The writers strike enabled TV viewers to find new programming to replace the shows they normally watched on broadcast. As these new shows became favored by viewers, they were added to their Tivo list. And as viewers come to their TV every evening to be entertained, they prefer the control and choice from DVR and VOD to pick and choose exactly what they want to watch when they want to watch it.
It now becomes far easier to watch a show on my schedule. Too tired to stay up and watch SNL, watch it the next day or the day after. Putting the kids to bed at 8; watch American Idol or Survivor later in the evening when they are in bed and the house is quiet. The prime time schedule, like the Fall being the time for new seasons to start, is a thing of the past. It's all open for the taking.
And something else I've learned from being a DVR/Tivo user, I am hard pressed to tell you where that show came from. Yes I see the channel name next to the show, and yes, I see the bug in the lower right hand corner constantly telling me the channel, but I am more connected to the show brand, not the network brand. Now there are some network brands that are the show. Hannah Montana is Disney Channel, and Spongebob is Nick; but others less so.
What doesn't change is quality. A good show needs to be developed and nurtured. Help it to find its audience and grow. Without the commitment to keep producing episodes, good shows will fail before they are given enough time and support to succeed. Removing the constrictions of prime time programming opens the variety of viewing choices available; breaking throught the clutter to reach your audience requires smart programming and smarter marketing people. The competition may have gotten more intense, but good shows can still be made.