Sunday, 5 July 2015

Niche, Alternative TV Programming: the Adult Swim Channel

NB: the channel discussed in this post, and the article it links to, may not be 'adult' in the sense of the type of channel that helped Richard Desmond make his fortune and build a media empire, but does have programming and descriptions of these featuring explicit terms/clips. You can read some key points below, but the article link can only be accessed if you click 'read more'

I've highlighted some key phrases in an extract from the article below. What does this tell us? I've picked out ten points which follow the extract.
Like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell has helped Adult Swim lock in the much-desired 18-to-34-year-old viewership. When ATHF launched in 2000 as Adult Swim’s first all-original programming, it represented a marked a shift in the network’s focus from acquisitions such as Family Guy and anime series Cowboy Bebop. ... But now that brand of weird, unnerving and outsider humour can be seen everywhere from Broad City to Netflix’s BoJack Horseman and FX’s Archer.
“[O]dd humor, strange humor, the type that not everyone gets, has always been around, and it, too, has its value. Often, it grows best in narrow spaces,” New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum wrote in 2012. She cited a handful of then-recent examples from Adult Swim’s roster, like the Eric Andre Show, which was inspired by Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and The Boondocks, where creator Aaron McGruder matched his anime-inspired drawing style to raw social commentary on black America and BET.
That ability to stay socially switched on by embracing creatives that’d been ignore by the mainstream was perhaps best realised with the police brutality episode of Black Dynamite, which took on Ferguson via the vehicle of an animated Blaxploitation comedy. Hip-hop is also another part of Adult Swim’s output. Odd Future have their own show (Loiter Squad); Kanye West has a proposal for a show pending; and there was T-Pain’s 2010 special Freaknik: The Musical – further proof of how Adult Swim has also allowed polarizing black male voices to thrive in the low-risk environment that is late-night TV. The channel has also got into music with an online singles series continuing that idea of embracing outsiders with music from the likes of Radio One guest DJ Flying Lotus (as his alias Captain Murphy) and Chicago thrash metal trio Oozing Wound.
  1. Given the multi-platform habits of younger generations, used to accessing short-form film/video clips, it is proving increasingly difficult for TV channels to attract and retain 'youth' audiences with traditional 30/60-minute programming. Adult Swim's shows tend to be 15 minutes long, and designed to be self-contained: if you miss some episodes of a series it won't really matter, as the storylines or narrative are very loose.
  2. Note the age range cited: 18-34 ... believe or not, that is considered as part of the youth audience - don't fall into the trap of describing 20/30-somethings as 'old'!
  3. Those 18-34s (and tweens, and teens!) are much desired because they spend a high proportion of their income, and are a key market for new brands and products.
  4. Generally you can judge a TV channel's (and specific scheduling slots) by analysing the ads! What age/gender/income range are they aimed at? If you search a little, you can often find a channel's briefing for advertisers which provides statistics on who watches their channel/slots.
  5. There are exceptions (such as Netflix and HBO), which are paid for through individual subscriptions rather than as part of a package. The riskier, often more adult nature of their programming shows what Noam Chomsky argued in his 'propoganda model' of media: that advertisers function as a conservative, censorial force, what Chomsky terms a 'filter' of radical ('counter-hegemonic') content. Adult Swim have created programming highly critical of racist actions by US police, for example.
  6. Primetime slots are less likely to see risky programming; with the largest audiences these are the slots advertisers will pay most for. In the UK, for example, the most expensive advertising slot on commercial television (the BBC doesn't carry ads) is for Coronation Street, which attracts big numbers of young (from tween upwards) and older, male and female (a higher percentage of female, as is traditional for soaps), some ABC1s alongside the larger C2DE audience, and multiple demographics including a large gay following (referred to in the UK context as the 'pink pound').
  7. By contrast, post-watershed and late-night slots offer greater opportunities to take risks, with smaller audences and less need to please so many different demographics - you don't put 'family programming' on post-watershed.
  8. The smaller budgets for non-mainstream channels or programming slots create greater freedom for risk-taking and experimentation: This year the station has more than 30 series, specials and pilots in the works. The vast majority are just 15 minutes long and riff on TV mainstays such as educational shows for kids (Mr Neighbor’s House), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter) and golf championships (Untitled Golf Special). In this bizarre world, Aqua Teen operates like an alternate-universe sitcom – presenting an utterly absurd situation in an otherwise mundane existence, and while refusing to bother with continuity (most shows fail at this anyway), much less an origin story.
  9. The US has long had what the UK has only slowly developed from the 1980s: large numbers of 'niche' (fairly narrow appeal, as opposed to mass audience, 'mainstream' channels like ITV1 or BBC1) channels available through subscription packages ... indeed, many of the cable/digital channels UK viewers can access are US imports. Is globalisation simply a less critical term for cultural imperialism?
  10. Most TV channels demonstrate convergence to some extent: a web presence is expected, perhaps a catch-up, time-shifting service (like the BBCs iPlayer), with extra content and some interaction (carried over to social media too) with the audience expected. Adult Swim do this and also feature music which widens their appeal, and gets their brand seen in a wider range of platforms (e-zines etc).

Article link below the line

Article quoted.

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