Home » Disruptive Innovation » TV Is Dying, And Here Are The Stats That Prove It

TV Is Dying, And Here Are The Stats That Prove It

25 November 2013

From Business Insider:

The TV business is having its worst year ever.

Audience ratings have collapsed: Aside from a brief respite during the Olympics, there has been only negative ratings growth on broadcast and cable TV since September 2011, according to Citi Research.

Media stock analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson recently noted, “The pay-TV industry has reported its worst 12-month stretch ever.” All the major TV providers lost a collective 113,000 subscribers in Q3 2013. That doesn’t sound like a huge deal — but it includes internet subscribers, too.

. . . .

Time Warner Cable, for instance, lost 306,000 TV subscribers in Q3, and 24,000 broadband web subscribers, too.

And Tom Rutledge, CEO of Charter Communications, told Wall Street analysts he was “surprised” that 1.3 million of his 5.5 million customers don’t want TV — just broadband internet. “Our broadband-only growth has been greater than I thought it would be,” he said.

. . . .

This is the macro problem: Ratings are falling across the board. They have been for years.

It’s not too surprising that broadcast TV ratings are down. The major networks have faced increasing competition for years from niche-interest cable channels and the better-quality programming on places like AMC and HBO.

But ratings for both cable and the broadcast networks are down.

Link to the rest at Business Insider and thanks to Kris for the tip.

Big Publishing isn’t the only business being disrupted by Internet competitors and new ways of consuming content from new content providers.

Disruptive Innovation

45 Comments to “TV Is Dying, And Here Are The Stats That Prove It”

  1. It doesn’t help that any time I watch even one hour of network TV, I can see the same commercial 4 times – sometimes twice in the same slot!

    I know advertising pays for TV – and I don’t actually begrudge it that – but commercials are like jokes: there are very few that are ‘funny always.’ Even the most creative ad pales quickly with repetition. I will often unmute for a commercial I haven’t seen – once. Maybe once more if DH hasn’t seen it. After that, forget it! And we shake our heads a lot at commercials for luxury products: who watching network TV is going to buy a Jaguar? Really?

    I used to (just a year or two ago) watch a lot of TV, especially late-night TV – when I couldn’t sleep. Now, even with Hulu and Netflix, I watch an average of less than 2 shows daily – I have found far better things to do surfing blogs (thanks, PG!) and finding NEW content to read.

    The question is, again, not whether the model is changing, but whether these giant corporations are going to do something about it (ie, offer something better), or go down screaming about how they were done wrong.

    • I thought it was only Hulu that showed the exact same commercials during every single commercial break, sometimes even the same commercials twice in a row. That was the big reason I stopped using it. It just drove me crazy.

      I haven’t had any TV channels for years. I pretty much just watch stuff on Amazon or various anime sites.

  2. My satellite dish provider practically forced 3 months free of any premium channel I wanted on me. I took Starz because it was the first one I could remember. What’s not vulgar new movies, are reruns from 20 or 30 years ago. I called them back and told them to turn it off and they wouldn’t. If TV is dying, it’s because they’re committing suicide by not providing what the audience wants to watch.

    • Exactly. When I travel, and end up in a hotel room with cable TV, I can flip through a hundred channels and still not find anything I might want to watch.

      For $100 a month, I can buy the few things I do want to watch on DVD, or borrow them from the library.

  3. I agree Alicia, I just have been slamming the mute button so often… especially jarring the late night commercials which are those drug things, TAKE THIS! IT”S GOOD FOR YOU, except it will cause y our head to swing like Linda Blairs and make your rear end fall off along with your car axle. lol

    Also, if Amazon streams [they are already] and wifi is all over the place free, and our cable anyways gives us UMPTEEN channels we HATE, and hardly any we LIKE… can total nuclear winter for tv in general be far behind. The cable companies here are about their money, not about quality feeds. Sort of like standing in front of fridge w door open and its packed to the gills with food you dont like.

