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The Future of Television In America

LOS GATOS, CA – JANUARY 22: A sign is posted in front of the Netflix headquarters on January 22, 2014 in Los Gatos, California. Netflix will report fourth quarter earnings today after the closing bell. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

One hundred eleven million viewers tuned in to last Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast moving it into first place as the most viewed TV event of all time. It’s doubtful all 111.5 million stayed to the bitter end but it did illuminate some facts about viewers.

We Like Live Events – So Do Advertisers

In spite of the final episodes of Seinfeld, M.A.S.H., and Cheers being ratings monsters, live broadcast events carry the day for stations across America. Nine of the top 15 most watched TV shows of all time are Super Bowls. And, those events also carry the biggest price tag for advertisers.

Does that big price tag work? Radio Shack had a 7 percent increase in their stock price on the Monday morning following their Super Bowl ad. Spending big bucks might instill confidence in investors in spite of Radio Shack closing 500 stores.

The Future of Commercial TV

Commercial TV is falling on hard times. The top twenty most watched shows seem to stay the same from year to year with a few newcomers making the grade. Half hour comedies today mostly consist of a fat ignorant dad, a trophy wife, and two or three obnoxious kids. Is it any wonder viewership is declining year over year?

For the first time a Netflix show was nominated for an Emmy Award. Netflix is a subscription service and may be the tip of the iceberg as to the direction of future TV viewership. Movies and TV shows are now available on your smart phone, tablet, TV — anywhere there’s a Wi-Fi signal.

Conundrum For Advertisers

Today’s TV advertisers have a real challenge in putting advertising dollars where they will produce the biggest bang for the buck. While Super Bowls produce huge audiences they also carry a very large multimillion-dollar price tag.

For some advertisers that’s just lost revenue because their commercials are either poorly produced or the commercial is memorable but the band name is not. Advertising experts all agree that the greatest commercial ever made played only once during the 1984 Super Bowl introducing the Macintosh Apple computer. Apple went on to become the most valuable company in the world. That’s the kind of bang advertisers are looking for.

Some Final Thoughts

I recently signed up for Netflix and have found that catching up with many movies that I missed in the theater has seriously curtailed my commercial TV viewing. Now I can just dial up either the movies or TV shows I want on my big screen, pop up the footrest on the old recliner, some chips and dip and a cold adult beverage and my night is made.

Television is going to have to make some tough choices in the years to come. I can see TV going the way of newspapers. Online connectivity across a broad spectrum of devices will revise how, when and where our entertainment originates.

We have the golf channel, game show channel, and the military channel; perhaps we need a commercial channel. Half hour sitcoms built around Velveeta Cheese with a fat dad, trophy wife and two or three obnoxious kids. Something to think about.

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