Thursday, May 14, 2009
TV Viewers Jump To Cable
Television viewers are changing their viewing habits in light of the strange behavior of top executives at the major networks. Budgets are being cut on scripted shows because of the struggling economy. Reality shows such as "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars" continue to do well, although "Idol's" ratings are slightly down. There will be more reality shows to come, because in this economy, the cheaper the better. But what about the long-term. The end of network TV as we know it ends in September, when Jay Leno moves to 10 pm five nights a week. Compared to scripted shows, Leno's hour will be extremely cheap to produce, but it will come at a cost. More viewers, especially the 18-to-49-year-olds coveted by advertisers, are flocking to cable, and the 59-year-old Leno won't be able to keep more of them from flipping channels. Cable television, led by networks such as HBO and Showtime, has been giving viewers an option for a while now. But it's the emergence of basic cable channels such as AMC, FX, and TNT, that are changing viewers habits. Talented writers, who are losing their jobs at the major networks, are ending up working on critically acclaimed shows such as AMC's "Mad Men," TNT's "The Closer", and numerous other shows requiring a script instead of a host. Even though we all like Ryan Seacrest, Howie Mandel, and Regis Philbin, we don't need to have them hosting multiple shows which neither challenge the intellect nor add anything original to the television landscape. The network executives are challenged by the economy, but they are either not interested, or are being forced by higher-ups, not to look toward the future. For the viewer, the future of TV couldn't be better. The choices are many. For the major networks - ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox - the future is now. By September, when the new "Jay Leno Show" premieres in prime-time, the audience will already be mostly made up of 50-to-80-year-old non-college-educated former auto-workers and their pets. So while your dog is watching Jay Leno at 10 pm, be sure to DVR the latest episode of "Dexter" on Showtime.