Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cable Viewing Trending Like Broadcast

The most notable thing about history is that it tends to repeat itself, whether in political conflict, economic, and yes even in media. It is a common pattern, one that seems to surprise us every time it occurs. These changes occur, both in good and bad ways, but inevitably they always happen. Nothing is constant and human patterns tend to repeat themselves.

In the media world, we have watched as technological change has caused changes in viewing pattens, from radio to TV, TV, to cable, and cable to online. And yet, we seem surprised that the upstart is taking share away from the established media. So it should be no surprise to read that cable viewership is declining and streaming is increasing. "Several factors could explain the downward ratings trend. For one thing, the number of households with DVRs has reached 43 percent, and viewers tend to record broadcast network shows more than they do cable shows. Also more people are watching shows via tablets, smartphones and computers, where Nielsen’s traditional ratings methods have struggled to keep up with changing viewing habits." Count this household as one that has adopted more DVR, on demand, and streaming to its viewing patterns.

My kids watch a ton of their shows either on DVR or on the computer. In fact, they are finding more online only programs that they are preferring to watch and enjoy. For my wife and I, the DVR is our way to watch what we want when we want. As broadcast tends to play once and repeat months later, a lot of broadcast viewing is done on the DVR. The notable exceptions are sports and news. Heck even the award shows are watched on a delayed DVR basis. Cable shows on the other hand repeat and repeat and repeat. There is less of a desire to schedule to watch and they become filler until a better choice is found. And with on demand and streaming services like Netflix, it is easier to watch a movie any time of day.

The only thing that doesn't change is the time available to watch shows. With so many alternative viewing choices, the long tail of programming choices gets longer and longer. It chips away at the bigger networks just as cable stripped viewers from broadcast. The DVR, on demand, and web streaming have changed how we as viewers watch our shows. Linear becomes less relevant and too many linear channels only continues to dilute the ratings.

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