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Dan Rather on Mark Cuban's island.
March 8, 2011 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Dan Rather is doing valuable journalism on a subscription cable channel of 20 million households, on a show whose ratings Mark Cuban will not reveal to him, on a show bracketed by pro-wrestling and Girls Gone Wild -- and he loves it. A profile of Dan Rather by Jim Rendon in Mother Jones. (via)
posted by shadytrees (32 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
What a voice!
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 1:53 PM on March 8, 2011


I don't understand articles like this. How many cable subscribers don't have PVRs nowadays? Lead-in? Lead-out? Seriously? Its 2011. I don't even know what networks the shows I love are on. Just the day they air. I was recently surprised to find out that Conan is on TBS and that Robot Chicken isn't on Comedy Central.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:07 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't understand articles like this. How many cable subscribers don't have PVRs nowadays?
~Raises hand.
It's just tv. If I'm not interested enough to watch a show when it airs, I'm likely not going to make time to watch the recording later.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:22 PM on March 8, 2011


The numbers are fuzzy because cable companies won't release hard numbers about their subscribers, but apparently cable subscribers are around 60% of the general population, and DVRs are about 35% of the general population. So, the answer is, a little fewer than half of cable subscribers don't have PVRs.
posted by hippybear at 2:26 PM on March 8, 2011


I don't understand articles like this. How many cable subscribers don't have PVRs nowadays? Lead-in? Lead-out? Seriously?

I work in television. Your experience isn't typical, yet. Headed there, but lead-ins, schedule changes and competition in the timeslot still has a big effect on ratings. And a lot of viewers don't specifically plan on watching a particular show-- plenty of traffic is still generated by "aww, show's over. Well, the next one looks interesting too."

Topic matters, too. Investigative journalism has more interest from the relatively affluent, who are more likely to have a DVR. But it also skews older, and the older you are the less likely you are to have a DVR or use it a lot if you do.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:27 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Last night when driving home from work I thought this anecdote from a profile of the White House's new Social Secretary, Jeremy Bernard, on NPR's All Things Considered was wonderful:
"[Hollywood and Broadway producer Scott] Sanders remembers a snowy day in Nashua, N.H., where the two of them were going door to door asking primary voters to support Barack Obama.

'At the little diner we went to have lunch, Dan Rather was getting out of his car and walking down the sidewalk to come and have lunch in there alone, and I remember how excited we were. This is Jeremy, who has met presidents, and there we both were, almost pinching ourselves — "Oh my god, there's Dan Rather. We're going to meet Dan Rather!"'"
posted by ericb at 2:27 PM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't understand articles like this. How many cable subscribers don't have PVRs nowadays?

My 13 year old self would be horrified with our current setup. It's downright prehistoric.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:32 PM on March 8, 2011


I sure wish my cable company would get with the effin' program and get HDNet. :(

Either that or I wish I could somehow have copies of the show land in my lap every so often.
posted by wierdo at 2:40 PM on March 8, 2011


I don't understand articles like this. How many cable subscribers don't have PVRs nowadays?

Who needs a PVR when there's BitTorrent?
posted by explosion at 2:45 PM on March 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


I sure wish my cable company would get with the effin' program and get HDNet. :(

I had HDNet when I lived in Austin but they dropped it. Then I moved to another city that doesn't have it. Rather's show was rather (heh) good but it was surround by crappy shows. My current cable co recently said they weren't getting HDNet or Al Jazeera English.

But I wonder if the rumors of Cuban giving Charlie Sheen a show might change that and make more cable systems want to carry the channel.
posted by birdherder at 2:51 PM on March 8, 2011


HDNet keeps the show updated pretty regulary on on demand if you haven't checked it out yet. I generally enjoy the show though it can be a bit repetetive at times. Of course, I have always like Rather, quirks and all.

