ABC and Shondaland : continuity and change in post-network broadcasting’s online audience strategies




McTiernan, Emily

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This thesis traces the evolution of broadcasting in the post-network era by looking at ABC and Shondaland’s online audience strategies in the mid-2000s and 2010s. Through this examination, I assess the diverse industry motivations driving how broadcasting dealt with a changing media landscape at different historical moments. This thesis demonstrates how broadcast television used new media strategies to encourage traditional broadcast modes of consumption during a time of dramatic upheaval for both the industry and its audiences. Broadcasters publicly framed their audience in ways that represented their desire to protect their legacy business model. Their online audience strategies, including online content distribution and second-screen engagement, were adopted incrementally and only when necessary to retain their audiences, while being used to support traditional practices and normative audience segments. Online content distribution was framed as a way to protect their industry relationships with advertisers and shareholders while second-screen experiences were used to direct audiences back to linear, live viewing. In doing so, these strategies ultimately revolved around promoting economically valuable viewing behaviors and “quality” audiences. This thesis enriches media industries and television studies scholarship by providing a larger historical context regarding how legacy broadcast networks continually repositioned their audience to sustain continuity of traditional broadcast practices and remain dominant in the larger media landscape for as long as possible.


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