ABC & Wall Street: the financialization of the television audience, from broadcast to streaming
Johnson, Peter Arne
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In the late 20th century, the global economy experienced a radical shift due to widespread deregulation and, subsequently, rapid financialization. Examining archival and contemporary trade magazines and corporate reports, this project considers the interconnections between television audience constructions/ratings and financial institutions amid these structural changes. In chapter one, this thesis starts by charting the pre-history of media financialization and financial stakeholders’ early influence over the radio industry and its antecedent industries (i.e., the telegraph and telephone) between 1800 and 1943. After charting a historical overview of media industries’ relationships to Wall Street, the second chapter details the financialization of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) between 1943 and 1970 and considers the correlation between Nielsen ratings and stock prices. In the third chapter, these theories are brought into the 21st century, examining how media companies like Disney “pitch” their audiences to Wall Street and how financial incentives have led streaming platforms to engage in performative social justice in order to cater to upscale white audiences.