TV in Decline? Not Exactly…


At the beginning of the month, new research was bandied about that proclaimed the dire state of American television.

“We believe the U.S. television industry is entering a period of prolonged structural decline, caused by a migration of viewers from ad-supported platforms to non-ad-supported or less-ad-supported platforms,” said Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger.

However, much-ballyhooed gloom-and-doom statements of ‘decline’ totally fail to take into account viewing television shows on alternative screens and devices.

As such, the entire concept requires re-framing.

It is clearly established that the present is a “Golden Age of Television” – just ask industry executives, critics, actors, writers and even viewers. People love this historic period of high quality TV content.

It’s why HBO’s “Game of Thrones” has a gross average of 18.2 million viewers, and why the March season one finale of FOX’s breakout hit “Empire” had approximately 21.92 million viewers.

The idea that viewers are ‘migrating’ away from television is incorrect – because they’re still watching television content, just through another service. The shows are being seen, and the networks and streaming services are only creating more and more of them.

Last year, around 352 original series aired on prime time network TV and cable, and FX suggests that’s an increase of 56 percent in five years.

One could say the television industry isn’t deteriorating so much as it’s expanding, and with the advent of new over-the-top (OTT) services, especially this year, more viewers are finding ways to watch and discover series. Rumors of a refreshed Apple TV are already causing a huge buzz of excitement.

What it boils down to is monitoring all of these viewers, because they're certainly out there.

"The holy grail is the ability to measure everyone across all platforms," Alan Wurtzel, head of research at NBC, told the LA Times last November. "No one is doing that yet."

Enter ratings company Nielsen, which is working on tracking every single viewer, OTT and TV, with their “Total It Up” campaign. Perhaps once those audience numbers are revealed, a real conversation about the state of the television industry can be held.

Author: Brian Cameron

Image via Shutterstock.

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