Five Years After the Writers' Strike, Is Broadcast TV Dead?

Five years ago today, the Writers Guild of America went on strike. For 100 days, Hollywood was more or less on lockdown as writers held out for higher residual earnings on new media revenues, including DVDs, online streams, and more. Though varying sources disagree as to exactly how much the WGA strike took out of Hollywood and the local L.A. economy (at least $500 million for the former, anywhere between $380 million and $2.1 billion for the latter), most agree that those 100 days were costly in some fashion.

Numbers and politics aside, the underlying theme of the WGA strike was pretty simple: The current business model of American television, particularly the broadcast model, was not going to be sustainable. Everybody could see where viewers' consumption habits were headed—online, on devices that weren’t “TV”—and the writers were smart to try to get a bigger piece of the new pie (whether or not they were successful in doing so and whether or not the strike itself accomplished much is still up for debate, I think).

Now here we are, five full years later—and those squabbles over residuals seem even more important. Unsurprisingly, the broadcast network model seems less sustainable than ever before. In fact, based on what we’ve seen in the first six weeks of the fall season, I’m willing to say that the broadcast model is already broken. I’m generally referring to the big four networks—ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox (sorry, The CW)—and their attempts to gain the attention of the mass, live audience in hopes of making the largest amount of money on ads. While there's certainly more at play with television in 2012, the broadcast nets still rely on the old advertising system for buoyance, and based on the traditional metrics they like to use, 2012-2013 is not off to a great start.

You folks know how much I hate the Nielsen ratings and reporting on them, but for the purposes of this story, I have to use them because unfortunately, the networks still do. Compared to just last season, ratings in the supposedly all-important 18-49 demographic are down almost across the board. ABC is down 7 percent, Fox is down 24 percent, and CBS, long the last bastion of the broadcast model, is down 18 percent. In some hilarious and odd twist of fate, NBC, America’s punching bag, has seen a 24 percent increase in ratings year-to-year (mostly because of The Voice, which has positively impacted Revolution, Go On, and The New Normal). And while that’s damn impressive for the Peacock, you have to know that something is definitely wrong if NBC is atop the mountain again. (Again, The CW doesn’t really count, but their ratings are down 25 percent as well).

Meanwhile, CBS research reports that DVR usage is up 6 percent, Hulu traffic is on the rise (it was up over 1.5 percent before the fall season began, according to TechSpot) and despite some faltering throughout 2012, Netflix streaming still accounts for a substantial amount of traffic online (it was up by nearly 33 percent before taking a hit during the Olympics). But so many of those numbers are fluid, and we’re not exactly sure what networks do with them.

However, we all know where numbers actually matter: ad dollars. And some of the figures in that area are quite interesting. According to AdAge, the ad rates for performance episodes of American Idol—you know, television’s primary powerhouse—have dropped from $502,900 to $340,825 per 30-second spot, while results show episode rates have dropped from $468,100 to $296,002 per 30-second spot. To be fair, a number of shows have seen their ad rates increase, especially sitcoms, so it’s not as if there’s an ad money crisis throughout the industry. However, shows like New Girl that received major increases in ad rates are underperforming in the ratings as compared to last year, a sign that advertisers might have overpaid, networks might have overvalued their shows, or some combination of both.

Thus, we have declining ratings, increased online viewing, and screwy things happening with advertising. If that’s not a recipe for disaster for the broadcast model, I’m not sure what is. And that's BEFORE you consider that basic-cable offerings like Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead are consistently dominating their nightly competition in ways that we haven’t quite seen before.

We can probably lay some blame on the lame batch of new programs on broadcast this season, few of which have caught on with audiences. Much to the chagrin of anyone participating in our annual Dead Pool, the big four networks have held onto so many of their new shows—even though they are clearly duds—mostly out of confusion and desperation. They're in a bad-habit situation where they've hung onto broad, formulaic programming in hopes of appealing to the largest, widest audience for far too long, and even though it's not working, the networks still exist in a world where broadcast just can't be as risky/gritty/edgy/raunchy as cable. And maybe you could argue that many successful cable shows have such a dedicated audience that it probably wouldn’t matter where they aired at all.

