In the 1988 movie Scrooged, network TV exec Preston Rhinelander (Robert Mitchum) orders his underling Frank Cross (Bill Murray) to start programming television for cats and dogs. Though reluctant, Cross gets the ball rolling. Near the end of the film, Rhinelander’s cats meow excitedly when mice appear on the screen, proving him right.
It’s not as wacky as it sounds. The channel has been in beta in Southern California for six months and subscribers are howling with delight. Naturally, DIRECTV wants to capitalize on that success and is going national with the channel for a measly $4.99 a month, with the first month free.
Anyone who has a dog knows they respond to TV audio, especially the barking sounds of other dogs, howling wolves, and a cat’s meow. But do they really watch television?
It’s not like DIRECTV is expecting to create a new demographic. Doggy jobs and bank accounts would have to come first. The programming on the channel falls into several categories, but most of them cater to the legendary short attention span of canines. Brief segments, designed to give dogs some comfort while their humans are out of the house, is the main concept. But evening programming will center around more traditional content intended to give dogs and their owners some bonding time in front of the tube.
Clearly, it’s an idea whose time has come. So expect other animal programming to follow close on DogTV’s (ahem) heels. But how far can the concept be taken? Cats and dogs can be equally intelligent, and some smarter dogs even seem to be able to discern what’s happening on the two-dimensional TV screen. But it’s not likely that Preston Rhinelander’s dream will come totally true. Cats are too finicky with their viewing. And they just HATE reality TV.
Online debate outside the test area is already heating up, with lots of snark about cynical programming executives leveraging their power and cramming crazy ideas down consumers’ throats. But this concept has true merit. Dog owners are likely to pile on. The cost is low and there’s a free trial period. Who knows? Someday we might even hear them pleading, “Spot! Get on the couch!”
What do you think? Will you be giving DogTV a shot? Leave your comments below and subscribe to the CableTV.com blog for the latest news.