The Golden Age Of Appointment Viewing

The Golden Age of Television has historically referred to the gilded pre-cable, pre-Internet, pre-cell phone era of few networks, huge audiences and appointment viewing. A time when people scheduled there lives to be able to enjoy the next episode of "I Love Lucy," "M.A.S.H." and the rest.

Latterly, the term has been revived – sometimes as The New Golden Age of Television. And what seems to be a revitalized medium is looking more vibrant than it has in several years.

Right now, we are in a position where more channels are being sustained and more content is being produced across more platforms than ever before.  ross-platform viewing continues to be an additive factor overall — though it is not without its challenges. Even ad dollars are just about holding stable in what has to be the gnarliest recession in living memory.

Plus, among the programs that are making their way to our screens. are some true gems that will almost certainly stand the test of time. It’s difficult to say how they compare to the "I Love Lucy"-type shows of times past because one cannot meaningfully compare a hit show now with a hit show then. The small number of networks, lack of other media options and the relative novelty of TV made any major show communal property.



Today it’s highly unlikely that those same shows would attain the culturally iconic status they still hold today, simply by virtue of the changes in the TV and video landscape. Today perhaps, "I Love Lucy" would achieve a similar level of success to something like "How I Met Your Mother."

Another thing we have also heard over the last 10 years or so is that appointment viewing is dead. (We love to declare things dead don’t we?  I put it down to the profound psychological influence of Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch).  Looking at how we view these days, this could not be more wrong.

To my mind, appointment viewing is thriving – we’re in a Golden Age of Appointment Viewing in fact.

It may not all look the appointment viewing of old, where every appointment was set by the broadcaster on the schedule, but what we see today is a much richer and more varied form of appointment viewing where the appointments are increasingly set by the viewers.

Whether DVR, VOD, OTT or streaming to a secondary device, viewers are increasingly adopting time-shifting and On-Demand services to manage their viewing.But this isn’t only about fitting programs into busy lifestyles. The nature of appointment viewing is diversifying as we leverage what technology has made possible.

Increasingly, people have programs they watch together in different social combinations, creating different opportunities for advertisers and program marketers.  These different appointments – with some possible program candidates - might include:

  • The whole family ("Amazing Race," "Deadliest Catch," "Sherlock")
  • Parents only ("Justified," "Blue Bloods," "Elementary," "Downton Abbey")
  • Mother and child ("Twilight," "American Idol," "The Biggest Loser")
  • Father and child ("The Walking Dead," "Dr. Who," "How I Met Your Mother")

In effect, we are seeing co-viewing of different types being facilitated more readily by the various time-shifting services. Davorite shows can be watched after the kids have gone to bed, or with the kids while eating and so on.

We’re also seeing more “Me Time” being linked to “My Programs” – the ones no-one else watches as they have often been discovered browsing VOD or OTT menus when alone and become binge fodder.

One caveat: With those programs that have become part of The New Golden Age of Appointment Viewing, jumping ahead of your co-viewers when they aren’t around has become the equivalent of opening a shared present without waiting for the person you’re meant to be sharing it with. There is such a thing as etiquette in this world of time-shifting, after all.






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  1. Alice Sylvester from Sequent Partners, February 7, 2014 at 10:41 a.m.

    Mike, good piece! Binge viewing or appointment viewing can be isolating in a family. It's disappointing when no one will watch a program with you or is as excited about a story as you are. So we turn to social media to find people who revel in the plots the way we do. It's more and more difficult to find something everyone will watch together.

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