But even still, this season really does feel like some sort of tipping point for the broadcast networks. The live audience has been slowly deteriorating for quite a long time, unless we’re talking about sports telecasts. Meanwhile, “non-live” usage has been on the rise and networks have tried too long to use "non-TV" spaces like the internet as a supplement to the live programming (and the revenue it brings) instead of placing a premium value on them. What's more because of online, viewers are not only not watching TV in the traditional way, they're perhaps also losing any identification with specific networks. So if you're catching up with Revolution on Hulu (or via torrents), you don't really care that it's on NBC, right?

I wish I had a more creative way to say this, but broadcast television—and broadcast television measured by the Nielsen ratings—is just busted. The successes of CBS and shows like Idol have kept the façade up for a little longer, but CBS isn't having its best season and the breadth of singing competitions is getting to a point where they no longer constitute event programming in the same way as they used to (which is probably why Idol’s ad rates have dropped so dramatically).

And so the big question is, now what? Honestly, I’m not sure. I could further vouch for the abolition of the Nielsen ratings as a unit of measurement and the release of more complicated—but clear—viewership data. I could say that the broadcast networks should emphasize online and/or second-screen experiences. And I could definitely suggest that the major networks simply stop trying to recreate the mass live audience that just isn’t going to be there as regularly as it was in 1984. All of those ideas seem valid to me, but if they were legitimate fixes, one would think that the broadcast nets would be smart enough to really hit them hard.

But none of that changes the fact that, five years after the WGA strike, the industry and its employees aren’t really better off than they were in 2007. And so, let’s just presume this model is as busted as I might think it is. The industry needs radical ideas. What would you suggest?

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Here is the difference between H.B.O. and N.B.C. or C.B.S. or A.B.C. When a show is in production with H.B.O. they are left alone to do what they do best create art. When on a network you have executives who crunch numbers and no nothing of art. They constantly give notes on how to do this, or to change that. They meddle to much with the production and screw it up. Not too mention the netowrks have to deal with a dirty word censorship, they are limited as to what they can show.

Perfect example NBC`s Revolution, this show had great potential with the storyline and premise. But because it`s on a network there is no freedom to go to darker places or extreme situations like say in The Walking Dead. A lot of people have been killed on Revolution have we seen any blood really or spilled guts from swords!?

The people on Revolution are way to clean and groomed and well fed, the people on The Walking Dead are barely surviving and it shows in their clothes, their hair, the fact the were prepared to eat dog food this year.

Network television needs to catch up with cable if they even can and get grittier, darker and have the executives out of the picture.
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I don't inherently disagree with that, but there are good shows on broadcast, especially on the comedy side. Even on the drama side, The Good Wife, Parenthood, Fringe and Nashville are quite good. Those are all sort of niche-y though, but would kill on cable. Is there just an issue with broadcast doing "broad"casting?
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My biggest problem with the networks is the high cancellation factor. Television used to be more reliable. I would tune in and watch all of the pilots, choose my favorites and watch them all year. The last few years, I am finding more and more that the shows are getting cancelled, sometimes after only a few episodes!



Take last year, for example. I watched 19 pilot episodes (1 hour dramas only). By the end of May...12 of them were cancelled. 12 out of 19 shows...gone!



That was the last straw for me. This year, I tuned in to watch the pilots to see what interested me, and IF, in May they get renewed for a second season, I will catch up online. Then and only then will I decide to tune in next year or not.



Am I the only person getting tired of spending my viewing hours getting involved with a show and it's characters, only to have it cancelled?
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The networks would say they have to cancel because the ratings weren't good enough. Which is a.) a problem with the ratings and b.) arguably, a problem with the model.
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I would still say the problem is more the model. Can you imagine all the classic TV shows that we would never know if they had to abide by the model the networks use today?



Even a sitcom like Seinfeld which is widely considered one of the best of all time, only started to become the powerhouse it eventually was in the 4th season. These days if a show doesn't produce good ratings, it might not make four episodes.



Where would shows like Cheers, All in The Family, M.A.S.H etc be if they were judged by today's TV model?
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Thank you! That's exactly my point! I can think of a lot of shows that I didn't really get excited about until later in season 1 or even season 2, that I love now!



