Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Research Papers in Economics,
Stockholm University, Department of Economics

No 2010:15: Every Viewer has a Price - On the Differentiation of TV Channels

Jonas Häckner () and Sten Nyberg ()
Additional contact information
Jonas Häckner: Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University, Postal: Department of Economics, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Sten Nyberg: Dept. of Economics, Stockholm University, Postal: Department of Economics, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: This study has three main objectives. First, we develop a realistic framework for studying the incentives to differentiate broadcasting in free-to-air TV markets. Consumers are allowed to vary the amount of time spent in front of the television set depending on preferences over program types (e.g., entertainment versus news), differences in the alternative cost of time and an Hotelling type dimension reflecting i.e., political positioning. Second, since empirical evidence suggest that different consumer segments are priced differently in the market for advertising, we analyze the implications of targeted advertising on the equilibrium level of differentiation. Third, we compare the equilibrium outcome with the socially optimal configuration. When consumers have no preferences over program types, standard Hotelling type results apply. Market forces minimize differentiation while the optimal degree is at an intermediate level. As preferences over program types get stronger the difference between optimal and market outcomes is initially reduced. However, when a large enough number of consumers start flipping between channels in order to avoid the least preferred program type, minimal differentiation suddenly becomes optimal while market forces leads to excessive differentiation. Hence, policies aimed at increasing diversity is beneficial only when viewers care little about program content.

Keywords: Product Differentiation; TV Channels; Advertising

JEL-codes: L32; L82

39 pages, September 3, 2010

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