American entertainment has always been in thrall to paradox, and the more familiar the content is, the more likely it will be enriched by a certain strain of absurdity.
C-3P0 is a protocol droid fluent in “more than six million forms of communication,” and yet upon booting up every day, he chooses even-fussier-than-usual-Niles-Crane as his default setting. The Fonz was the coolest guy in Milwaukee, but he was scared of liver and spent much of his time holding court in a diner toilet (which he called his “office”). And since appearing in his first Looney Tunes short 70 years ago, Wile E. Coyote has demonstrated an unwavering brand loyalty to the Acme Corporation, spending untold millions on its catastrophically malfunctioning products in the pursuit of a scrawny, largely meatless bird.
These self-defeating behaviors serve as a pretty nifty metaphor for the TV industry’s adamantine refusal to move beyond a ratings currency that is forever blowing up in its face. The compromised C3 metric and the slower-burning fuse of C7 have done next to nothing to offset the ravages of commercial avoidance, offering about as much protection from ratings erosion as an umbrella provides in the shadow of an earthbound boulder.
Because the networks would like investors to continue buying into the fantasy that the TV business is presided over by a clutch of all-knowing super geniuses calling the shots from the high chaparral of Los Angeles, they’d prefer that the C3/C7 data be kept under wraps. But where’s the fun in that?
For the fifth straight year, Ad Age has managed to get its grubby meat hooks on the fall season’s first batch of commercial deliveries, and while the networks persist in trafficking in their face-saving time-shifted data, all the misdirection in the world won’t spare them from another year of getting accordioned by commercial avoidance and shoddy measurement. The malfunctioning rocket sled is headed straight for the trompe-l'œil railway tunnel, and that mesa wall looks awfully ouch-y.