TV Through The Ages: How Content Has Changed Over The Last 70 Years

In a recent finding and infographic created by advertising software company Videology, they compared the changes in TV and programming consumption from the 1940s to the present. Over the last decade, TV has changed drastically with the arrival of digital, especially digital video. Now that consumers have the choice as to whether to watch programming on a linear TV set, or through a mobile device, or via streaming with the emergence of sites like Netflix and Hulu, there are many more options than there were just 10 years ago. 

Spanning the 70 years that TV has been a mainstream commodity, one can compare the changes among the decades, from 1940 to 1980 to today, to look at the stark changes in the landscape from linear T.V. to digitally minded programming. 


In 1948, there were four TV networks: NBC, CBS, ABC and DuMont, broadcasting over 128 stations. The most popular shows during their peak were: “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “Candid Camera” and “Howdy Doody.” 




In 1980, CNN launched under the guise of providing news 24/7. The most popular shows during their peak, according to Nielsen ratings, were: “Dallas,” “The Cosby Show” and “60 Minutes.”


Today, Americans spend more time on their phones than watching TV, according to Videology. That, coupled with the fact that Netflix launched their first original programming with “House of Cards” in 2013 and that 87% of consumers use a second screen while watching TV, proves that TV has transcended the traditional TV set.  The most popular shows during their peak, according to Nielsen ratings, are: “NFL Sunday Night Football,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS.”

By making a fairly simple timeline comparison, we can create programming, whether digital or traditional, with these key factors in mind. 

  • Know your audience: There are 48 million social natives, those between 13 and 24 years old, according to our research. The sheer number, which makes that age demographic the largest, coupled with the fact that millennials are consuming content on multiple screens at the same time, proves that we need to bring content to the largest audience possible and provide them with  content that excites, engages and makes them want to share it with their own networks.
  • Tailor your content to the platform: Content doesn’t always work well on all platforms. A 10-second Snapchat story works differently than a five-minute YouTube video or a one-hour long documentary. The platforms work differently, and the audience expects different things from each; thus, it makes it critical that content is tailored to the platform and that that platform’s audience wants to consume it.
  • Engage with your network: Community is critical with regards to a content’s success in this day and age. If the audience that is watching does want to engage with the content, they will really watch it, comment on it, like it and even share it with their own networks, including their friends, family and peers. Whether that means tweeting during a linear TV show or sharing a YouTube series, content has to be flexible, consumable and shareable.
2 comments about "TV Through The Ages: How Content Has Changed Over The Last 70 Years ".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 21, 2016 at 1:02 p.m.

    Here are a few additional facts to ponder. The average person uses more than one screen at the same time when watching TV on an average minute basis, only 2-5% of the time---even though 87% will say that this has been the case at least once some time in the past. Second, even if the average smartphone owner spends more time on the phone than watching TV---this is debatable, btw----the amount of time devoted to videos on smartphones is miniscule compared to linear TV viewing. Finally, even though there are many more viewing options today---including OTT services---linear TV commands the lion's share of total consumption and accounts for at least 55-60% of the content seen by Netflix subscribers. So, yep, things are changing, but we are talking about a gradual evolution, not the dramatic sea change suggested by this very promotional "study". For those who are interested in the evolution of TVs content, you will find a far more illuminating review in my new book, "TV Now and Then".

  2. David Bohan from BOHAN Advertising|Marketing, October 21, 2016 at 1:47 p.m.

    I think you meant to say "House of Cards." No Google search results for Netflix's "Game of Cards."

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