TV isn’t dead. Netflix and HBO might tell you that. But can this same theory apply for ad-supported TV?
HBO’s “Game of Thrones” just boosted its year-ago premiere ratings by a massive 50% to 16.1 million total viewers. This comes from 10.1 million linear TV viewers and 6 million from digital, on-demand and other viewing.
More narrowly, the Season Seven premiere episode of the popular drama is up 27% in linear TV viewing to 10.1 million -- up from 7.29 million a year ago. It has steadily grown in viewership in its seven-year run.
Can ad-supported TV programs offer any of the same evidence of growth -- especially for a TV series entering its seventh season? Not exactly.
AMC’s “Walking Dead” had increased viewer growth in its initial five years, only to taper off a bit in the last two. In 2015, Fox did have a surprising run for “Empire” in its first season -- each new episode grew over the previously aired show. Although it has declined since, it is still a strong performer.
No doubt it is more difficult for individual TV programs. But if you listen to David Poltrack, chief research officer for CBS Corp., a broader picture may look better.
Earlier this year, in analyzing the Nielsen preliminary Total Content Ratings metric -- which considers DVR playback and video-on-demand viewing -- Poltrack said: “The numbers are coming in at the levels of audience around 2000, which was a time when time-shifted viewing was not measured.”
Well, that is good news. But what about the future? Better results may be coming, as data did not include online and/or mobile streaming.
Long-term, many may wonder whether it’s an either/or situation: ad-supported TV or ad-free TV.
Young viewers look to avoid ad-supported TV -- traditional or digital platforms -- more than older TV viewers. At best, they might seem to watch ad-supported TV with radically different scheduling formats.
At the recent traditional TV upfront, there was still plenty of momentum behind traditional linear TV. But where is the momentum for future TV viewers?
A continuing “Thrones” theme speaks of colder days to come.