    • We just kicked our satellite TV to the curb. There’s not a lot we watch. And for the few things we do want to watch, we have Amazon Prime and a Roku. We’re saving around $100 a month this way.

      • Yes, we use Amazon Prime and Netflix and a Roku, also. My kids watch a few shows that way. My husband and I mostly watch movies, not TV shows.

      • Ditto. It was tough at first, but after nine months cable-free, we’ve adjusted. The only bill we get from the cable company is internet. Through the Roku box, we have Netflix, Amazon Prime, and some other minor offerings. However, the money we save has ended up going to buy the kids books. The good thing in our household is more reading is happening since giving up cable tv.

    • We had satellite about forever (15 years?). When it started creeping up to $50/mo., I started griping (I don’t watch much TV). Whet it hit $60 for one-step-up-from-basic, it was too much even for my husband. We asked if we could pay for only the channels we want to watch. No. So we cancelled. Now we watch a little over-the-air TV and stream Amazon Prime. I miss watching The Dog Whisperer on NatGeo. But other than that, we don’t miss it.

  4. When our DirectTV contract expires in August, I want to dump tv and get a few digital antennas to get the few things we want to see–mostly sports. Between Amazon Prime and Netflix, there’s nothing more I want to watch. Even the out of pocket expense of buying several good digital antennas will be less than one month’s satellite TV cost.

  5. Every month, I re-ask my wife whether she really, really, really wants to keep the cable television subscription. If it were up to me, we’d have only broadband internet.

    I like that you made a parallel to publishing here, PG. Television might be dying, but video sure isn’t. Not only are Netflix numbers up, but a Netflix-original just won Emmy awards (House of Cards). Imagine a day when an indie author whose book is exclusive to Amazon wins a Pulitzer? I hope it happens. (I encourage more indie authors to submit to the Pulitzer committee. I submitted The Prodigal Hour the year they decided not to name a winner. I’m still a little sad about that.)

    Yesterday, I was reading a GQ profile of Kevin Spacey (star of House of Cards) who said that the camera doesn’t care whether it’s a movie camera or a television camera or a streaming camera. It’s just a camera.

    It struck me as similar to the argument I’ve seen so many people make here in comments on this site: this isn’t about books so much as it’s about stories, and stories don’t know whether they’re on screens or paper or tablets (be those tablets computing devices or stone). They’re stories.

  6. We dumped cable last year and haven’t missed it. I saw nothing good in paying a couple of hundred dollars a month for a basic cable package made up of sports and shopping channels I never watch. The glut of stupid reality TV and food competitions on the other channels and 8 thousand reruns of the show where people are buying houses just make it a waste of money. We dropped it, raised our broadband and got a Netflix subscription. Saved money and now I watch shows I like without paying for the gazillion commercials that annoy me.

    TV and Cable sound just as clueless as Big Publishing when it comes to figuring out what their customer base wants.

  7. I think that TV as a whole is much better positioned to take advantage of digital.

    Networks have been streaming shows on their websites for years, and the windowing of new episodes has gradually decreased. They also license their shows to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. They’ve utilized the web in other ways, as well, such as minisodes and alternate reality games.

    Ratings are almost irrelevant at this point, as no one tracks web viewership.

    Big Publishing is, uh, dumb.

    • I just wish that the networks would realize that they have to get out of bed with cable and satellite providers to take advantage of the full range of the current market.

      I may pay for something like HBO Go, if I didn’t have to *also* have a cable subscription.

  8. Interesting article. I have been on the verge of cancelling my cable TV for about six months now, and pretty soon I’m going to stop just thinking about it and actually pull the plug. It feels like such a rip-off compared to inexpensive streaming services like Netflix. And most of the shows I watch now, I get from places other than the TV. For example, I watched “Breaking Bad” by buying all the episode off iTunes and playing them on my iPad.

