TV Survival Is Impossible In A 650,000 Title Universe

How does one market -- let alone discover -- 650,000 TV “unique program” titles? Perhaps you not asking the right question.

Is this “premium” content, and, if not, does that matter?

Nielsen Gracenote says U.S. consumers had access to 646,152 unique program titles across linear and streaming services in 2019.

For years, FX Networks warned us about what is now over 500 “premium” scripted TV shows on linear/streaming TV platforms -- so-called “Peak TV” -- and their weak financial models.

The rub here: It is impossible that all these shows can survive and gain any significant marketing voice amid a glut of media content messaging. Turns out, FX didn’t look at the bigger picture.

For its part, Nielsen Gracenote didn’t segment this tabulation into specific genres -- only where they came from. For example, just 9% of those 650,000 titles were available exclusively on subscription video on demand (SVOD) services.



The biggest piece? That comes on “transactional” video-on-demand services at 66%. Free ad-supported video-on-demand was at 44%; linear TV (non-exclusive) at 31%; and video-on-demand (non exclusive) at 24%.

How does one market 650,000 titles? You don’t.

For the most part, you let subscription video on demand services mine viewers historical viewing data to determine what they might want to see in future, offering up suggestions, with qualifiers like: “Because you watched “The Big Bang Theory,” you might like this.”

If awareness marketing might be challenging for 650,000 titles, the good news for producers is that new video platforms are craving original video content -- and offering big prices. That said, perhaps not everything is “premium.”

To be sure, those 650,000 program titles would include library TV show reruns -- everything from “I Love Lucy” and “Gunsmoke” to “Cheers” and “ER.” Also on the list,, many non-scripted cable TV shows over the years, as well as more recent digital-first video series that may have come and gone.

All that means is the vast number of the 650,000 titles aren’t competing directly with Netflix’s “The Crown,” Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle,” CBS’ “All Rise,” ABC’s “Stumptown,” ESPN’s “SportsCenter” or Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay.”

Increased time spent with the media may help -- but not much. Nielsen says total media consumption is now at 12 hours a day for everything --  TV, TV-connected devices, radio, computers, smartphones and tablets.

This amounts to one hour and 24 minutes more than Q3 2018. That means we have room for three more half-hour traditional TV network comedies, or one and a half hours of a TV network drama per day.

Is there room for that niche YouTube or Facebook short, original non-scripted video series now? Seems so. Though it may earn tiny viewing numbers, they must have some value to interested parties -- viewers, TV producers/content providers, and/or advertisers.

To riff on legendary theater director-acting teacher Konstantin Stanislavski: “There are no small parts, only small actors.” Same for TV/video shows?

4 comments about "TV Survival Is Impossible In A 650,000 Title Universe".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 13, 2020 at 12:43 p.m.

    Wayne, it is safe to assume that Nielsen may soon be telling us that the number of "program titles" that are available to the average viewer has reached 1,000,000--especially once Quibi arrives on the scene ---but don't worry, we will survive, somehow. As I pointed out in another post, if the average person can receive 180 "linear TV" channels and, according to Nielsen, there are 304,000 linear TV programs available to the average viewer, don't you find those two stats rather contradictory? Since "linear TV" is not an on-demand medium, how do 180 channels offer 304,000 different programs to the average viewer on any given day?

  2. Darrin Stephens from McMann & Tate replied, February 14, 2020 at 11:15 a.m.

    NBC has multiple different ways to title the Nightly News, which they do when they want to remove a show from the normal "season average."  I imagine that this one program accounts for over a dozen program titles in a year.  All the networks do it (NCIS, NCIS Encore, etc) in all dayparts with increasing frequency to try and game the system.

    Keep it in mind, because I doubt Nielsen thoroughly scrubbed through the entire database to remove these pernicious duplicates

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 14, 2020 at 11:50 a.m.

    I've tried several ways to replicate the nielsen number for "linear TV"---304,000 "program titles"---and am unable to see how this can be taken seriously as pertaining to an average viewer nationwide. It's possible that Nielsen has taken every TV station and counted every program that it airs--including network, syndicated shows and local stuff--as contributing to the base figure---which means that it doesn't apply to an average viewer either nationally or in any  market. But, even so, I keep falling short in terms of trying to replicate Nielsen's number. To Darren's point, even if every nationally televised show was counted ten times, there simply aren't enough shows to account for the seeming discrepancy. I find it very strange that Nielsen has failed, so far, to provide Joe with answers. Is it possible that it's not programs but titles--aka "episodes"---in which case many shows will be counted hundrds of times? As Sherlock Holmes said, "The games afoot, Watson". 

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 14, 2020 at 11:52 a.m.

    Sorry for misspelling your name, Darrin.

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