It seems like they have to break all of the records in the first few episode with ratings or they get cancelled!
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I have been doing exactly the same for the last few years. If a show is given three or four seasons and looks interesting I'll watch on Netflix or buy it on DVD. As you say, whats the point in watching all these pilots if loads of them are going to be cancelled so early?
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I am a college student and so do not have a TV or a cable subscription, so I rely on hulu for my TV needs. For all of our gribes and grimes the idea of hulu is great. So putting more content on sites such as hulu would definitely be fantastic. However, one problem that I can see is that cable providers would make it so that you would have to buy a pricey subscription just so that you can stream content online. That was my biggest frustration this summer with the Olympics. I could watch full content online because I didn't have a cable subscription. You see I fine paying things such as netflix where its only $10 a month and I can quit it anytime i want to, but I won't pay for a expensive cable contract, especially since I can watch for without commercials somewhere else .

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If you were able to get ANYTHING on Hulu, would you pay for it though?? Part of what I've written about before is that we're all now conditioned to believe that we shouldn't have to pay, even if that means going the illegal route, so nets are kind of screwed because of our actions.
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I don't know if it was the strike personally. Its just that cable has got so good. But that's me.
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But there are GREAT shows on broadcast. Especially comedy.
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let's look at what FOX did with the initial first season of Fringe: to entreat audiences, they advertised 6O second breaks....seriously....and that, i believe, is why Fringe shot through the roof. i think that would honestly bring audiences back to TV, it's ridiculous sitting through an 8 minute break, coming back, and thinking....what just happened, again?
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Yeah, Fox tried that with both Fringe and Dollhouse and apparently, it just didn't work. I thought it was a worthy attempt, though. Don't recall them releasing info as to why it wasn't good for them.
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So the thing that stands out most for me, both in the article and in the comments below, is that you all here seem convinced that online viewership and advertising are irreconcilable. That's simply not true. Lemme give you an example:

I'm from Poland and there's this network here called TVN. TVN has a site tvnplayer.pl where you can watch their entire programming online. Commercial breaks are embedded in such a way that they are impossible to skip and because they are so short (anywhere from 20 seconds to max 1 minute) people actually sit through and watch them. I mean, the average commercial brake on tv is anywhere between 5 minutes to even the occasional and outrageous 15(!!), which is enough time for me to switch channels or go off and do something else. Because the commercial brakes on tvnplayer.pl are too short to bother, I do watch those ads. This is a healthy compromise that makes everybody happy. Viewers can watch their favorite shows whenever they please with fewer and shorter ads. The ad companies are happy because people actually watch their ads. And all that makes the network happy.

See? Possible.
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I think this is a fine idea, and I'm hoping that the online viewership metrics will lead to more online advertising. It's weird that more companies haven't invested ad time on Hulu.



But I'm curious if viewers will be fine with it. People already bitch about the commercials on Hulu as they are. Even if they're shorter, does that matter? I dunno.
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I agree, here in Italy it's the same with a similar website of a group of networks. It's impossible to skip the short ads and the viewer actually watches it. I think it's a fair compromise
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Yes, and the ad companies actually win with this arrangement. Tell me, what is more valuable: an ad watched by thousands or an ad *not* watched by millions?
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exactly what I was thinking. At least you know that ad will be watched
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Even now, nobody can deliver as large an audience for an ad as broadcast. If you need a broad audience for your ad, broadcast is still the best way to get it (with cable ads a second place, and Internet a distant third.)



It gets worse for the networks. Their biggest moneymaker for past year has been political ads. Those are about to stop (for a blissful couple of months, anyway.)
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"So if you're catching up with Revolution on Hulu (or via torrents), you don't really care that it's on NBC, right?"

Absolutely - if networks want to protect their brands they'll need to post more content on their own websites instead of turning their brand over to Hulu, etc.
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They did this at first, and most networks still do. But yeah, there's been a larger attempt to drive people to Hulu.
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Honestly, I don't get that either, BUT Hulu is partly owned by NBC/GE/Comcast.

