Off: the end of non-streaming TV on the horizon? | American television


Founded in 2006, the CW turns 16 this year, which seems fair considering it’s always cast itself as the younger, hipster sibling to the bigger networks. The hottest shows on the CW are centered around teens: Riverdale, a modern, supernatural update to the Archie comics, and All American, about a black high school football player recruited to play at a Beverly Hills school. . They also have two superhero shows, Superman & Lois and The Flash, which also theoretically appeal to younger audiences. Young content, however, doesn’t necessarily equal young viewers, which we learned this week when it was revealed that the average age of a CW viewer is 58.

In a twist worthy of Riverdale itself, which recently featured a time travel story, the CW’s hip young viewers suddenly turned middle-aged. Or maybe not. The data cited by Nexstar, a media group that just acquired a majority stake in the network, only tracks initial viewership and some DVR views. That says nothing about viewing on streaming services, where younger viewers are increasingly getting their television. For this, young people have options. The CW has its own streaming site where shows can be watched for free, but they also have a licensing agreement with Netflix. In other words, while Riverdale and All American might be watched by gray-haired viewers, most of its fans still watch it on Netflix while keeping tabs on TikTok.

The news was good for social media jokes, but its implications are stark. It’s no secret that streaming is on its way to becoming the dominant format for TV — and maybe even movies — but this announcement basically gives us the expiration date for broadcast and cable. If a network as youth-oriented as The CW has an average viewing age approaching 60 — and only one other network, FOX, has a younger audience at 56 — the end of “traditional television” is at hand. ‘horizon. To put it bluntly, people who watch broadcast and cable won’t be around forever, and when they’re gone, there will be few viewers left who don’t see streaming as the norm.

And if that wasn’t enough to scare off network executives, consider this: Last month, for the first time ever, streaming platforms overtook cable in popularity. Streamers had already beaten broadcast networks, but cable continued to hold its place at the top until July, when streaming accounted for 34.8% of total US consumption, with cable entering at 34.4. % and the spread limping to a third. -final place with 21.6%. Of course, the conditions were ripe for this. Streaming had a particularly strong month, with the fourth season of Stranger Things and The Gray Man, featuring Hollywood stars Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, premiering on Netflix. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime’s The Terminal List has racked up more than 1.5 billion watch minutes despite dismal reviews.

Sadie Sink in Stranger Things Photography: Courtesy of Netflix

It also didn’t help that it was the only month of the year without NBA or NFL action. Of the four major American sports, only baseball has games in July. Live events, especially sports, are increasingly the only thing cable TV and broadcast have to offer, but streaming services are playing their game here. AppleTV+ has started showing baseball on Friday nights and, starting next year, it will be the sole TV provider for Major League Soccer.

More importantly, Amazon Prime will hold the exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football starting this fall. The NFL might be the only thing keeping the networks afloat; for the 2021–22 television season, football dominated the ratings, with various weekly football shows making up the top four spots each. The NFL has been part of the network television landscape since almost the beginning; games began airing regularly shortly after World War II, and the first championship game to be nationally televised was in 1948. If streaming services ever deepen their forays into the NFL, the TV broadcast will be nearly dead and cable will be on life support.

Again, each ending brings new opportunities. Maybe traditional TV could find a way to reinvent itself, but with lower audience expectations. The CW has announced its goal of changing its demographic focus, creating more content that will appeal to its older viewers. There will be fewer scripted original shows, and more “high-quality syndicated programming” and unscripted shows. That probably means reality TV and contest shows like The Masked Singer and America’s Got Talent. Sport was not mentioned. The goal is not to raise the ratings to where they once were. It’s a strategy for efficiency, saving money while addressing the target audience, but it’s hardly certain to avoid the inevitability of the streaming revolution. Like their viewers, broadcast and cable TV aren’t guaranteed to last forever, and for the first time, it feels like the end is in sight.


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