Is prime-time TV dead?

I was inspired to write this article by two things.

The first was a random factoid that caught my attention. Back in the early days of television, I Love Lucy would commonly score a 40 rating. What that means is that 40% of all the humans in the country, whether or not they even owned a TV, were watching that show as it aired live. And this was the run-of-the-mill rating, not like a special event or something. Today, it’s very uncommon for any broadcast TV show to get more than a 3 rating. That’s a huge difference.

The second was this article at CordCutters News. It confirms that trend by pointing out that even if you look at a network-by-network basis the numbers are just appalling. And that’s what led to the headline of this article.

It’s obvious why prime time doesn’t rule anymore​

In the 1950s, the average home got 3 – 5 channels of television and of course no internet. Your entertainment options were limited to: television, reading something, and talking to your family. Put yourself in the place of those folks and you’ll see why television was so popular.

Today of course there are so many options, and one of those options is the ability to watch prime-time programming anytime on your own schedule. You can record programs or find them on streaming, that’s your option.

And yet, it seems that year after year we see the broadcast networks merrily pushing more cop and doctor shows in prime time, and ratings keep dropping.

The real question is whether or not something can be done.​

I think we all agree on some basic facts. The first is that if you grew up in the era of DVRs and the internet, you have no loyalty to broadcast television. If you grew up before that, you probably do. Broadcasters know this which is why a lot of broadcast TV advertisers is geared toward people over 50 now. Historically broadcast TV has always advertised to those 18-49, but that group just isn’t watching live TV, period.

For about a dozen years in the early 21st century, broadcasters tried to entice younger viewers, with very little success. It seems like in recent years they’ve just sort of given up and tried to please the viewers they have. That’s not a bad thing if you’re one of those viewers (I am, so I’m fine with it.)

Here’s why I care.​

It’s not just that broadcasters have given up on the young people. I honestly should be ok with that, because there should be something that caters to older folks like me. It’s that local television is important. Local television has long been the place where you could find out things about your area that mattered. TV stations have been well-funded enough to have real, ethical investigative journalism. That’s something we desperately need. Before TV, newspapers played that role and we let local newspapers die.

There is absolutely a place for the kind of reporting that is done by regular people who see things and record them on their phones. That’s critical too, but that kind of reporting lacks context. All you’re seeing is what the phone is pointing at and that may not really represent reality. You need trained journalists with ethics to help you understand what you see. Not that you should take their word for things either, but at least they try to help with perspective.

If no one is watching prime time, then they’re probably not watching any local TV. And if no one’s watching, those stations won’t be able to afford to have news.

Can anything be done or is it too late?​

I absolutely don’t think it’s too late. I think primetime programming can become more immediate and appealing. In the early 2000s, broadcasters were on the ropes and were rescued by reality competition shows like Survivor and American Idol. I don’t know what would rescue them today but I do think a rescue is possible.

I don’t think we’ll ever get back to 40 ratings, but I think it’s possible for local broadcasters to serve content that people want to see live. If I knew what that was, I’d make a mint selling the idea. All I can hope is that someone is working on the problem.

There is something you can do, though. Get an over-the-air TV antenna and see what’s out there. You probably don’t realize that there are dozens of channels you can get for free. Sometimes, it’s just nice to sit down and watch. Put the remote and the phone out of reach and just enjoy. Maybe you’ll find it will be worth it, and maybe you’ll contribute to keeping local news going for another day.

The post Is prime-time TV dead? appeared first on The Solid Signal Blog.

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The problem with the younger group is they are now trained to watch everything via streaming, for example, my son is 33, he does watch certain CBS shows, like FBI, but he watches them on Paramount+, yes he could save money if he watched them on the antenna, but he also watches the exclusive Paramount shows, Star Trek for one, so why bother.

My daughter is 28, if it is not on You Tube or Netflix, she will not watch it.

Now myself, at the age of 56, I have a antenna, I have a Tablo, since I am retired again, I have lots of time, I do watch Broadcast Prime Time Shows, but I also watch them on the streaming services for the much better quality, 1080P ( some are in 4K) and Dolby Digital+ sound, they look and sound so much better then the antenna or Live TV Providers.

Millennials are lost to streaming, the majority will never watch TV the way I used to, then there is Gen Z, I doubt they even know what a antenna is.

Millennials and the oldest of Gen Z are having kids, Generation Alpha, streaming will be all they will know.