Watching television isn’t like it used to be

Is "watching television" rapidly going the way of "listening to a cassette"? What's a cassette, you ask? Let me explain. . . .

“Watching television” might, in the not too distant future, become one of those things that has to be explained to younger people, in the same way that we now have to explain rotary dial phones, record players, and how much better Mars bars used to taste to anyone born after about 1990. There are two reasons for this: the number of people who watch a given television show has been steadily decreasing for years, and the people who actually watch these shows on a television set at the time they’re originally broadcast is likewise declining.

In 1950/51, 61% of all houses with televisions in the U.S. watched Texaco Star Theater, making it the most popular show of the year. With the odd exception, the most watched TV show of every year since has had a smaller and smaller audience share, so that All in the Family in the early 1970s was watched by 30% of households with TVs, ER in the mid-1990s was watched by 22%, and in this century American Idol reached a high of 17% in 2006/07 and dropped steadily after that, proving that there’s a limit to how much punishment some viewers can take.

This declining audience share can be explained, in part, by how many hundreds of TV channels are now available. Name a specialty interest, and you’ll probably find a channel devoted to it somewhere at the far reaches of your channel guide. When there were only a handful of channels, it was possible for something like the final episode of M*A*S*H to be watched by a mind-boggling 125 million people in the U.S. alone, a number that today’s TV executives can only dream about. Nowadays those 125 million people are, between them, probably watching approximately 127 different shows at the same time on a given night, which not only drives shows’ audience share down, but also makes it much tougher to discuss your TV viewing at work the next day (and if you do find someone who watched what you did, there’s sure to be a third person who recorded it, or is waiting for the DVD to come out, who will be glaring at you as they hiss “No spoilers!”).

Which illustrates another reason why “watching television” in the traditional sense is, if not dead, then not in good health. Long gone are the days when if you wanted to watch a certain show, you had to make sure you were in front of your TV on the date and at the time when it aired. These days people are as likely to record a show and watch it when it’s convenient for them, not the network; or catch up with it online; or wait until the DVD is available. Or they’re cutting the cable altogether, fed up with companies which insist (as is the case with our provider: thanks, Shaw) that if you want Turner Classic Movies you can only have it if you get several children’s TV channels as well. They’re turning to providers like Netflix to supply their viewing needs, getting what they want when they want it, and foregoing TV sets in favour of computer screens and tablets.

So “watching television” might be going the way of “listening to music on a cassette”. What’s a cassette? I hear someone ask. Let me explain. . . .

Barbara Roden

Just Posted

$9.2 million in federal funding announced for Ashcroft Terminal

MLA calls announcement a game changer for the region

Local doctor says he has no plans to leave the community

Dr. Amgad Zake says he’s settled in after more than two years at the Ashcroft clinic.

Ashcroft student wins writing award for powerful poem

Vivian McLean’s ‘A Poem for Chocolate’ takes top prize at Kamloops young authors event.

Lace up your shoes for the eighth annual Skip’s Run

A pledge challenge is a new feature for this year’s event.

Local News Briefs: Area museums now open

Plus free workshops, a tourism symposium, a community fan-out trial, and more.

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

B.C. man facing deportation says terror accusation left him traumatized

Othman Hamdan was acquitted of terrorism-related charges by a B.C. Supreme Court judge in September

Woman’s death near Tofino prompts warning about ‘unpredictable’ ocean

Ann Wittenberg was visiting Tofino for her daughter Victoria Emon’s wedding

Will Taylor Swift’s high concert ticket prices stop scalpers?

Move by artist comes as B.C. looks to how to regulate scalpers and bots reselling concert tickets

36 fires sparked May long weekend, most due to lightning: BC Wildfire

As warmer weather nears, chief fire officer Kevin Skrepnek says too soon to forecast summer

Ariana Grande sends message of hope on anniversary of Manchester bombing

Prince William joins survivors and emergency workers for remembrance service

Cariboo business supplies security ATVs for 44th G7 Summit

Spectra Power Sports Ltd. of Williams Lake supplying security vehicles for G7 Summit

B.C. flood risk switches from snowmelt to rainfall: River Forecast Centre

Kootenays and Fraser River remain serious concerns

Pipeline more important than premiers meeting: Notley

“Canada has to work for all Canadians, that’s why we’re fighting for the pipeline”

Most Read