The networks should take Hulu's technology, which I find pretty decent, and use it to stream shows on their websites first. Some network websites are not as good as Hulu or didn't use to be. After the season is done, allow Hulu to run the show along with other older shows from the network libraries, anime, movies, Korean stuff, British stuff, etc..
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No suggestions other than the ones you made. Enjoyable read!
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Networks are so behind the times, I will take my story as an example to prove it:



I was in India and started liking "Roswell", moved to the US, 2 episodes short of the first season finale. By the time I got to the US, Roswell had aired 3 seasons and was cancelled, repeats were during school time on Sy Fy and I never got to watch the rest of it. I got into the computer craze late and caught all the episodes online before buying the DVD collection.



Even after that I would watch Lost, Heroes, Smallville on live television (not that I am included in Nelson ratings). Eventually, life gets in the way and I would miss the first 30 minutes of smallville due to class and first 50 minutes of heroes due to work. Now I watch no programs on live TV, half the time I don't even know what network broadcasts those episodes because I am just never home when they air.



How long before every one does the same? Didn't take long for me to go from making sure I catch every episode live to watching it at my own time without advertisements.
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Well, you know what's poppin'....bro are DVR's where you can record things and watch them later (if your mom will let you watch them before your bedtime, that is.) Hulu's kind of a second option for a lot of people who don't DVR shows and don't catch the show when it first comes on. Who wouldn't want to watch their favorite show when it comes on the air? You'd have to wait an entire day to watch it, and by then everyone at school would be, like, TOTALLY talking about it, right?
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Dude I am 25 lol. When I said school I was talking about when I was 15. Lost, Heroes and Smallville was when I was in college (hence classes at 8 pm). I can DVR but I did away with a TV altogether to cut down on expenses. When I get a better job, I will start doing DVR again. And I normally watch shows 3-4 hours after they air in the U.S. (left the states too).
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I sympathize with you, but if you give up cable, for whatever reason, that's on you. We should still have to pay for the product, or the system entirely falls apart.
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Cable has a goal in mind...get viewers. Word of mouth and internet talk will build up a fan base. I think Cable has been able to excel partly because they offer multiple airings of their shows. If you miss it at 9 you can catch it again at 10 or watch it the next week.



Networks only want advertising dollars. It seems like if they don't have enough live viewers in the first few episodes they move onto the next thing. In this age of technology, you can't keep viewers that way.



Guess which shows I watch live each week? Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, SOA. The latter two I started watching after their first and second seasons aired because they were on Netflix.



Hmmm...something to think about.



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Cable also has the benefit of major carriage fees from the cable providers too though. So they have the luxury to not emphasize ad dollars as much. Again, the models are different. I'm not saying broadcast nets are TO BLAME for their failures. It might be something they can't stop.
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The broadcast system isn't dead yet, but it is broken, and it will be dead. Its death cannot be stopped. Viewer eyeballs have too many places to go, they will never get the kind of audience numbers they need to have a sustainable business model. Television will continue, but broadcast television will not. They can choose to become basic cable stations or they can go away. But that's okay, we shouldn't save them. Cable and the Internet are more capable of giving us what we want: on demand program that isn't so broad as to appeal to no one.
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Does anyone actually watch "live" broadcasts of shows anymore, including watching the ads?



As flawed as the Neilson's are, there just isn't anything else out there as good. It's still a measure of the viewership for shows even if the exact numbers aren't accurate. If a show is doing badly in ratings it does mean that people aren't watching. You're not going to get a situation where a lot of people watch a show but they don't show up on ratings. You could have a show that many download, but since those people are skipping ads they don't count.



The biggest problem is the tendency to rely upon the same stuff as the past. Networks need to experiment more. And hire smarter writers. If you're going to put a SF show on the air, don't ignore science. Don't make every show a cop/crime show. And start making shows for men again, like they did in the old days when it was normal for networks to see double digit ratings.
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I think this is too easy. There are good shows on broadcast.
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I agree with you that the Nielsen ratings are as antiquated as it gets. For us, the viewers, it is frustrating. Of course. You may live in fear that the show you love gets cancelled just because everybody watches it on DVR or online. For you or me, it hardly makes any difference if we watch a show live or some other way. The result is the same. We watched the show, we liked or disliked it, talk about it and so on. But i would guess it makes a huge difference to networks since you will most likely skip the commercials. So even if a network would account for all the DVR and online viewers it wouldn't make any difference because the result for them would be the same. You didn't watch the commercials. So i get the point from the networks that they essentially rate non-live viewers and dvr/online viewrs equally. Not existent. They don't care if you have seen the show. They care if you have seen the ads!

