Dog TV: when you’re sitting in front of the tube, nobody knows you’re a dog
As someone who grew up in the long-ago world of three television networks, and who remembers how wonderful it was when our viewing universe expanded with PBS, and those fabulous UHF stations that broadcast reruns, sports, and the world’s worst local shows.
And then came the cable explosion, which means that, at any given time, I can be watching House reruns, or Property Virgins, or Morgan Freeman on The Wormhole, or Hitler’s Henchmen, or a replay of a 1981 Celtics game (go, Larry Bird), or The Rachel Maddow Show, or Toddlers and Tiaras, or Downton Abbey, or any one of a plethora of shows on all sorts of mainstream and niche channels.
Hurray for Hollywood (and beyond), alright!
But in looking across the TV spectrum, as rich and varied as it is, some savvy entrepreneurs noticed that there was something missing, a demographic that’s entirely underserved.
That would be our canine population.
Now, thanks to Gilad Neumann and his pals, man’s best friend is no longer
vox bark clamantis in deserto. While the unarticulated needs and desires for entertainment on the part of our pups may have been as a dog whistle to most of us, some ears were capable of hearing their arfs.
Presenting Dog TV.
“Veterinary associations like the Humane Society and the ASPCA have been recommending for dog owners to leave the TV or radio on when they leave their dog home alone for many hours,” says Neumann, Dog TV’s founder and chief executive officer. However, “not every video that you leave your dog with is appropriate,” he says. “[Anything that contains] fireworks or gunfire could scare your dog and create more stress than no TV.” Dog TV’s programming, on the other hand, is meant to soothe your dog’s abandonment anxiety—and spare your furniture—while he or she is alone. (Source: Business Week.)
So far it’s being test marketed in San Diego, where the pups have all the luck. You’d think they’d have focused on areas where there’s lousy weather, and where dogs, like most humans, are sensible enough to just stay in out of the sleet and snow. But by year’s end – hopefully in time for the gifting season – it hopes to go national. For $4.99 a month, I believe I know what I’ll be getting my dog nephew Jack next Christmas. (Too bad I already got him his birthday present. Shhhh. Don’t tell him. I want him to be surprised: a navy blue and white Thundershirt.)
DOGTV can get away with this low-low price because:
The content is relatively cheap to produce: Videos are shot largely in San Diego and Israel, canine actors don’t need to be paid, there are no elaborate sets, and the veterinarian-approved music is written and performed in-house.
Dog TV has been running focus groups for dogs, so there’ll be no barking. Which pretty much leaves out old black and white Lassies and Rin Tin Tins.
Short segments play throughout the day and are designed to alternately soothe and stimulate the viewer.
And, by the way, the reason there are no lengthy dog-oriented sitcoms, police dog shoes, or dogudramas is not because dogs couldn’t follow the plot. It’s that the creators don’t want the dogs to get hooked. Or, I suppose, upset. How old would your dog have to be before you’d allow him to watch Old Yeller without a grownup with him? (Sniff, sniff.)
The channel’s creators are planning to attract advertising, but aren’t yet sure how to integrate it into the programming. “The advertising is mostly going to be on our digital [platforms], because we know it’s difficult to advertise on the channel for the dogs because it’s not really effective.”
Well, I’m sure the geniuses who figured out how to subliminally market to infants will be able to crack the code on making sure your dog is “brand aware” when it comes to dog chews, kibble, and treats. I can just see the whining dogs at the check-out counter at PetCo., straining at the leash to get Mommy and Daddy to throw in the pricey antler horn they saw advertised.
Naturally, I had to pad on over to DOGTV and take a look for myself.
DOGTV’s 24/7 programing helps stimulate, entertain, relax and habituate dogs with shows that expose them to various movements, sounds, objects, experiences and behavior patterns, all from a dog’s point of view.
As with any self-respecting website, there’s an FAQ which assures us that dogs do, indeed, watch TV, especially since the advent of the flat screen. (Discerning creatures, aren’t they?) They also tell us that, unlike the warnings about not making the TV your kids’ babysitter, DOGTV “is designed as the perfect babysitter for dogs who have to stay home alone.” The content, by the way, is tuned to doggy vision and hearing. (Hey, if they could get smell in there, you wouldn’t be able to drag your dog away from it.)
There are three types of content shown in the viewing day: relaxation, stimulation, and exposure (to habituate your dog to certain things, like the mailman, I guess).
I rather like the relaxation teaser…
I am going to conduct my own bit of market research here, and will be showing this to Jack next time I see him. Maybe he’ll give it two paws up, or a couple of arfs!
Who said television is a wasteland?