Can TV continue to be live?

NBC’s live showing of “Peter Pan” is more than just a delight to the nation’s children. It might also be signaling the beginning death throes of an industry.

The question now is whether that dying industry is the traditional cable companies that deliver TV live, or the companies that produce that content.

Although it is common knowledge that printed media are in financial trouble, less commonly known is that network TV’s business model is quickly facing the same issues the newspapers were faced with back in the ‘90s.

According to Nielson’s Total Audience Report issued Dec. 3, 2014, viewership of traditional live TV by the typical American adult fell by 12 minutes in 2014 from the previous year. That is a decline of 4 percent. And that is after a similar 2 percent drop from 2012.

We are now watching 18 fewer minutes of live TV than we were two years ago.

Along with those falling viewership ratings, network TV advertising revenues were also down nearly 4 percent last year.

The thing is, total “TV” consumption time didn’t fall. In fact, we are spending more minutes consuming “TV” content than we have in the last few years. So where are those minutes going?

It turns out, we are watching more time-shifted TV (which is an industry term to mean we are using digital video recorders such as TiVo to record a show and watch it later.) We are using our DVD/Blue-Rays a bit more. We are using our game consoles to stream video a little more.

But the real growth has been in smartphone usage to consume video. We are spending more than an hour and a half each week on average watching video content on a smartphone.

And as it turns out, we are spending less time watching live TV than we are spending watching it through some alternate delivery.

So what? What does this all mean? It means that as consumers continue to demand more control over delivery methods and timing of their television programing, it is the providers of live programing who are ultimately losing out.

They are now facing the smaller audiences, and the dilemma of “trading real world dollars for digital dimes.”

It seems that the last bastions of live TV are sports, and the reemerging genre of live television events, such as “Peter Pan,” and last year’s “Sound of Music.”

The question now is whether audiences will bite and watch those shows live, or whether “Peter Pan” will sit, recorded on a DVR until we are ready to watch.

About mdgiusti

Michael Giusti is a journalist and educator. He is the Adviser and Chief Administrative Officer for the Loyola Student Media, which publishes the nationally award-winning Maroon newspaper. He has 20 years experience as a professional journalist and has worked in daily newsrooms, weekly business journals and as a freelancer for national and international publications. He holds an MBA and is passionate about media business models.
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