To the topic on which show to cancel and which show to pick up. We're living in a day and age where everybody has an opinion about everything and the means to distribute this opinion however misguided. The internet. Let them make a poll. Let the viewers vote on the shows they want to see getting picked up. For one or two weeks there should be a website from all the networks listing their shows and you just have to click on which one you like. Make a pilot week where you air all you pilots you considering picking up and then let the viewers actively decide which one they want to see more of. It would cut gazzilions in research and market analytic costs. You know, all the money the networks are spending just to figure out what we like. Let us just tell you what we like.

It probably wouldn't work but i am throwing it out there anyway.
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Flat rate "fee' system and fewer broadcast channels a la the BBCs 1, 2, + 3?
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I dont really know a lot about the ratings system, i do know that whatever crazy is going on in america effects my viewing in Australia. We sometimes get shows n before they even start theyve already been cancelled in the us. I love television, i watch girly shows, reality but mostly just dance n the voice, comedy, drama, cop shows, horror, mystery. I love a lot of tv my family say too much, but screw them. I watch a lot of stuff online or when it comes out on dvd because we dont always get them here. Its just said that its the fans that have to suffer. I dont car how you do it just fix it!!!!
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"I could say that the broadcast networks should emphasize online and/or second-screen experiences. And I could definitely suggest that the major networks simply stop trying to recreate the mass live audience that just isn't going to be there as regularly as it was in 1984. All of those ideas seem valid to me, but if they were legitimate fixes, one would think that the broadcast nets would be smart enough to really hit them hard."





Excellent article. But the above paragraph is the key as far as I'm concerned. The broadcast nets are NOT smart enough to abandon the antiquated Nielsen ratings system, just as they're not smart enough to embrace the new viewership modes.



Then you add in the fact that cable has a better quality of shows and a more stable base. We don't have to worry about a Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones being canceled after airing 4 episodes.
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One more thing that could affect things: pay the executives less. The talent will take a fair wage if they see that the people in charge aren't just using them to gross big money. A cheaper show is always going to have a better chance than a more costly one, but it's impossible in the current network TV system to make a cheap show that is any good because the writers and actors will always feel ripped off by the network bigwigs who push papers around and take a big check for doing very little work. That is a free market solution, stars won't be willing to command such big paychecks if the others around them are willing to take less.
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The right way for the networks to go forward is to put on niche programming like Community and stick with it, accept the lower ratings, and use tighter advertising and DVD and online revenues to bolster it. The wrong way for them to go forward, what they'll most likely do, is to keep digging themselves into the hole using the same system because that's what they've always done. So we'll just cycle out talent shows for reality shows and then reality shows for game shows because they're all cheap while scripted shows are too risky (despite cablers stealing away networks' audiences left and right with scripted material of a higher caliber than the terrible nets are willing to take risks on). As long as big corporations hire executives to build up a system where it's just easier to say "no" and distribute failure amongst dozens of others, nothing will change for the networks except the quality of the cars their employees drive.

NBC had nowhere to go but either up or out of business, so it's no surprise that the went up. Surprising it was, however, that they took the exact amount Fox lost - Fox has been in a tailspin the last year thanks to too many competition reality shows and too little quality television (I think their plan was to simply have Sunday carry the network for the whole week). BTW, isn't NBC only at the top because of their carrying NFL and the Olympics, and that they're still dead last of the big boys without those?

Anyway, interesting arguments. I've been saying for 15 years that network TV is no longer a sustainable ad revenue system because it panders to the lowest common denominator as it casts wider and wider nets. The cablers used to do better targeting, but now most of those cable stations are owned by big conglomerate morons who don't know how to target adverts at all. A show like Firefly could have been sustainable even with under a million viewers if the ads were targeted tightly to those niche viewers, but instead Fox had to go for mainstream tens of millions in viewers and faceplanted, canceling the show before the first episode even aired.
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The problem with your DVD point is that production studios get the DVD revenue--or most of it--not the networks. That would--and sort of already has--led to networks making things in-house, which cuts down cooperation, creativity, etc.
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Your premise about the writer's strike is off. I don't think it has anything to do with the train wreck that TV is now. Your closing comment about 1984 is more relevant.

