Friday, October 12, 2012

Broadcast And Cable Viewership Declining

Not that TV viewership is in a death spiral, but it should be noted that TV viewing through the television set is declining.  And while the older generation continues to watch at the same levels, it is the younger generations that are bypassing television for other platform consumption.  The Wall Street Journal notes that "The viewing slump suggests traditional television is being hurt by intensifying competition from online video outlets such as Google Inc's YouTube and Netflix Inc."  But according to the networks, the news isn't all that gloomy.  They believe that there is still DVR viewing that will improve these disappointing figures.

For content creators, it doesn't mean that viewers don't like what you are developing, just that they have found alternative platforms to use to watch.  Why watch AMC Network's premiere of Breaking Bad when you can watch it at your convenience at a later time through your cheaper Netflix subscription.  Except for live programming such as sports, there is less and less desire to watch at the premiere date.  Rather consumers can decide at any later point when they wish to watch and where and how to view it.

Should broadcast and cable be worried about this viewership drop.  For some, perhaps.  "Some big-name cable channels have also experienced sharp declines in the 18-49 demographic, with a 41% decline at MTV and a 27% drop at Comedy Central, both owned by Viacom Inc., and a 13% drop at News Corp's FX. Meanwhile, cable news channels like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC have drawn larger audiences as the presidential election approaches in November."  Live breaking news encourages television viewership, but shows like South Park or The Daily Show are just as easily watched away from the television.

And as radio changed as television became more rooted in the home, so too must television programming change as the web takes more of an audience.  Perhaps it means bringing back live drama and sitcom TV where the possibility of "an anything can happen" approach makes folks want to watch.  Or television has to build up some exclusivity of its content that limits how people can watch.  As web programming moves from more short form to long form shows, the threat to broadcast and cable will only get greater.

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