Digital Doomsday? Reviews

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Considering that Dec 21 may be the end of everything, let's talk about the Apocalypse. Not the end of human existence, mind you. That will come soon enough. Rather, the Armageddon that some seem to predict for traditional linear TV in the wake of over-the-top options and the proliferation of ancillary screens. It's true that ad dollars will increasingly flow to these alternatives, especially as Madison Avenue starts to put a higher value on micro-targeting and precise viewer measurement in the coming months and years. But to paraphrase Monty Python, linear's not dead yet. Not by a long shot. It's just that the dynamics are changing. As ex- News Corp exec and former Yahoo! CEO Ross Levinsohn predicted Tues at the HRTS luncheon in L.A., linear ratings could get “shredded” in the next 5 years as more money flows to online content outlets. To be sure, it's almost certain that as viewing options on TV and online continue to multiply, fewer viewers will gather around any one show or network. Remember the long tail? After all, many TV shows considered “hits” today would have been failures 20 years ago when the TV ratings bar was much higher. But then again, shows today generally target more niche audiences than 20 years ago–and that can be more attractive for certain advertisers. The Internet takes such targeting to the extreme, and then offers global scale that most cable networks can't match. Sure, much of the extra ad money now flowing to online outlets is additive to the TV spend. But at some point, a tipping point will probably occur. And when it does, TV content owners need to have alternative business models, authentication strategies, brand integration schemes and yes, partnerships with online outlets firmly in place. It's not doomsday yet. And TV can evolve its way out of danger. But it will require considerable finesse. – MG

“The Great Pretender,” Sat, 10a, Investigation Discovery. An amazing story, well told. An immigrant comes to the U.S. as an exchange student, fakes his way across country, 'becomes' a British aristocrat, a Rockefeller and perhaps a murderer. — In deference to the holiday, this trio of TV Guide Network specials largely is family-friendly. Clips in “The 25 Most Hilarious Holiday TV Moments” (Mon, 1p) are short, so there's plenty of talk about humor, yet few examples of it. Better is “The 25 Most Heartwarming Holiday TV Moments,” (Mon, 2p), which starts slowly, but improves with mentions of “The West Wing,” “ER” and others. “The Cast of A Christmas Story: Where Are They Now?” (Tues, 10a) is best and cable relevant. The '83 theatrical became iconic in the 90s when TBS ran it ad nauseum on Christmas. Most of the cast returns, and you get inside dope on the tongue-sticking-to-the-flagpole scene. — “The Year in Pup Culture,” Sat, 9p, Animal Planet. This enjoyable spoof of countdown shows loads the screen with cute canines recreating highlights from Hollywood, sports, music and news. Enjoy costumed media hounds spoofing HBO's “Game of Bones,” TLC's “Honey Bow-Wow” and of course, films from the Whine-stein brothers. — Notable: “The Hobbit” star Martin Freeman guests on “The Graham Norton Show” (Sat, 10p, BBCA). – Seth Arenstein

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