Saturday, March 30, 2013

People Tune Out Network Television

Jeffrey M. McCall, a communications professor at DePauw University, pens an excellent article about the dramatic decline in network television viewing:
Network broadcast television has been in a downward spiral for years, but the recent disastrous ratings from the sweeps period had to shock even the most hopeful executives of the big four networks. Networks ratings dropped 23 percent compared to a year ago, and all four broadcast networks experienced losses.

Viewers are ditching ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox in droves, giving their eyeballs to cable shows, DVDs, video games and the Internet. Traditional broadcast television just isn’t relevant for most Americans any more.

Cable channels that used to cater to narrow audiences are grabbing for a mass audience. A formerly niche channel, History, is stealing more than 10 million viewers a week with “The Bible.” A&E’s third season debut of “Duck Dynasty” reached almost 9 million, way more than most network fare.

NBC’s ratings drop is the most dramatic, finishing the sweeps in fifth place, even behind the Spanish-language Univision. No NBC show rated in the top 25. No NBC show during February came within a million viewers of PBS’ “Downton Abbey.” NBC’s highest-rated show that month was “Saturday Night Live.” Really weak.
Let's restate that number.  Network television viewing, in one year's time, dropped 23%.

McCall proceeds to write at length about how network television producers have been tone deaf to what people want to watch.  While I think that is undoubtedly true, I believe the bigger factor is the numerous options people have for entertainment when they want that entertainment.  People no longer have to retire to their living rooms from 8 pm to 10 pm to watch network fare. They have other options.

Last year, I got tired of paying $100 plus for satellite television.  I cancelled it and got Hulu at $7.99 a month instead.  While I still have some very basic cable, that's only because I get a cheaper rate on my Internet by doing that.  Meanwhile I watch a lot of shows on my computer, including documentaries and the NCAA tournament.  The only thing I've missed so far are the news networks (CNN, FOXNews, MSNBC, etc.) when trying to follow current news events like election results.  Is that worth $100 a month?  No.

We are quite possibly witnessing the death throes of the major television networks.


Southsider said...

The local "Not" News stations are in the same boat! The weatherpersons have taken over the local news. The weather person has something to say at least 4 times in a half hour, around 6 times if it's a hour 'news' program. Even if we haven't had any weather.
The 'news' broadcast really isn't, do they really think that I, (as a senior citizen) would really go to their web site and click on links for more information?
Especially at 10 or 11 PM?
A few weeks ago I had channel 6 (7pm) on wanting to catch the sports, when it came time for the 'sports' they had something called 60 Seconds Sports! 60 seconds!!! Needless to say the local news is not worth my time anymore.

Flogger said...

I hope they keep Grimm on the air. The Cable charges have become outrageous. I wish I could select a package of my choice of channels, rather than having Comcast select my channels for me. I have lost all interest in Sports since the time we started building stadiums for Mega-Billionaires. So I could do without ESPN, all the other Sports channels.

I grew up in Chicago so we had CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, and WGN. I can't say the content was much better back then but it was all we had. My Grandson cannot be believe we did not have Sponge Bob.

I must say as hookey as they were I miss those old locally produced shows, like Bozo and Garfield Goose. They had a genuine quality to them. I find myself thumbing through the all the channels and concluding there is nothing worth watching.

I miss the old local AM radio stations too. They may have lacked the slick Corporate programming but they were genuine also.

Indy Student said...

NBC's ratings probably have more to do with how that network has been mismanaged for the past several years than anything changing in TV viewership. Also doesn't help that their two big sitcoms, Office and 30 Rock, are stopping after this season.

But what the article and your blog doesn't mention (though you have talked about this in the past) is how bad cable television has gotten when trying to compete against network. History used to be called the History Channel, and actually used to do stuff know, actual history. Now it is almost all Pawn Stars and a few other reality shows, an occasional big budget special feature like The Bible, and a smattering of aliens and conspiracy shows.

Pete Boggs said...

You must first have position to lose it. It's the networks who tuned out their market, much like today's politicians & political parties.