I was flummoxed the other day to read recently that the media analyst at Citibank Jason B. Bazinet “Flummoxed” at the recent and continued decline of Cable TV ratings when at the same time the penetration of Cable into a larger and larger percentage of all US homes continues to rise. The message seemed to be “what on earth is going on?.” I’m no media maven but it strikes me we need look not much further than the recently concluded TMC drama show The Killing. It’s a brilliantly dark and occasionally frustrating drama…well shot and well acted. It’s the kind of thing network TV used to do and the kind of thing the BBC still does really well.
TMC (usually a bastion of old movies in perpetual repeat) has gone out on a limb and followed where Breaking Bad and Walking Dead went by producing this striking drama. I have watched both seasons on my iPad. I missed the first season and have been catching up on both. The 24 total episodes 18 hours total cost about $2 each on iTunes. By paying that I avoided having to sit through or zap past about 8 hours of commercials. None of that downloads done by people like me showed up in any statistics.
The sad fact is that cable is rapidly becoming a premium content delivery and online access platform rather than a traditional advertising medium. As the number of channels continue to proliferate the availability of advertising inventory rises so the tolerance of the audience for interruption goes down. Content like Netflix for $9 a month and even premium content like The Killing is more entertaining and over all much cheaper than traditional cable TV. Our thirst for broad band immersive access shows no sign of slowing but our tolerance for banal interruption rapidly drops. The cable companies as gate keepers for high speed access high quality programming are making a killing…at the cost of traditional advertising supported content. The question is ‘when’ will the body of traditional programming be found in the trunk of a car at the bottom of a lake….not ‘if’.