I have to hand it to Mark Cuban, if anything he elicits a response from his audience. I see very little difference between network sitcoms and network news, both are bland entertainment at best, but there sure is a wide gulf between Dan Rather and Girls Gone Wild.
posted by roquetuen at 3:00 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't understand articles like this. How many cable subscribers don't have PVRs nowadays?

Have you met people's parents?

You might want to sit down: your relationship to new technology - that of an active member of an online community who (apparently) feels comfortable making aggresive comments on technology - is probably not the same as everyone else's.
posted by regicide is good for you at 3:01 PM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Cuban is also behind Sharesleuth, a website that digs up dirt on companies, and which he funds by shorting the stock of said companies—a model that flies in the face of traditional journalistic ethics.

Um, I'm not a lawyer, but isn't this illegal?
posted by marsha56 at 3:03 PM on March 8, 2011


I've always thought Rather was a good journalist... but I've also heard and read a lot to make me dislike him personally. Still, it's inspiring to watch a 79 year old man still put in as much work as he does. Also, my dad really likes this show.
posted by evilcolonel at 3:05 PM on March 8, 2011


>> Cuban is also behind Sharesleuth, a website that digs up dirt on companies, and which he funds by shorting the stock of said companies—a model that flies in the face of traditional journalistic ethics.

> Um, I'm not a lawyer, but isn't this illegal?


Here's a 2006 article that delves into this very issue.

The answer was, of course, maybe? I don't know if it's changed in the last few years.
posted by m@f at 3:14 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nice article, though, gosh, this PVR derail is fascinating.

Not sure what there is to dislike about Rather. What sticks in your craw, evilcolonel? Not asking critically, just curious.
posted by maxwelton at 3:17 PM on March 8, 2011


Not sure what there is to dislike about Rather. What sticks in your craw, evilcolonel? Not asking critically, just curious.

From here:

The events depicted in the movie Broadcast News are thought to closely parallel those of CBS' downsizing; Rather is thought by many to be the model for the part played by Jack Nicholson, the anchor whose own astronomical salary was deemed sacrosanct as the little people were let go.

Also, while I greatly admired Rather during the Nixon and Vietnam era, I think later on he began to suck up to power and to cheerlead some of America's later military bellicosity, especially right after 9/11.

(commenting here just for myself, not trying to put words in evilcolonel's mouth.)
posted by marsha56 at 3:25 PM on March 8, 2011


marsha56: "Um, I'm not a lawyer, but isn't this illegal?"

I don't think doing research before investing is illegal, and the reporters aren't holding a stake:
Full disclosure
In certain instances, the majority partner of Sharesleuth.com is going to make personal investments based on information we uncover. Those investments will be fully disclosed, so that readers can evaluate any potential conflicts of interest.The reporters and editors , however, will maintain policies of not holding individual securities, and we will report Sharesleuth.com stories no differently than we have others throughout our careers.
posted by mullingitover at 3:38 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you met people's parents?

Lots. They all have DVRS. This isn't 1999 nor am I discussing Boxee or GoogleTV. Or setting up automatic torrent downloads. Lets not make DVRs this exotic new technology. They're all price competitive. I think mine adds like 5 dollars to my overall bill. My two room install required one. They all have these super-simple dumbed down interfaces that makes Steve Jobs green with envy. Heck, they're easier to use than the old coax boxes with their user hostile remotes.

Some providers require them for advanced features or even on demand. Considering Blockbuster is folding, I suspect the numbers are pretty high and the mythical "I just got me an old TV and a DVD player" types are dying. People are doing on-demand, DVR'ing, etc. A lot of the handwringing over lead-ins sounds like bunk to me. We saw this when Conan lost his show due to poor ratings. Its not lead-ins or the lack of Doritoes endorsements, its that niche products cater to niche audiences. Wiki to the rescue:

In the United States, DVRs were used by 32 percent of all TV households in 2009, and 38 percent by 2010, with viewership among 18 to 40 year-olds 40 percent higher in homes that have them

So 40 percent of homes with young-ish people. That's homes in general. HDNet is an HD cable/sat channel so there's a barrier to entry there. I bet its much, much higher for those with HD via sat or cable.

