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Posted in Uncategorized on December 20, 2010
By Samantha Braco
During the week of October 6th, 2008, the stock market crashed in The United States and sent people all over the country careening into a recession that put jobs, life in general, and most plans for the future on hold. With such a difficult economic crisis, it was hard for people to go out and do the things they wanted to do; vacations, get aways, even honeymoons were nearly impossible. So what was America to do?
Television: the virtual answer to all of America’s problems, right? Exactly. It took people away from all their financial woes and put them into someone else’s life for 30-45 minutes. But, is this fact or fiction? The reality of the situation is that while certain types of television, i.e. scripted comedies and dramas, flourished during the 2008 recession, there are types of television that did not do so well. This is not the first time in history that a recession has affected television ratings.
After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, American suffered through a similar, yet smaller, recession which also affected television viewing. According to a report by Ashley A. Gowgiel and William D. McIntosh of Georgia Southern University, “the threat of a terrorist attack impacts people’s television-viewing more than an economic threat.” During this time, even more so than during the 2008 recession, people were watching television to take their minds off of the terrible tragedy that had occurred on 9/11. The most popular program during this recession was Friends which aired on NBC; people found it extremely comforting during the time of need. The opening episode of Friends Season 8, which premiered on September 27, 2001, a mere sixteen days after the September 11th attacks, had an astounding audience of 32 million viewers tune in, one of the highest rated episodes ever for the show.
That was then, this is now. Have things changed for the better or for the worse in the 2008 recession for television ratings? The answer is, that is seriously fluctuates, but for the most part it has gone up.
Provided here is a graph of the four main television networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX) and their average viewing audience numbers during the 2008 recession and the supposed “recovery” period after. The graph has averaged the viewers per night in each respective network for the three years. Blue represents the 2007-2008 viewing season, right before the economic crisis, pink represents the 2008-2009 viewing season, and green represents the 2009-2010 viewing season. It is plain to see that the viewership is very closely related. If you look at CBS viewership, which won the most ratings for the recession, the 2008-2010 viewing years are the highest. There was a 14% percentage change from the 2007-2008 to the 2008-2009 seasons for CBS, with a 1% and 2% percentage change for ABC and NBC correspondingly. ABC, NBC, and CBS all saw a rise in ratings during the recession. A -12% percentage change for Fox is very curious, Fox hurt in the recession after being the ratings winner of the 2007-2008 season.
Dr. Barry Janes, a professor of Electronic Media Theory at Rider University and avid television ratings follower, explained that this theory that television ratings have gone up during the 2008 recession is true for most households, but in some respects of television they have also gone down. Janes agreed that people probably could not afford to keep up their cable bills, but on the other hand they cannot afford to go out on vacations either, so they probably spent more time at home.
“Droves of people have not been moving away from watching television as a whole,” said Janes about viewership during the economic crisis. “But, audiences may have shifted.”
This “shift” that Janes speaks of could be the shift attributed with the boom of Reality Television in the beginning of the recession. A large amount of Reality Television shows were seen popping up all over MTV, The E! Network, VH1, and all the main network channels in late 2008 and there are still quite a few around today as a result of that boom.
“The economy certainly had an impact on reality television, there’s no doubt about it,” said Janes. “The thing that happened there had to do more with the producers and the cost of producing these programs. Shows like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars have proven, why spend ten times as much producing a situation comedy or a drama when you could do it for a fraction of the cost?”
Strangely enough, In the November 18th, 2008, online edition of “The Los Angeles Times”, Scott Collins stated that it “could be argued that all of Network TV is down” since the recession began, but he then said that “some of the network’s biggest unscripted series have been sinking in the ratings.”
Collins explained that shows like Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader and Deal or No Deal were nearly 35% and 29% down respectively in their ratings from 2007. In the fall of 2008, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader lost nearly half of their viewers in the 18-49 demographic with only 5.5 million viewers averaging per episode. Deal or No Deal followed suit with an out of the ordinary 8 million viewers per episode. Other stragglers included Survivor, which dropped 10% in the ratings, and the usually popular Cops, which dropped a disappointing 17%.
This completely goes against the theory that Reality Television thrived in the recession. Just because the shows were easy and cheap to produce does not mean they were popularly watched. This report also proves that scripted comedies and dramas were succeeding in the beginning of 2008. Collin’s mentions the shows 30 Rock on NBC was up by 23%, Gossip Girl on The CW by 20%, How I met your Mother by 12%, and Ghost Whisperer by 8% in the ratings.
Scripted comedies and dramas have definitely done better during the recession, but this does not count premium viewership channels such as HBO, Starz, and Showtime. These channels have a rating system all their own because not everyone has the means to pay for premium viewership channels. In a recession, it is hard to make money, so during these years of the recession, there has been a significant decrease and cancellations of households’ premium viewing.
“People cut back on their premium cable channels,” said Janes. “The HBOs, the Showtimes, the things like that, they are just cutting them out completely. People relied more on subscribing to Netflix or going on Hulu or something along those lines. This recession has forced people to think about how much money they have and how much they can spend and examine what their options are.”
A great example to support this theory is the, now, extremely popular HBO show True Blood. True Blood premiered in September of 2008, right before things started getting pretty bad with the economy. It premiered to a measly audience of 1.4 million viewers, which, in these days, are basically grounds for immediate cancellation. The season finale only barely reached 2.4 million viewers in November 2008. Only proof that no one at the time could afford HBO. Things improved slightly by the Season 2 premiere in June 2009. Ratings were up to 3.7 million viewers as the show gained popularity in the 18-49 demographic and closed with a lifechanging 5.11 million viewers in September 2009, guaranteeing True Blood a home at HBO for years to come, regardless of recession.
