“I would say that it would be premature to either write the epitaph [of broadcast network television] or suggest that we’re seeing a trend,” that is a quote from Bob Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Co. He goes on to say that the lack of any new “buzzworthy” shows is what is accounting for this early season weakness. He then goes on to talk about NBC’s show “The Voice” as showing improved viewership, and then mentions ABC’s “serviceable” line-up of shows — FYI Disney owns ABC, so I don’t think we can call his comments about that networks shows as glowing.
He is right though, it is still far too early for us to be giving the traditional broadcast networks their eulogies. There are still far too many people who tune into these traditional networks for them to be officially declared dead. They are sick though, and while the illness hasn’t quite been declared terminal, the outlook sure as heck at that good.
There are many people who have already severed their cable, and satellite subscriptions, in favor of streaming content provided by companies like Netflix, Blockbuster (yes it is still around) and Hulu. While this doesn’t necessarily spell the end of traditional television shows, it doesn’t help the traditional broadcast networks either. The people who are opting for the above content providers over cable/satellite/antennae are supporting their favorite television shows, they aren’t tuning into ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, or any of the other networks; which cuts into those networks ad revenues. So the television production studios might survive, but the networks are facing a bit of a dilemma.
There are more people who are also simply getting rid of their televisions, and choosing their computers as the source of all of their news and entertainment wants and needs. Not surprisingly those who are going this route are of the younger set â€“ college students and young professionals — and I can tell you that I have met about a half dozen or so recently. So, yes Mr. Iger, broadcast television is still alive, but it isn’t getting stronger, it is getting weaker, and I dare say that its days are numbered.
I know I am not going to be the first, nor the last person to ever say this, but the days of what we call broadcast television are numbered. The future lies with streaming audio and video content via the internet.
For those who are still skeptical about this future I can understand why, because even though I am a believer in this future, I still get my television through what is now considered one of the “traditional” means â€“ through a satellite dish. Despite that though, I still think that the internet is where the future of television watching is.
People have seriously talking about this future for about a decade now, and there are already services that we can subscribe to that will allow us to cut the cord, sort to speak. Services like Hulu Plus, Netflix, Blockbuster (yes they are still around), and with a combination of two of those you can watch much of your favorite television shows, and movies for less than what it costs for whatever form of cable/satellite service you might currently have. Then there is the fact that many new televisions are now equipped to access the internet on their own, and many come with preinstalled aps, like Pandora, Youtube, and even Hulu. All of that is well and good for many people, but there is a group of individuals who must stay tethered to some sort of receiver or another, and they are the sports fans.
Currently most sports broadcasts are only offered through mainstream television channels, like NBC, ABC, CBS, ESPN, as well as others. ESPN does stream some games on ESPN3.com, but not all. Once all sports are available to be watched online, then that will be the end of what we call the status quo for watching television. We’ll have to wait and see if that is a good thing or not.
Who here can remember life before cable television? I know I can, and at the risk of sounding overly idyllic, I think that life was nicer, if not better, way back then. Sure, sure, television viewers were saddled with “only” four television channels, those being the local affiliates for NBC, ABC, CBS, and PBS; and some communities had to make do with only three, or less of those four. You know what though, most of us never really felt deprived, or shortchanged; it was simply what we knew.
It is all too easy for those who aren’t old enough to remember life before cable to criticize the quality of the television shows way back then (it was only about 35 years ago), but you know what? I used to be critical of the early television shows that my parents used to watch too; so the idea of quality is a relative thing.
Here’s another thing that I remember from in that long ago ancient time, before we were blessed with hundreds of television channels, if people felt that there was nothing worth watching on, then many people simply turned the television off and actually did something. I know, that is a shocking concept there, but trust me it did happen. Let me ask you a question, how many times have you simply scrolled through the channels hoping that something good will magically appear that piques your interest? I know I have done that – too many times. I remember on nights when “nothing” was on, my family would turn-off the TV and breakout the board games and spent quality time together. For all of the cable/internet generation, when was the last time your family did that?
Of course I realize that we cannot go back, cable television is here, and honestly there are several cable networks that I enjoy watching. No, I am not advocating the abolition of cable, but I do have a little lamentation for the days of yore from time to time. Maybe I’m just getting too damn old, or maybe it is because I was tired of scrolling through all of those channels and muttering that there is absolutely nothing on.
I remember as a kid watching with excitement the 1980, 1984, and 1988 Olympic Games. The 1980 Olympics that I am referring to are the Winter Games in Lake Placid, the Summer Games were held in Moscow and the US team did not attend those games, due to political protest. Anyway all of those Olympiads have one thing in common, and obviously date me, they happened in the days before the internet. As such, we, as viewers, were subject to the whims of the television broadcast in order to find out what happened. This meant that with each event that the network showed we had no idea who won what medal, and how they won it — or lost it, as the case maybe. The 1980 Winter Olympic Hockey game, between the USSR and USA was not broadcast live in most of the country, it was shown less than an hour after it was over, so that it could be seen during the primetime television slot here in America. The networks did a pretty darn good job of keeping the score secret, so as not to spoil it for anyone, and because of that most who watched it were on the edge of their seats, despite the fact that the game was taped — and that it was held right here in our country.
The internet has made watching the Olympic Games anticlimactic. I live in the Pacific Time Zone and I was getting a stream of Facebook messages from friends of mine living in the Eastern Time Zone about the opening ceremony, before it was even broadcast in my neck of the woods. That of course isn’t the internet’s fault; I understand that NBC wanted to make sure that the opening ceremony was broadcast in primetime for all time zones, but because of the internet’s stellar ability to disseminate information quickly, I was stuck with already knowing what had happened. Then there are the events themselves. I already knew Lochte beat Phelps for the Gold Medal in the 400 IM, long before I was able to actually see the event on television. In fact, because I already knew I didn’t even bother watching it.
I am not advocating an all-out internet blackout during the Olympics, which would be a ridiculous request, as well as essentially advocating censorship of information, which I staunchly oppose. Basically I am really just lamenting the days gone by when the broadcast of each event was almost must see TV, even if it was shown hours after the event was over. Today it is like trying to watch the Super Bowl after the fact, there is little suspense. I guess I am just getting crotchety in my old age, but I don’t let that change who I am rooting for; go for the Gold Team USA!