  9. It can’t die fast enough in my view. Now, the article is obviously US-centric, but I think the same trend applies to the UK and the continent. In Germany, the state-owned channels seem to have entirely focused on serving the pension-age demographic, foregoing pretty much everybody else (but news). Italian TV is 100% awful (thanks, Silvio B), so my Italian friends complain of the same thing.

    Recently I’ve switched on the telly (I’m in the UK) and was flabbergasted at the kind of stuff some people still seem to be watching – a rough dozen cloned real-life cop/border guard/customs shows, cooking, cooking with the stars, cooking with the b-list VIPs, cooking with c-listers who wear too much makeup and can’t cook, “dancing with the stars”, “somebody’s got talent, but we won’t show it to you”… the list goes on. At least all the “let’s buy a second home somewhere nicer” and “you, too, can be a multi-millionaire property developer on a budget” shows are all off the menu, probably due to “bad taste” as housing is an increasingly contentious issue.

    Granted, there’s a “captive audience” in hospitals and elderly care homes, but I get the sense everybody who can has already moved on.

  10. I technically own a television, but it only serves as a giant monitor for our computer network for streaming. I only know two under-30s who actually have their television hooked up to, uh, TV/cable. No one even bothers with the free channels, either.

    Television is just too user unfriendly. There are better, faster, and cheaper ways to get the content we want. It’s a shame that HBO refuses to sell their HBOgo service without a channel subscription. They’d make a killing for Game of Thrones alone.

    Alas, television networks are the same bumbling fools the big publishers are. And once again, disrupters like Netflix and Amazon (with prime) are crushing them.

    • I have marveled at the decisions of HBO as well. I have been told that the problem they and other networks have is that huge corporate giants own them – that also own the major cable companies. So they won’t make a decision that will allow their content providers to make more money at the cost of their distribution channel companies.

      It’s encouraging to me to see that “own everything” can also often mean “epic fail” (in the long run).

      • And that right there is why legacy companies, especially the larger ones, almost never do anything new. They cannot innovate if it means hurting existing revenue streams, so they don’t. Then someone else does, and the legacy company keels over and sinks beneath the waves. Sooner or later, the innovator gets big enough to stop innovating, and the process repeats itself.

        It’s also why I very much doubt we’ll ever see the big publishing conglomerates move fast into anything new, if they move at all, no matter how much they talk about digital. As soon as it threatens an existing revenue stream, they’ll kill it. And someone else will do it in the meantime.

  11. And the cable companies are taking efforts to artificially inflate their subscriber numbers. My broadband service is through Comcast and it is cheaper for me to have internet+basic cable vs just internet alone. I have no ability to watch cable TV because they are encrypting everything and I have no cable boxes.

    • I’m in the same boat as you: Internet + basic cable is much cheaper than Internet only. I live in a valley and NYC & Philly aren’t close enough to where I live, so getting any of the free channels is out of the question.

  12. I dropped my cable TV subscription four years ago and I haven’t missed it one bit. But the cable company calls every few months or so, just to see if I might want to re-subscribe. I don’t even own a tv, I just use an LCD screen hooked up to my home theatre system when I want to watch DVDs. It’s not worth the money, and I can’t even justify the time waste of TV.

  13. We cancelled our cable back in 1995 and haven’t missed it since. We use the TV for games and DVDs. And when we visit the parents, a few minutes in front of the TV reminds us that it was a good decision.

    Verizon has been after us to rip out our copper phone lines and install Fios, and they’ve done everything but climb in the window and tie us up. Yesterday, their latest offer was for us to pay $70 a month the first year, $80 a month for the second, and get a $300 debit card. Since I know the third year charges are 125/month and up (according to Internet searches), we’re not even close to sold, even with the “free” long distance and high-speed internet. (Their customer service also stinks).

