OJ Simpson’s TV moment is never going to be replicated

OJ Simpson’s TV moment is never going to be replicated
Pls share this post


Listen to this article
OJ Simpson
A huge audience tuned in live to watch the LA police chase of OJ Simpson in his Ford Bronco.

  • OJ Simpson’s white Bronco chase and subsequent murder trial riveted America.
  • It’s hard to convey just how many people watched this stuff live: Think Super Bowl audiences.
  • It seems impossible to imagine another story that we’ll all watch together — because now we all watch different things.

OJ Simpson brought America together.

Which is a weird thing to say about a man credibly accused of a vicious double murder.

But also a true thing: In 1994, when Simpson fled police in his white Bronco, 95 million people watched the slow-motion chase on TV, in real time. A year later, an astonishing 150 million people — more than the biggest Super Bowl audience — tuned in live to watch a jury hand down a not-guilty verdict.

We’re never going to see anything like that again.

Which you kind of know intuitively because you’re reading this on the internet: tech that allows people around the world to consume news and information about everything. Which means people around the world are consuming news and information about … everything. Instead of one single thing.

READ ALSO  Elon Musk says Donald Trump didn't ask for money when their paths crossed during a breakfast meeting at a friend's house

But back in the early 1990s, the internet was still a curiosity, accessed by a small subset of tech-savvy people on dial-up modems. In 1994, AOL, the service that popularized the “World Wide Web,” had a little more than a million subscribers.

And TV was truly a mass medium. Not just because it reached so many people, but because it showed so many of them the same thing. All three major broadcast networks — Rupert Murdoch’s Fox was still an upstart at the time — broke into their programming to carry Simpson’s chase live. And for the next year the Simpson case was a national, inescapable story, which made micro-celebrities out of people like Kato Kalein and Lance Ito.

A screenshot of ABC's live coverage of OJ Simpson's famous slow-speed chase
All three major networks at the time carried live coverage of the OJ Simpson car chase.

TV’s subsequent decline is well-documented. (Today, when my editor told me, via Slack, that Simpson had died, it never even occurred to me to see how TV was covering it — even though there are giant screens with 24/7 cable news channels all around our newsroom.)

READ ALSO  Justin King Backs £50m Fund to Invest in Hospitality Firms

And the notion that we’re never getting a TV event like the Simpson affair is not a new one, either. Here’s a 2016 headline from Vanity Fair: “5 Reasons Why We’ll Never See Anything Like the O.J. Simpson Verdict Again.”

Now even that eight-year-old piece, from the excellent Joanna Robinson, seems sepia-toned. Instead of watching the verdict on TV, Robinson argued, reasonably, we “would be hunched over personal devices checking Twitter or Facebook or watching some kind of streaming video for the latest update.”

But that assumption still started with the idea that we would all be paying attention to the same thing, just on different screens. That’s just not the case anymore.

Digital media can certainly focus a lot of people’s attention on one thing, but it can’t compel everyone to watch one thing. There will always be something else interesting a swipe away.

Or more accurately, something interesting to you, but not the person sitting next to you. Which is why names like Addison Rae or KSI can be enormously important to tens of millions of people and totally unknown to the rest of the world.

READ ALSO  Elon Musk says he's raising Tesla engineer salaries because OpenAI has been aggressively poaching them with massive paydays

One thing that’s not going away, by the way? True-crime stories like Simpson’s. Americans have devoured them forever.

They’re still big today. But when people consume them now, they’re either getting to them via outlets like TikTok, which by design is meant to flick you from one story to another; or via deep-dive-but-niche forms like podcasts and streaming docs.

For instance: Serial, the breakout podcast hit, had 3.4 million downloads per episode. HBO’s “The Jinx” reached less than a million people per airing.

OK. Enough history from me. Now I’m going to go stream June 17th, 1994 — ESPN’s documentary about the Simpson chase. It’s supposed to be great. I’ve never seen it before — too many other things to watch.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Source



Pls share this post
Previous articleAI is coming for Wall Street: Banks are reportedly weighing cutting analyst hiring by two-thirds
Next articleSony just announced its bass-heavy ULT Wear headphones: Our review