Too many parent companies owning too many networks. They need to consolidate them. I would even love to see the FCC/Government force them to. Disney, Disney XD, Disney Jr. could all be one network, for instance. What makes you think, or not consider, that NBC expanding to SyFy, USA, Bravo, etc. isn't thinning out the audience for each, let alone NBC itself, and watering everything down in the process? And NBC wonders why they are losing viewers?? This on top of Disney/ABC's networks and CBS's, etc.???

Too many networks, too many crap shows trying to fill air time for them while relying, for the moment, on needless repeats and marathons of repeats to do so otherwise. Too many networks, too few good writers to create for them. Too many networks, too many actors being over-used at the expense of creating uniquely memorable characters. Or the opposite of an actor being known for one role and that's all anyone sees of him afterwards as he goes from show to show collecting a paycheck and failing to re-invent a new character. Too many networks, too little budget for all the shows on those networks partly, if not fully, due to thinned out audiences and therefore thinned out revenue for each.

Networks trying to hard to promote their shows by pushing away viewers with promotional pop-ups at the bottom of the screen or having countdowns ticking away in a corner. This has caused me to move to Hulu or OnDemand. They harass viewers to watch their other shows while vandalizing the very shows they want you to watch. This is worse with moody and atmospheric scenes or programs or when there is a pivotal, poignant, and or important scene wherein the network seems to say, "we don't care the character is being told their child has died, we want you to watch Celebrity Apprentice this Tuesday", as they did during an episode of E.R. that caused me to stop watching that soon after.

Programs need to be much better developed and thought out before going into production. I am sick of shows seeming like someone had an idea written on a napkin that was presented the next day to a network and was given the go-ahead on the third day. Shows are more and more inconsistent and fail to follow through on established precedents. Casting is more hit and miss too. Creators should write and re-write 13 scripts, have a clearly stated purpose or outline for the show, and even storyboard it before taking it to a network so they know what the hell the are doing, why, and can cast. locate, and prepare accordingly. Basically, write the book before shopping it for a TV series.

LOST showed that similar programs should have and end in sight and networks should be more accepting of doing a limited series that tells its story and gets done with it. I don't think people have time and patience for mysteries becoming more needlessly convoluted trying to fill a season of shows while failing to get to the point. Pretty Little Lars is a good example too. Get in, tell your story, and get out. If its 13 episodes only, so be it. If it's three seasons needed to do so, all the better for the network/studio, if successful, but still, get in and get out.

Networks need to STOP their pedophile-like obsession with 18-49 year-olds. Make damn good programming regardless of "who it's for". Many in that demo are mature, smart, and/or experienced people who should not be thought of as dumbed-down because they are young. Older folks past fifty still have a young mind-set and can, or have, enjoyed good shows involving younger characters, or sci-fi, or fantasy, etc.

STOP MAKING PROGRAMS FOR THE ADVERTISERS AND MAKE THEM FOR THE GENERAL POPULATION REGARDLESS OF AGE AND SCHEDULE APPROPRIATELY!!! Kid shows, family shows, adult/mature shows each have their place and are rated as such. Let the people find them and enjoy according to their personal desires, etc.

Networks need to stop putting new shows on when they feel like it. This means you Nickelodean, Disney, Cartoon Network! Have a schedule and stick to it. If a show is doing poorly, try another time slot, but stick to it.

Adding the ability to randomly say, "shit", on a TV show does not make you more "edgy" or mature. It mostly shows lazy writing. This means you Suits.

Stop putting new episodes of shows on Hulu and/or OnDemand the next day, or even the next week, if you want viewers to watch live, as they say. I would even stop rerunning the new episode right after its first run or an hour later. Air the show and, if missed, so be it. People can hopefully catch it if/when you do rerun it normally. In fact, I would strongly consider not letting the networks themselves on their sites, Hulu, Netflix, etc. running any show from the current season until the next season begins. In other words, stagger the seasons - When the current one is airing, run the previous season. At the very least, wait until the current season is done, then run them online somewhere during the summer (or whatever break between seasons) for folks to to catch up, if desired. I would also hold off any season DVD releases for this method to run first - A TV run for a season, then online, then DVD.

