Thursday, September 29, 2011

Online Television and the Longevity of Television Shows

New technology, by nature, makes other technologies obsolete and changes the direction of industries all together. In the case of television, the ability to watch shows online has dramatically affected the way television shows are created as well as how they gain a following. Instead of studying the broad affects of online television on the shows created by networks, I have decided to focus on the ways networks receive their ratings, and how that affects their decision to continue a show or cancel it.

In the past, ratings have been easy to calculate and even easier to understand. When the show was on the air, how many television sets were tuned into that particular channel? As engineers continue to produce innovative ways to access television, the calculation and understanding of television ratings has become less obvious and significantly more difficult. Between the ability to record a show on DVR (which has now been factored into ratings) and the ability to watch the show online whenever you so choose, the networks have trouble determining how many people are watching the show and what demographic of people are actually watching the show. It is rare today to find a person, especially in the popular teen to young adult demographic, that watches all of their television live on the actual television. This problem can lead to shows being canceled due to low ratings that may not tell the entire story. I would like to delve into this topic and see how the networks are compensating for this new problem and if there are satisfactory results that a show's future can be based upon.

This problem has risen from the idea of potentialities, namely with the internet. The networks probably didn't anticipate their viewers streaming their favorite shows online and disregarding their live airing times. How does this affect the way the media is created? Do producers create media that is aimed towards the internet users even if it gets poor live ratings? If the primary mandate of the networks is to make money, what happens to the popular shows that are only being watched online? The producers want a good following, but they are not making the money they could be with a different show that is viewed more live. All of these questions come to mind when discussing the idea of online television and I would like to look at them more in depth with my research.


  1. Great topic. Nielsen is the dominant data collecting company for the television industry, but their audience pool size that they survey is very small with about 2,500 households. This can be very deceiving when it comes to ratings and TV show life span. It might be interesting to see what other companies are doing to get more accurate ratings. Also, Netflix is another avenue that TV show producers take if their show is cancelled. Netflix content is a lot of old shows and could take on cancelled shows.

  2. Good topic. This is a very interesting topic, I am curious to see what you can find in terms of different ways in which producers are able to control access to their shows online and then use the online viewers for their direct benefit. The topic also could deal with pirating where different sites are streaming shows which they don't have the rights to.

  3. Very good, relevant topic. I was actually just reading an article about a broadcast network show (Fringe), where they discussed how they have a ton of viewers of the show, but producers aren't sure if they have enough live viewers for the show to continue after it's fourth season. It's a very interesting idea that viewership and live viewership are two vastly different economic quantities, and how quality shows like Fringe :) or the Wire have suffer from not getting enough live viewers to attract advertisers.
    As you have touched on in your proposal, i think it is very astute to look to other forms of quantification of viewership, and analyze how much online viewership really matters (i.e., can the broadcasters find a way to make enough money from it to save their shows).