We now conclude our broadcast day

MinnPost’s David Brauer has a report today on a media panel he participated on regarding the future of the media in its various forms and one of the most fascinating tidbits was the notion of national networks “going dark” during certain dayparts.

(KARE executive producer Lonnie)Hartley noted that NBC is considering not programming Saturday nights. That could toss the time back to local affiliates — who themselves are short on cash and aren’t quite sure what they’d put there.

Obviously, syndicated shows are an option but they cost money. KARE wouldn’t have to share ad dollars with the networks, but they might reap less from the syndie shows’ lower ratings.

It’s an intriguing possibility because it’s one possible outcome of the media recession that few seem to be considering — don’t spend money broadcasting/publishing during those periods when there’s no — or little — audience.

Crazy? Work with me here. It wasn’t that long ago, whippersnappers, when TV stations signed off at midnight and then signed back on at dawn. How many people remember test patterns? They’re the last remnants of non-24-hour service.


In the ’80s, more stations started staying on the air around the clock. And few seem to be asking whether that makes monetary sense. Suppose NBC did give back Saturday night to the affiliates and suppose the affiliates simply shut the station off? So what? They won’t lose advertising revenue; Saturday is the smallest audience of the week and, besides, people will still watch you when you resume broadcasting and have something worth watching. The 10 PM news? Come on, have you watched Saturday night local news?

I don’t stop at TV. What if radio did the same thing? It wasn’t too many years ago I ran a small “daytimer” radio station which was required to go off the air at sundown. Granted , in the dead of winter, it hurt to put the “we now conclude our broadcast day” announcement on at 4:15 in the afternoon. But there’s not a lot of money to be made in night-time radio.

Newspapers? They’ll probably be the first to stop at certain times. In fact, today the buzz in Detroit is both newspapers there will stop home delivery on certain days of the week.

There isn’t a media company in America that isn’t having big discussions about cutting expenses these days. But what if — what if? — one of the realities is we’re not really the 24/7 society we thought we were?

(Aside: Not surprisingly, there’s a Web site that hosts several videos of station sign-offs)