presented in a dramatic way. It also illustrates how two tenacious reporters faced down major high-level opposition to expose wrongdoing.
Eventually, this U.S. president had to resign. The reporters involved kept the identity of "Deep Throat," the inside informer involved, secret for several decades.
Audiences also like to hear about things that are new and that generate excitement.
This is why mystery, sex, fear, violence, and horror do so well at the box office.
It also explains why we see so many car chases, explosions, and general instances of mayhem in our films and TV programs.
Such things stir our adrenaline and involve us emotionally. In short, they hold our attention.
This, of course, brings up the possibility of exploitation, presenting things that appeal to elements of human nature that aren't the most positive. Appealing to prejudices, fears, or even concealed hate are examples.
Sometimes a rather blurry line exists between honestly presenting ideas and stories and unduly emphasizing elements such as sex and violence just for the sake of grabbing and holding an audience.
Beyond a certain point, audiences will sense they're being exploited and manipulated, and resent it.
And, keep in mind, the content of a production, good or bad, tends to rub off on the reputations of those who produce it -- and even the sponsors who support it.
With this general background out of the way, we can now turn to the production sequence.
But first, here's some required reading for this section.
Note the first of the Word Squares below.
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