I have to say this does not surprise me. My family watches our favorite shows via the DVR. The practice started for us when we were very busy, now we will often notice the DVR recording one of our shows and start it from the beginning a half hour after it started. This way we can fast forward through the commercials. Both M and A started watching the Walking Dead with me but we are not watching the current season, we are viewing the first season via Netflix, no commercials.
Primetime Mystery: Where Did All the TV Viewers Go?
Here’s the wow-quote of the day, from Jeff Gaspin, the head of entertainment at NBC, explaining to The New York Times, with remarkable clarity and certainty, that watching TV shows on-demand is more satisfying than watching them live.
“The commercials broke the tension … I hate to say this to the AMC executives and everybody else in the business, but I will never watch ‘Walking Dead’ live again.”Is that a gaffe? A truism? Either way, it’s right. Fewer people are watching the networks live because viewers have found better television and/or better ways to watch it. Live ratings have declined for 14 straight quarters across the networks. Meanwhile, NBC is getting regularly smacked around by ABC, CBS, and Fox. It’s barely outperformed Univision when you take out sports, according to TV by the Numbers.
But the latest news — that the networks are facing the mother of all spring swoons — is a short-term acceleration of a long-term trend. The networks’ share of primetime TV audience (dark blue in the graph below) has declined from 45% in 1985 to 25% in 2009. Basic cable ate the networks’
lunchpost-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.