Condensing 41 years of international TV developments into just 41 VideoAge covers made me wonder if I had actually made a mistake and inverted the digits, so that instead of 41, just 14 years had passed.

The most challenging task of putting together this issue has been selecting 41 VideoAge front covers that would best represent all the news and developments in the years that VideoAge has been serving the international content sales and distribution sector.

Indeed, selecting just 41 all-encompassing covers out of the over 300 published over the years (plus hundreds of special editions) has not been an easy editorial task.

Even though our focus is monolithic — to provide a vehicle to facilitate the sale and acquisition of TV content — the topics that this sector encompasses are varied. Indeed, sales and acquisitions depend on the ratings of the originating broadcast, so we have to cover ratings. Then there is the so-called “production value” of a given project; that’s another subject to write about. And what about the A-listers that drive audiences to certain shows? And how could we neglect windowing? Oh, and changing marketplaces are also important, right?

Another important task for us is to inform trade show exhibitors and participants what to expect at each show and to report on what happened. One might wonder why this is useful to the market’s participants seeing as how they were there. Well, yes, they were, but they were mostly stuck in their stands or in meetings, with no time to walk around to see what else went on.

When counting the topics that are directly and indirectly related to the art of buying and selling, we could list at least 15, including co-productions, legal matters, and even traveling. It is emblematic that in 1981, the year that VideoAge was born, the Frequent Flyer program was introduced in the U.S., MTV was launched, and the PC (from IBM) also made its debut.

At one point, in 1990, we started using part of the front cover space for paid ads, a practice that continued when we switched formats in 1995, going from an A4 size to our current tabloid format. Since the ads were mostly for new TV series, the covers also offer a glimpse of how international TV viewers’ tastes have changed over the years.

Well, selecting the 41 covers has not been a total brain-drain. Some were no-brainers, like those with headlines such as: “Webcasting: The New Frontier” (1998), “The Different Ways to Slice VoD” (2004), “A TV Paradox: Ratings Down, Ad Revenues Up” (2005), and “Virtual TV Trade Shows Coming Soon Near you” (2010).

Still, in order to properly depict each of the 41 years with a cover that incorporated the defining moments of the time in which they were produced required a sense of historical responsibility, since, it was with astonishment that I discovered that VideoAge is one of the most quoted TV trade magazines by scholars and academics. As reported in one of our recent twice-a-week digital Water Cooler features, Google Scholar reported that in one instance, VideoAge had been cited 729 times (in addition to many times for other articles). That was really an astonishing finding!

Back to the covers, I really hope that all of us at VideoAge have done a good job selecting them and have been able to represent each year as faithfully and realistically to the actual unfolding events as possible. The curious part is that those 41 years have gone by so fast that I wonder if I didn’t make a mistake and invert the digits, so that instead of 41, just 14 years had passed.

(By Dom Serafini)

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