Wow! There’s a lot of TV to watch. In fact, 409 scripted TV series were released in 2015, a record even in the midst of the “golden age” of television. The number of people worldwide who watch TV has increased exponentially in the past few decades, and the number of offerings has increased accordingly.
According to culture blog, Vulture, viewership is on a decline. Ratings for the top 200 network shows have decreased 20% from year to year, and ratings for the top 300 kids’ shows have decreased a whopping 30%. Despite these dismal numbers — TV is still thriving, and here’s why.
409 scripted series is more than anyone can keep up with — and with declining interest from viewers, 409 is too high a number to be sustainable via anything resembling traditional TV. Advertising revenues are dropping, as smart marketers move on to more promising advert spaces. The growth of television offerings may continue for a few more years, but eventually, the decline is inevitable.
Network viewership declines are all in the double digits for the 2016-17 season (except for one exception: NBC). People just aren’t tuning in for day-of viewing. But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t watching TV — just that they’re watching it in other ways.
More and more available choices mean that producers of TV are going to have to target more specific audiences in order to get the viewership they’re looking for. And they’re also going to have to go looking for their audiences in new places.
The rise of online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu has precipitated a revolution in viewership. Hulu has 9 million subscribers, and Netflix 70.1 million subscribers worldwide, with more and more signing up every day.
With their huge paying audiences, online streaming services have taken the opportunity to make their own original programming. They’re starting to directly compete with cable and premium networks, marking the spread of the TV industry across mediums.
And the online television market is booming. Netflix is churning out original programming as fast as most cable networks and with more critical and consumer acclaim. Amazon Video is now the home of the highest-rated television series on IMDb, The Grand Tour. If things continue in the vein they’re going, streaming may soon be bigger than cable.
Even the big cable networks like CBS, ABC, NBC, and FOX understand the potential of online streaming, introducing services of their own. Getting their content to online users has become essential to stay in the competition against Netflix and the like.
The future of TV is not in our living rooms — it’s on our computers. As the market shifts, so does the industry. We live in a fast-paced multimedia world, and in order to reach their consumers, television series have to adapt.
Even if the series doesn’t originate online, it needs to be available online. With more and more online viewers, the internet is a better platform for advertisers to reach new, non-traditional audiences. Many showrunners are embracing the multi-media experience, releasing “webisodes” to work alongside cable programming.
As the number of programs available continues to grow, TV shows are going to have to work harder to differentiate themselves, and appeal to their target audiences — no matter how wide or how narrow they may be.
As the TV competition has changed, so have the competitors. New kids on the block like Netflix and Amazon Video are giving the old pillars of programming a run for their money, and in order to keep their seats at the table, cable networks are slowly migrating online.