Sorry, but I'm not buying the convention wisdom of "Poor me, I have a poor lead in on an obscure channel." That stuff doesn't matter as much as before and in a couple of years probably won't matter at all. I see articles like this as being more the difficulty in determining ratings in the post-TV age. What's next? How the gas crisis is causing more vapor lock than usual in 1954 Packards?
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:53 PM on March 8, 2011


"Not sure what there is to dislike about Rather."

The pun "rather biased" has become a catchphrase used frequently by those who believe he is.

carry on
posted by notned at 3:54 PM on March 8, 2011


You pay to record television shows? That's nice.
posted by ardgedee at 3:58 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, the DVR collects dust and is primarily used by the gf. I torrent what I like and watch either via the boxee, the htpc, or via the slingbox. I don't expect those in most homes. But DVR? Yeah, I do.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:59 PM on March 8, 2011


If DVR household penetration was 38% last year, and you expect them in "most" homes, then you're doing it wrong.
posted by hippybear at 4:11 PM on March 8, 2011


Looks like the Frequency is Boobs!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:11 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Again, thats in homes in general. HDNet isn't an over the air network channel. To even get it you need HD from a sat/cable provider. The percentage of DVR owners in that segment must be a lot higher than the general population. So the people who can ever watch this show on HDNet probably have DVRs.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:13 PM on March 8, 2011


Again, I have deep respect for what Rather the reporter has accomplished. But for an excellent inside look at network news in the 80s, read "Prime Times, Bad Times" by former CBS News president Ed Joyce, who was forced to make severe cuts while the salaries of the anchors and star correspondents ate up an increasingly bigger piece of the remaining pie... only to get maneuvered out of his job by Rather, at least according to his account. On the other hand, there's two sides to every story.
posted by evilcolonel at 4:41 PM on March 8, 2011


I know a ton of people who have DVRs but primarily watch content live. I mean, you basically always get a DVR now from your cable/phone/satellite/whatever provider, but that doesn't mean people aggressively timeshift.

Having a DVR != timeshift. I used to write code for DVRs, and spent a lot of time looking at logs and usage data. It's amazing how many people use them as glorified TV Guides (meaning they use the Program Guide and thats it).
posted by wildcrdj at 4:43 PM on March 8, 2011


Well, hurray for Dan Rather, I'm glad he landed in a good place. But really, hurray for Mark Cuban, we need about 30 or 40 more like him.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:51 PM on March 8, 2011


I'm in the "have no idea where or when the TV shows I watch are actually on" camp. I just flip to the Recorded Programs screen on the DVR and if there's something recorded to watch, I watch it. For instance, I watch Big Bang Theory but couldn't tell you which network it's on without Googling it and don't know what day it's on or what other programs are on before or after it. The only things that I ever watch live are sports.
posted by octothorpe at 4:57 PM on March 8, 2011


"I love doing news. I'd go door to door telling people the news," Rather says. "I don't know how long I have, but I honestly believe I can keep doing this for quite a while."

Lived a newsman, will die loving it, cares about truth. What's not to love about him?
posted by jaduncan at 6:00 PM on March 8, 2011


Dan Rather started out as a good journalist (except for explaining the Zapruder film totally wrong in 1963). His Vietnam and late sixties Afghanistan coverage was superb. Somewhere along the way, he became a major a-hole. I have not witnessed any change yet.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 7:32 PM on March 8, 2011


marsha56: "Um, I'm not a lawyer, but isn't this illegal?"

I can't see why it would be. A good investor researches his companies. Shorting is just investing in a predicated downfall. If Cuban isn't getting insider information, he can go nuts.
posted by chairface at 1:42 PM on March 9, 2011


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