The Wire writer David Simon says advertising kills good TV and ratings are outdated


Writer of the acclaimed US drama, The Wire has said that the need for advertising is killing TV.

David Simon was speaking at a Edinburgh International TV Festival event hosted by Charlie Brooker.

He said: “Television as a medium, in terms of being literate and telling stories, has short-changed itself since its inception.

“That is because of advertising.”

He added: “Only when television managed to liberate itself from the economic construct of advertising was there a real emancipation of story.

“American television up until the point of premium cable was about the interruptions every 13 minutes to sell you cars and jeans and whatever else.”

“You had to bring the most number of eyeballs to that show and that meant dumbing down and making plots simple, gratifying people within the hour.”

He said they achieved this through the use of sex and “more stuff that blows up”.

However subscription channel HBO bought Simon’s The Wire, allowing him to air his show for 58 minutes without any interruptions. Also they allowed him to develop his show without worrying if he was capturing a maximum audience, thus allowing him to concentrate on making a darn good TV show.

“I don’t need everyone to watch,” he said.

“If you want to do your laundry and watch The Wire, or if you leave the room or carry on a conversation, I’m going to lose you.

“I did lose those people and it was ok.

“HBO did not need the maximum number of eyeballs in every show.”

He added: “If everybody has to watch a show then it can’t really say anything.

“At some point you have to believe the story, not believe in the audience.”

Simon also made the point that ratings are now an outdated method of measuring a shows popularity saying:

“In the fifth season we got the worst ratings ever and more people were watching the show,” Simon said.

“Nobody was tuning in to watch the premiere on a Sunday night.

“They were getting it on demand or they were waiting for the dvds or they were getting it illegally off the bit torrent sites on the web.

“HBO came to the conclusion ratings no longer mattered. TV had become, at this level, a lending library. How you measure the impact of the show is a hard thing to do,” he said.