The new television season is beginning -- and there’s that unmistakable excitement among the populace. Imagine, once upon a time, the new season began at the same time the Big 3 automakers introduced their new models. Back then, some people exploded with anticipation. Others fainted. Bedwettting increased.
Now, things are somewhat calmer, as many of us recognize that almost every new thing on CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox will fail.
But one thing that makes this season exciting, at least in some corners, is that for the first time Nielsen will be adding in viewership from phones and tablets -- and this means, invariably, that viewership stats will look very different.
By some measures, broadcasters have been pretty much beaten up the last, oh, 30 years, as cable, and VCRs and DVDs and DVRs and then online media content providers began mucking up broadcasters’ direct path to the bank. They still made their deposits -- even larger than before -- but the business got complicated by all those different platforms that younger viewers liked better. Or so it seems.
When Nielsen expands its networks' viewership numbers to include smartphones and iPads, everybody believes network programs will discover millions of younger viewers, which will create new life for networks where the media age of viewers is 55.
“No matter what they slap on the air this fall, television execs can bank on a nice ratings boost,” wrote Claire Atkinson of the New York Post last week. She quotes Steve Hasker, Nielsen’s president of global product leadership, predicting that at the very least that network ratings will be “flat or up” this season. It sounds almost like Nielsen found a new small state it forgot to measure before. Rhode Island, welcome to the Nielsen family!
Pushing more people to watch TV programs online may also get them away from DVRing them. Viewers can fast-forward through DVRed shows; networks can make that much more difficult, or impossible, on VOD versions, David Poltrack, the veteran CBS research guru tells the Post.
One possible after-effect might also be that networks, and advertisers, find out a much broader--and older--audience is also watching TV via tablets, phones and other devices. That in turn could create a market for online video programming that is not dominated by frat boy, gross-out content.
Who am I kidding? Because of the Nielsen expansion to smartphone and iPad measurements added to the regular Nielsen numbers, it's more likely that networks will aim down, not up. That’s always where the money seems to be.