BreakingModern — If you ask the average Joe what his favorite television show is, he might tell you Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones or The Big Bang Theory. Each of these shows, though varying drastically in quality, has a consistent, loyal fan base.
For most of these programs, however, fans don’t need to tune in week after week to see what happens. They prefer to binge-watch an entire season in one clean sweep. While Orange and Cards are the only online-exclusive shows listed above, it’s starting to appear that the habit of watching live TV is dying. Hell, Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world, so it doesn’t exactly appear as though viewers care all too much about watching anything “live.”
So, if nobody really cares about watching live TV anymore, do the Nielsen ratings still matter? The answer is a complicated “kind of.”
Even though most young people say they’ve stopped watching TV, networks seem to still be stuck in the year 2004, viewing any sort of online content as a wild new fad that may not stick around. Of the shows listed earlier, the only one with truly impressive live numbers is The Big Bang Theory, which primarily appeals to cats and the elderly who don’t know how to shut their televisions off after Wheel of Fortune.
We’ve started to consider dismal ratings acceptable, and there’s no need for that whatsoever. A new CBS show called Limitless premiered with a 1.8 in the demo and is being hailed as a hit. But not even a year ago CBS’s The Millers was canceled with identical ratings. I know there’s a lot more that goes into it than raw numbers (such as lead-ins and so on), but it’s clear there’s no recovery in place for broadcast TV’s ratings dive. Why are networks so inflexible? Why not step boldly into the digital age instead of being stuck in the muck of the past?
Basically it comes down to two things. Either networks genuinely don’t understand that live numbers are going to continue to drop until the highest rated show on all networks is Dr. Ken with a 0.6 demo rating, or they’re desperately clinging to the hope that viewers will come back. The answer is most likely the latter.
The networks need to adjust to evolving viewing habits or they won’t be around for very much longer. Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings even estimates that broadcast television will be dead by 2030. Personally, I love watching my shows as they air. There is something special about that collective experience you feel when you’re watching something unfold with friends, family or the rest of the world. That’s why live sports and awards shows remain so popular.
Television is a powerful media. I don’t think its cultural relevancy will go away anytime soon. That said, however, we’ll never see a time again when millions of people across the country gather around the TV to watch a show like Cheers or Friends. The times are changing and TV needs to change with it.
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