Although this is true for a majority of the population, many places suggest the opposite. An article by Rory Maher shows that, regardless of money, premium cable channels continued to be popular during the height of the recession. According to the report, “Profits at HBO and Cinemax grew more than 10 percent during the fourth quarter of 2008, and the networks ended the year with their highest subscriber total ever—40.9 million.” Showtime subscribers were also up by 6% and Starz subscribers were up by 8% in March 2009.
How does this explain True Blood’s poor opening numbers at the beginning of its first season, right in the beginning of the economic crisis? Maher suggests that “the mix of factors includes aggressive bundling, more online and mobile promotion, an increased interest in-home entertainment, and, to be sure, the lag time between things getting bad at home and the time it takes for paring back to show up in subscriptions.” In other words, when the stock market crashed, premium cable channels started making special deals to help people keep their premium cable channels when the recession hit. True Blood’s eventual popularity could have been contributed to that, but since it started off with horrible ratings in the beginning of September 2008, right at the beginning of the fourth quarter, it took awhile for these “bundlings” to become popular.
So, what exactly, is going on here? Television viewing has increased during the years of the 2008 recession, but not in every aspect. Though reality television programming became financially more accessible to producers during the recession and boomed, reality television viewing has actually decreased. Premium cable channels have received a high amount of viewers from 2009 on despite its unpopularity due to its financial constraints. The programs that have done the best during the recession have been scripted comedies and dramas, probably because it removes the blasé of everyday life and stress.
What is the future for television in the recovery years from the 2008 recession? Janes says that television is going to have to start getting some new ideas if they are going to have to compete with this new world of Netflix and TiVo, which hurt television ratings even more. In fact, there are now two separate sections in the ratings now: one for recorded programming and one for live. The bat thing about this is that with TiVo and Netflix, you can fast forward right through the commercials, leaving commercial distributers in financial ruins.
“In these economic realities, are they going to have to get more creative? Absolutely!” said Janes. “There are thousands of new programs and thousands of people with new ideas that you and I would have never thought about three or five years ago. I think all of the networks are going to have to change their business plans and become more creative because of things like Netflix and Hulu so they can stay in business.”
1. Bentley, Brandon, ed. “Friends Central.” Wikia. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2010. <http://friends.wikia.com/wiki/Season_8>.
2. “ CBS Wins the 2008-2009 Television Season in Viewers and Places First in Adults 25-54 .” TheFutonCritic. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2010. <http://www.thefutoncritic.com/news.aspx?id=20090520cbs02>.
3. “CBS Wins the 2009-2010 Season in Viewers.” TheFutonCritic. N.p., 25 May 2010. Web. 19 Dec. 2010. <http://www.thefutoncritic.com/ratings/2010/05/25/cbs-wins-the-2009-2010-season-in-viewers-35847/20100525cbs02/>.
4. Collins, Scott. “Tough reality as recession hits unscripted shows.” Los Angeles Times. N.p., 18 Nov. 2008. Web. 19 Dec. 2010. <http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/2008/11/tough-reality-a.html>.
5. Frankel, Daniel. “1.4 million tune into ‘True Blood.’” Variety. N.p., 9 Sept. 2008. Web. 19 Dec. 2010. <http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117991937?refCatId=1237>.
6. Gorman, Bill. “Final 2007-2008 Broadcast Season Network Ratings.” Tvbythenumbers. N.p., 29 May 2008. Web. 19 Dec. 2010. <http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2008/05/29/final-2007-2008-broadcast-season-network-ratings/3937>.
7. “We Look Back At The Top TV Shows of 2002.” Tvbythenumbers. N.p., 26 Apr. 2008. Web. 19 Dec. 2010. <http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2008/04/26/we-look-back-at-the-top-tv-shows-of-2002/3513>.
8. Kissell, Rick. “CBS stays hot in November.” Variety. N.p., 25 Nov. 2008. Web. 19 Dec. 2010.
9. Maher, Rory. “What Recession? Premium Cable Channels Continue To Add Subs.” The economics of digital data. paidcontent.org, 3 Mar. 2009. Web. 19 Dec. 2010. <http://paidcontent.org/article/419-what-recession-premium-cable-channels-continue/>.
10. “Nielsen Wire.” Primetime Broadcast Ratings, October 27, 2008. N.p., 28 Oct. 2008. Web. 19 Dec. 2010. <http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/media_entertainment/primetime-broadcast-ratings-october-27-2008/>.
11. Seidman, Robert. “Cable ratings: USC, VMAs, iCarly and True Blood finale…” TVbythenumbers. N.p., 15 Sept. 2009. Web. 19 Dec. 2010. <http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2009/09/15/cable-ratings-usc-vmas-icarly-and-true-bloodfinale/27176>.
12. Werpin, Alex. “Cable Ratings: ‘True Blood’ Delivers For HBO.” Broadcasting & Cable. N.p., 16 June 2009. Web. 19 Dec. 2010. <http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/294649-Cable_Ratings_True_Blood_Delivers_For_HBO.php?rssid=20065>.
Posted in Uncategorized on December 8, 2010
I will be the first person to admit that I would rather jump online to read a news story instead of cracking open a newspaper, but stories like this upset me. I don’t really like the idea of one medium falling under another, there are certain types of people who enjoy one over the other and I think that is how it should stay.
According to The State of the News Media, “papers are at risk of becoming insubstantial”. Yes, many people prefer the one click convenience of the internet, but it is no reason for newspapers to die out.
There are many people who would still read a newspaper over looking online