  14. It also doesn’t help that customer service for both satellite and cable providers is horrible, costs are outrageous, and service cuts out constantly. Got rid of ours when my husband was so frustrated by not being able to transfer accounts easily from one house to the next in the same town that he cancelled it all together. We have an antenna, Hulu and Amazon.

  15. I dropped my cable last year after I bought a Roku. For new shows, I have Hulu Plus. For older shows/seasons and movies, I have Amazon Prime and Netflix.

    The thing networks can’t get over is that WE are in control now. We watch what we want, when we want. Netflix is smart enough to give us an entire season all at once because they know many of their viewers ‘binge’ on shows. Amazon seems to be heading in a similar direction. The old style of TV is dying, but many of us are watching TV shows in new ways.

    And it’s important to note that ratings aren’t accurate unless you add in at least one week of DVR and web viewing. That’s the only way to get a true sense of a show’s audience, especially if it’s popular with the under-30 crowd.

  16. I’m not surprised Time Warner Cable has lost subscribers–and it’s not all due to people deciding they can do without cable. They bought our ISP out this last year and I have yet to talk to anybody in our area who is happy with the resulting service.

    My family has never had cable, but we got broadband as soon as it was available to us. I love the sheer convenience of being able to watch shows on MY schedule instead of when the networks decide to air them. Life happens. Networks can and should have their schedules, but they should be rolling with how their audience consumes their content.

  17. If we had broadband available to us out here in the sticks, some of those alternatives might look good – but we’re stuck with satellite tv and strictly limited metered internet connection. A few sessions with youtube, and we’re down to dial-up speeds unless we reset the allottment – for $10. I work at home, and sometimes we have no options when I’m uploading or downloading large files, but it gets really annoying when the kids want to watch something on their computers.

  18. I stopped watching broadcast TV years ago. I found an online aggregater that lets me watch just about anything I want. I like that I can see the UK shows before they are shown here in the US.


    Watching something when you want it without ads is golden.

  19. Technology giveth, and technology taketh away.

    We have this big TV given to us in our living room. Our living room rarely sees anyone sitting in it, and when it does, it’s usually to watch a DVD movie. If there is a show I want to keep up on, you can usually do so at the broadcaster’s website (where you also get plenty of repetitious commercials, worse than TV in most cases).

    What little TV I do watch I use Amazon Prime for the most part. I have too many things to do that are important than to sit in front of a TV for hours on end. We’ve had broadband only for years now.

    So, yeah, those numbers don’t surprise me. Another industry that is undergoing change, are the number of people dumping landlines for cell phone. Most of the companies that provide landline service also provide cell phones, so unlike a lot of our examples, they proactively took steps to take advantage of it and make the transition.

  20. I’ve had people ask me how I live without a television. When the one we got as a wedding present crapped out, we didn’t bother replacing it. That was…2 years ago? I think? There’s just no point with all the laptops, netflix and Amazon prime. I get so much more work done, too.

  21. I don’t understand why the cable TV is complaining about losing customers when the offerings are Reality TV, Reality Gameshow TV or Red-neck TV. The elevator plugs most show appears to be TV Show X meets TV Show Y, there’s no plot.

    The only TV show that appears to have a plot is ‘The Walking Dead.’ (Which still amazes me. I never thought I’d like it.)

    Where are the screen writers?

  22. Pulled the plug on TV 10+ years ago and haven’t missed it at all. It means that much more time and money for good reading. There’s always Netflix for movies and the occasional TV show worth watching. Right now I’m hooked on Sons of Anarchy, which I consider Game of Thrones on motorcycles.

  23. When we got Tivo, I realized how little I actually wanted to watch the shows that aired on tv. I only watch tv when eating by myself now. I do watch a bit of cable news. On the other hand, I read and watch shows on the interweb every day (the ones I like, when I want, with few or no ads.)

  24. I find myself wondering to what degree this news relates to viewers cutting expenses because they are out of a job or don’t have enough money to spend on less important matters than eating or paying the rent.

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