TV networks’ dominance of the delivery of TV content is rapidly collapsing, as alternatives expand and people build up their libraries:

Primetime Mystery: Where Did All the TV Viewers Go? – Derek Thompson via The Atlantic

The networks’ share of primetime TV audience (dark blue in the graph below [above in this post]) has declined from 45% in 1985 to 25% in 2009. Basic cable ate the networks’ lunch post-dinner audience, and now it’s technology’s turn gobble up what’s left.

Even with this long trend line (and despite the fact that viewers often unplug in the spring), there is a sense that we’ve reached a tipping point thanks to what Gaspin calls “built-up libraries.” There is more good stuff to watch not-on-live-TV than on live-TV, and even the head of entertainment at NBC knows it. Television technologies are dragging us away from live television, to a world of smaller screens, shifting “windows,” and no more ads. In 2000, a company called Netflix was experimenting with movie rentals. Now they have more than 20 million streaming customers. In 2005, about 1% of households owned DVRs. Today, it’s more than 40%. In 2006, Hulu didn’t exist. Today it has just under 30 million monthly uniques, with more than 1 million paying subscribers. In 2009, there were no iPads. Today, there are 60 million, and most of them are in the United States. That’s a Cambrian explosion of options for “watching TV” without literally watching an actual TV.

So people are ‘watching TV’ but not watching network programming in real time: they have defected from the ‘appointment TV’ model, or defected from broadcast and networks as the delivery mechanism for TV media.

PS DVR is a strange intermediary technology, one that foreshadowed keeping your TV shows in the cloud. (Apple’s iTunes in the cloud is poised to destroy the market for DVR devices.)

TFA Team


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