Some decades ago, cable TV proponents believed a single ad-supported cable network could someday surpass one of the big major TV broadcast network. Not only that, but at least one cable TV executive believed that one day a cable network would “take” the Super Bowl away from the broadcasters.
Come back down to earth: After more than three decades of nonstop battle with cable networks, broadcast networks -- at least the big three -- are still on top (even with viewership erosion).
A single cable TV network can at certain moments declare some victories, like perhaps USA or TNT outperforming, say, the CW over a specific prime-time time period.
But for the most part, the news value of this effort is increasingly less important. Because viewership erosion, now on the cable networks, is taking care of this issue.
So media companies look at the bigger picture. If you are, for example, NBCUniversal, which has 15 or so cable networks, and associated digital platforms, those executives may tell you that totaling these cable assets mean something -- in terms of inventory, advertising/subscriber revenue, or perhaps some key viewer segments metrics that are still doing well.
That said, consumers still cling to brands -- big brands and small brands -- certainly not a single TV network any more.
So while no cable TV network has in fact usurped one of the four networks, a show like AMC Network’s “The Walking Dead” can crow about it being the most viewed 18-49 show in television.
The next step of course is why it makes any sense to note that one particular network has “won” the season -- and what that means to a network’s overall branding effort. Yes, we know: Another big victory for NBC, according to some measures -- 18-49. But CBS also touts a victory among all viewers. And wait... ABC says, taking out sports programming, it did the best.
But here’s what to consider going forward:
Who “won” the cable TV season? And, can you name the “victor” of digital TV season? How about who was “tops” in social media season?
Does anything come quickly to mind? If you hesitate, you should take a moment to ask why -- and then muse again about TV.