These are just some thoughts off the top of my head that I believe are killing TV. There's more to be said, including stuff related to cable TV subscriptions and costs, but too complicated for here, and I'm likely forgetting a point or two otherwise.



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Agree with a lot of your points there, especially the one about shows going on too long. Shows like The Office, HIMYM, Family Guy, The Simpsons (about 10 seasons too long), House, Glee, 30 Rock, and other aging shows show that many shows (especially on network TV) stay on WAY past their welcome. It seems like networks anymore are so unwilling to take any risks that they keep their shows until they become shadow images of their former selves, some to the point where they're hardly even recognizable.



The reason network TV sometimes seems worse though, because they have more time to fill than other networks. Networks like FX or AMC don't have 3 hours a night to fill with programming, so they don't have to pick up as many shows. And even then, networks like FX still pick up crap like Brand X, Anger Management, and Unsupervised. People never think of those shows when they put these networks up on a "pedestal," especially with some of the more lackluster episodes of Wilfred and American Horror Story that they have churned out in previous seasons. Also, AMC also has a new batch of reality shows that are on par with what the networks are putting out.

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Hey, I still watch Family Guy!! :D
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I'm really surprised that networks are not releasing torrents of their own shows WITH ads in them. They could mess with iTunes big time with that and make a lot more money. I haven't had cable in years, but I watch everything good (scripted tv not that reality competition or singing crap). Studios legitimizing torrents would put a lot of their pirating fears to rest and turn them into a positive.
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I don't think that'd work, you'd have a few pirates at the top simply take in the torrent, edit out the ads, then put it back online. Mainly out of spite for a big corporation trying to muscle in on their action and monetize the idea. Plus, the networks would need accurate viewership tracking for torrents in order to be able to charge a reasonable amount for those ads, and there's no way anybody is going to let Nielsen watch them download from torrents.
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The problem is that advertising online is simply not worth the same amount of money, particularly in a torrent format, as it is too easy to skip the adverts. There's no real solution, as DVR's and the internet provide the opportunity to skip adverts that simply wasn't there years ago.
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I don't think adverts are so endangered, there are lots of people who watch tv live((the elder for example) and don't skip adverts. IMO, if the number of viewers decreases it's solely because the quality level of shows has lowered and keeps lowering each passing weeks, we're many to dvr or watch online but we're NOT the majority and once the studios have understood that quality shows will bring back the viewers TV will get better, but I'm afraid this will take years and lots of casualties in the process....
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I'd suggest the only clever thing to do: we want more well-scripted shows. Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and American Horror Story, among others, are all gems and what they share is that they are all on cable, which says a lot. The main networks need to focus on the writing which'll beget good ratings and an increase of value for the shows and thus satisfying revenues profits: good writing means good profits, nuff said.
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The Nelson ratings is probably one of the most broken and most useless ways to possibly measure audience retention. Im pretty sure I remember reading somewhere they are more often wrong than they are right. They really, really, really need a better way to monitor what people watch than some archaic method they came up with in the 20s.



Okay now that rant is over. With TVO and streaming on the rise allowing us to watch what we want when we want and sometimes even without commercials it does raise an interesting question where shows expect to get their funding from. Sure there is product placement, but Im pretty sure the majority of rev still comes from ad time.
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Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I paraphrase.



However, it is logical to think that with many more channels, more ways to watch a program, less than quality shows is all leading to these lower numbers.



One of the problems is based in the idea of advertising. Most advertisers think that because they are advertising on cable their ads get greater viewership, when in reality, they do not. That applies to at least the top 30 markets in the country. Advertising on the higher frequency stations, in their own markets, get 5 or 6 times the viewers than most of even the best shows on cable.



So, although I still like the idea of being able to buy a package of stations that I prefer, that's not likely to happen anytime soon. And having ads running at the bottom of my favorite shows is never going to be received well, me included. That means there needs to be a hybrid to maximize reach while keeping the costs down. How can that happen?



