In just the last two years, 25% of network TV’s prime-time viewers have departed, and, odds are, they aren’t coming back. At the same time TV program costs have skyrocketed.
Wonder why NBC is going with Leno every day at 10 p.m.?
The future of network TV is actually the future of TV syndication. There’s good news there: “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy” and “Oprah Winfrey” have been on the air for just about three decades each. So network TV has a lot to look forward to: plenty of constancy, but also plenty of boredom.
Network TV is not turning to cable or to the Internet for its near-term financial model. The new digital TV world isn’t growing fast enough for NBC’s Jeff Zucker. Those digital pennies he talks about will still be digital pennies — and not TV dollars — for quite some time.
New TV estimates say prime time will see a major contraction in advertising dollars — some 7% to 8% overall — this year. At last year’s $9.2 billion dollar upfront broadcast prime-time level, that could come to a disappearance of some $732 million dollars.
Where will those dollars go? To YouTube, Canoe Ventures, Screenvision, MobiTV, ESPN, or CBS Television Distribution?
The big slap on the head comes from the fact that even former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan says he blew it by letting the nation’s banking system go fairly unregulated over the last few decades. The bigger slap was that virtually no one saw this coming.
Many have made entire careers out of predicting network television’s demise — or if not the medium itself, then its upfront advertising process. Yet TV advertisers continue to grumble but move in predictable fashion. Where else can anyone go but network TV? Stick with what still has scale and efficiency, say media analysts.
But someday that scale may not be scale. If erosion of network TV viewership continues its double-digit percentage pace, this becomes just an easy math problem.