So I was channel hopping through the multitude of so called ‘networks’ on my cable box and stopped here and there on what used to be my favorite channels. And, before I continue, why do they call themselves a network? They aren’t…they are ONE channel carried on cable and satellite. A network would be many stations broadcasting some or all of the channel’s programming…then they would be a network. I digress.
When I was somewhat younger, MTV would have been my channel of choice. 24 hours of music bliss. Ah, those were the days. I look at MTV now and wonder where the ‘music’ is in ‘Music Television.’ Even VH-1, which used to mean Video Hits-One, has very little in the way of video hits unless you call the ‘I Love the <insert decade here>’ series a ‘video hit’. I don’t.
During the ‘90s, the Sci-Fi channel was always on my television or, before my cable company offered it, on my VCR (remember them?) via tapes that my father would send me. Back then, Sci-Fi actually did show science fiction oriented programming. Now, thanks to one woman named Bonnie Hammer, there’s very little science fiction on the channel. She’s managed to turn into a Spike TV clone. Hell, there was more SF on Spike for a while than on the Sci-Fi channel. Now that Battlestar Galactica is done and Stargate SG-1 is done, there is little reason to even check its listings. Instead of great SF television or even mediocre SF television, we get junk like WWE wrestling (or whatever ‘league’ it is) or some abysmal ‘SF’ themed game show. Cheap programming like the haunted house shows or a slate of really awful weather related disaster movies seem to fill up the programming day.
Then there is G4. G4 started out as a video game oriented channel. While its target audience was the 15 year old boy, it did have a few worthwhile shows. Icons was one. Icons would focus on a person, console, game or game character and then present the history of the subject. the Playground (I forget the real name) featured video game reviews by people who made and played the games. There was a weekly news program that, while mostly fluff and hosted by pretty people, was sometimes informative and always entertaining. Today, this channel has one gaming related program left and G4 didn’t even create it. X-Play is the only program to survive the Tech TV merger fiasco. Tech TV was a technology oriented channel that started out as ZD-TV. Its programming ranged from tech talk shows to how to shows as well as news and a program called the Screen Savers which was loaded with very useful information and interviews with tech people. Comcast, who owns G4, purchased Tech TV from Paul Allen and ‘merged’ the two channels. That merger lasted for just a few months. In reality, Comcast wanted the channel slot that Tech TV had since Tech TV was, potentially, seen in 40 million homes while G4 was cleared for less then 10 million. Quite a boost.
Even venerable channels like the Weather Channel are moving away from the formula that made them popular-all weather news, in this case-to more general channels. Weather now has quite a few full length programs.
Sadly, the days of specialty programming on cable seem to be numbered. I realize that things change and time marches on and these channels must answer to some very powerful people: the advertisers. If only there were a mechanism where by people could cheaply produce and distribute their own specialty programming where ten thousand people would be BIG…