First of all, one of the reasons the general public is reluctant to give really good new shows a shot, is because the networks won't wait to see if there is a sizable audience coming. Old story about Cheers is one of the best. Last to first and one of the best shows ever. Because there are more ways to watch, one of two things has to happen.



Either the networks have to lower the % that they expect, in whichever demographic they are targeting, which if that happens across the board, the cost of the ads won't have to drop much, or include cable shows as part of every major advertising package sold. At least this way the target numbers may be closer to what's being promised.



Most of the time, I see local ads on many of the cable channels. This is fine, but the advertiser has been hoodwinked by their advertising buyers. Advertisers think that shows on USA, FX, The History Channel, etc. are getting millions and millions of viewers and that's just not true. Believe it or not, the CW's of the world give the advertiser better value for their buck, and they do it with pretty crummy shows.



The biggest challenge is that because the choices of quality shows on network TV is so spotty that many people would prefer to watch 1000 episodes of Seinfeld, Frasier, Law and Order SVU, than dedicate their time to a show that the network will give about 6 episodes to hit double digit million viewers or it's gone.



The last reason, imo, is that the shows get lazy. Really like Elementary. Three weeks in they take a break. Wasn't sports or debates, just a break. Still like the music on Glee, but I think their last new episode was in Sept. (small exaggeration to make a point).



In conclusion, I love TV. I always have and I always will. I'm willing to give a good show a shot, like Revolution, Last Resort, 666 Park Avenue, but the networks will likely kill at least one of those and probably two, so why should I give myself to those shows? Network TV, not broken, just needs a facelift like many of the baby boomers the shows target.



Just my Thoughts!
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People can cope without TV since a lot of shows are boring. Games are more fun
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People can cope without games since a lot of games are boring. TV shows are more fun.
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My prediction of the future is that networks are turned into production companies. All shows are put into a world wide 'tank'. As a wiever you order whatever coded show you want to watch, pay and it gets deliviered. Apple is well on their way with itunes etc but this would be for all media. For all guys out there that want to demean my thoughts, and there always are some of you who do, this is how I picture watching shows in the near future. I don't have a tv left at home, all my screening is via my laptop. 10-4 over and out.
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I don't think broadcast TV is dead...in fact far from it. People just have different ways of streaming their favorite content, whether it be online (Hulu, ABC.com, ect.), through TiVo, or through Netflix. I think Nielson has already changed it's format to include those things, and I think they should further measure the viewership across the board when it comes to total viewership. Also, I think competition from cable is wearing down their numbers some, with hit programming on FX or AMC, but network TV consistently pulls in the biggest number of viewers (and that includes people WITH cable.) In my opinion, as for the state of the quality of programming, it's been the best it's been in a long time. With shows like Revenge, Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23, Modern Family, Suburgatory, Parenthood, Go On, and Person of Interest have really shown the quality network television is capable of producing, and while some of these shows have not developed steller ratings, that still means network television isn't going anywhere, anytime soon. Network television is still capable of producing hit shows as well like 2 Broke Girls, Go On, The Voice, and The Big Bang Theory, which people watch just as religiously as they did in the '90s or early '00s with Seinfeld or American Idol.
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Quality shows are only succesful in HBO, FX or AMC. The average american wants shows like The Voice. They don't want dramas like Fringe or comedies like Community. There are of course a few exceptions, but most quality shows on CBS, NBC or Fox get cancelled. On the other hand we have cable. Amazing shows that would be failures in network tv are hits on cable. For example Mad Men. If the CBS wants to keep making money, they need to change their business model, they need to stop focusing on the ads and start focusing on online viewing and critics. It is possible to make money out of complex shows, otherwise HBO would be long broke by now.
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Let's be honest how can you take out the Nielsen sistem? There is no way to corectly measure the overall viewer count because of the fact that there are a lot of ways to watch tv shows internet sites, dvr, and not forget piracy(they are viewers no matter how they get to watch).
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You can take out the Nielsen system because torrents don't count unless all your ad revenue comes from product placement (it doesn't). The other things not only can be correctly measured, they are being correctly measured.
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