Date of Award

2000

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Oscar Gandy

Abstract

Scholars with a keen interest in the globalization of media content have examined trends in international entertainment flows, focusing particular attention on the market structures and business realities which sustain information disparities between the United States and other nations around the globe. However, few scholars have connected the operation of international media markets with the methods by which individuals within transnational media companies obtain knowledge about a foreign market for use in decision-making about activities in that market. This study takes a new approach, utilizing structuration theory by conceptualizing cable networks as knowledgeable, reflexive agents that make decisions within existing market and institutional structures. Using data gathered from trade publications, internal company communications, and indepth interviews, this dissertation describes and analyzes how American cable networks gather information from a new market environment, how they process data into market knowledge, and how this information is ultimately utilized in making decisions about market activities. The data were gathered through qualitative, in-depth interviews with 33 individuals working for seven different U.S. cable networks that have introduced new services in countries throughout Latin America. The qualitative data were supplemented with market data published in trade publications and with information from several cable industry observers. Results suggest that the most important types of market information for U.S. cable executives were data from two quantitative, syndicated market research studies of audience/consumer behavior, which were particularly crucial for cementing financial relationships with advertisers and local cable operators. Executives attempted to compensate for information gaps by accepting these current gaps, by estimating certain numbers, and sometimes by investing in their own market research. Very little of the market information gathered was put to use for internal decision-making regarding programming choices. Instead, audience ratings data were used by executives to build their own market reputation and to differentiate their services from their competitors’. Analysis of market data suggests that cable networks owned by large U.S. media conglomerates have begun to far outpace their Latin American-owned competitors, partially by redefining the standards for market performance. The implications of these trends for structuration theory and media globalization are discussed.

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