Friday, May 13, 2011

Fox Wins the TV Season Ratings Race, but Cable is the Real Victor: Danger Lurks for Viewers Seeking Quality as Those Over 50 are Ignored

The future of television?
Ratings for the 2010/11 TV season are almost final and its looks like Fox wins in the 18-49 age category most sought by advertisers, which is quite silly considering the aging yet wealthier population.  The numbers and the fact that programmers ignore older viewers accounts for some of the trash on television.

It is reported that the broadcast networks are losing their hold on audiences and, with the exception of Univision, their ratings are down an average of 9% from last year.  Where are those millions of viewers going?  To cable.

Under 49 viewers are migrating to the non-broadcast networks where last week’s ratings show the Top 20 most viewed programs were: pro-basketball games (TNT,ESPN), the WWE (USA), Pawn Stars (HIST), O’Reilly (FNC), Suite Life on Deck(DSNY), A.N.T. Farm(DSNY), Swamp People (HIST), Law & Order: CI (originals) (USA) and Shake It Up (DSNY).

Throughout the season, the highest rated cable shows are Pawn Stars (HIST), ICarly (NICK), Spongebob (NICK), Jersey Shore (MTV), NCIS reruns (USA), White Collar (USA), Chopped (FOOD), The Closer (TNT), Burn Notice (USA) and various baseball and football games.

Amazing isn’t it?

Of course, the bulk of viewers remain with the broadcast networks, especially those not being counted, like the legions of viewers over 50 who do buy goods and services, but are ignored by the companies buying the commercial time.

Those of us with taste are watching Fox (which had a 3.5 audience share) for American Idol, Glee, House, Bones and Family Guy.  Helping, but not completely attributable to the ratings win, was the Fox broadcast of the Super Bowl.

CBS (2.9) comes in second for the season.  Its strongest shows are The Big Bang Theory, NCIS (original and LA), Two and a Half Men, Survivor, Criminal Minds, The Good Wife, The Mentalist and How I Met Your Mother.

ABC (2.4) and NBC (2.3) are pretty far behind the leader.  ABC’s winners are Body of Proof, Desperate Housewives, Castle, Grey’s Anatomy and, of course, Dancing with the Stars.

NBC really needs help.  It has only the Biggest Loser, Law & Order: SVU, The Voice and Sunday Night Football.  Its Thursday night line-up of comedy is not doing well and will continue to do poorly with Steve Carell’s departure from The Office.

There are good programs on cable (White Collar and the soon-to-be-departed The Closer are among my favorites), but I’m still more interested in watching a good, witty, intelligent drama like the Good Wife or Castle.  I know many readers also enjoy House, Glee and Desperate Housewives.

The better quality shows are on the broadcast networks, but the fact that they’re losing steam is serious cause for concern from a viewer’s standpoint.  It means there is little incentive to produce great programming if programmers choose to ignore the older audience and cater to those flocking to the likes of the Jersey Shore.

Why would the networks spend a lot of money to produce a weekly drama if they can draw ratings from substandard material that costs a lot less to get on the air?

Sadly, we’re in for less quality and more mediocre-to-outright trashy shows.

Unless advertisers start paying attention to adults over 49 whose viewing habits have more to do with quality, we can look forward to more junk over the next few years.

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