Last week, I noted two seemingly contradictory articles. The first commented on NBC’s apparent low ratings. The second (nice of me to put the two in one post, no?) talks about DVRs being used in greater numbers and increasing viewership of shows. One other statistic that has been buried in the news about viewership these past few weeks was that during the recent spate of reruns, viewers moved on.
Once upon a time, reruns were space fillers — when there were only three networks, the networks held the viewers captive. What were they gonna do? Watch something else? Ha.
No longer, and still the major networks persist in maintaining a business as usual programming schedule. Commercials filled with “last episode” announcements bombard us. Watch now or be forever lost! Again, ha. If I miss the show, TiVo won’t. If I accidentally delete it from TiVo, there are other options. The problem is that once these shows are gone, we head into a long, hot summer.
With news that the Writer’s Guild might strike (and, isn’t it almost a violation of the principles of the strike to stockpile scripts in advance?), programming next year might be hard to come by. Never fear…reality shows are here. This means the nation’s viewers are going to go elsewhere for their entertainment. YouTube, for example, might see a dramatic rise in viewers. Other non-television outlets with television-like programming might pull in viewers.
Last year, when the fall television season launched, I lamented the overabundance of choice. I am not the most dedicated television viewer in the world; even the most dedicated, most couch potato viewer could not watch everything that launched in those heady weeks of Fall. And, as it turned, series were cancelled left and right before they could find an audience. Heck, some had found an audience, but the audience hadn’t found the time to catch up. By the time the audience was available, the networks had given up on them.
Now, I’m guessing that the smart networks will try to breathe second life into some of these series. Of course, they’ve fired cast and torn down sets, so if they take this approach, a hit show is the last thing they want. It would have been smarter to hold some programming back for the dry season.
If the networks want to remain viable in the future, they must move to year-round programming. We, the audience, simply don’t have our old patience for reruns and we certainly can get out of the habit of watching appointment television. We do not have the same loyalty levels that the networks once commanded, and it’s a bit astounding to me that the audience isn’t being accommodated.
You know it’s true when favorite shows takes long hiatuses. We lose the threads of serialized programming and some people drop out due to lost momentum. We forget about the shows entirely if we don’t have TiVo — I mean, I really don’t know what time Lost airs and I have only the vaguest idea of what channel it’s broadcast on. If TiVo left me tomorrow, I’d have to wait until the Connellys bought the DVDs.
I could also rant about the persistence of the 24-episode (or so) season runs, but these shows tend to be so outrageously expensive to produced that increasing the number of shows is really not simple.
It’s time that the major networks learn what the cable channels have seen for years: just because the sun is out later doesn’t mean that people don’t want quality, non-rerun programming in the months of July and August. Even February. We’re all about giving the people what they want here at Medialoper HQ. It’s time the networks started listening.