The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau admitted recently that the audience for live TV is dropping at a rate of roughly 10 percent per year as viewers abandon both broadcast and cable networks. A recent research report from Nielsen says that, “the U.S. television industry is entering a period of prolonged structural decline,” blaming streaming services for the downturn. Furthermore, research funded by TiVo shows that 1.5 million Americans are planning on dropping cable, with another 2.4 million looking to switch to a cheaper cable package. Meanwhile, Netflix’s viewership is up 30 percent from late 2013 to late 2014.
While it’s clear the Internet is quickly supplanting television as America’s mother/teacher/secret lover, what’s less clear is whether those viewers are simply watching the same shows on a computer instead of a TV. While Nielsen grudgingly acknowledged in 2013 that it would have to start counting viewers on streaming devices, it still hasn’t done that, stating that you can’t make it, while sticking its fingers in its ears and squeezing its eyes shut so it can’t accidentally see an episode of Scandal that’s playing on someone’s iPad.
However, even if adjusting ratings for streaming boosts the numbers for network shows, it’s still bad news for the networks, as streaming services offer fewer—or no—commercials. Whatever the size of the audience, Hulu can’t be generating that much revenue by showing the same three ads over and over.