Recent Stories Imply Linear TV Is At Point Of No Return

Journalists who have long toiled on the TV beat have covered all of the various phases of TV history since the 1980s in which threats positioned as “existential” arose to vanquish linear TV.

But for all intents and purposes, linear survived.

But now, the current era has taken on a kind of “jig is up” quality that seems to preclude linear from ever reversing or even plateauing its continuing losses in viewership and corresponding ad revenue.

Two stories juxtaposed one on top of the other on MediaPost the other day tell the story. One headline read: National Linear TV Revenue Forecast: Down 2.6% In 2024, Steeper Decline Next Year.”



The part of the story that packed a punch for me was a quote: “It is now clear that outside of sports advertising there should no longer be expectations of a recovery for linear TV advertising,” said Michael Nathanson, senior research analyst and cofounder of MoffettNathanson Research, which made the forecast.

It is NOW clear, said Nathanson, as if this has not been clear until now, even though many have felt that this has been “clear” for a while now.

Maybe what the researcher is saying is: We have arrived at a point of no return in linear TV's decline (that is, if a return was ever really possible).

Something else I read this week said essentially the same thing. It was a paragraph within a very long Wall Street Journal story about the challenges facing ESPN and its chairman, James Pitaro.

“ESPN’s cable business has shrunk to the point where it can no longer be the foundation for the future,” said the story.

“Since 2011, the number of U.S. households paying for cable packages that include ESPN has fallen by about 29 million, reflecting a cable-TV industry collapse.”

Everyone in the television business kinda, sorta already knows this. And yet, the two quotations cited above place the situation in a kind of sharp relief, as if to say: Just in case you didn't know it or somehow were in denial about it, cable TV is toast. Got it?

The story that came right underneath the one about the projected decline this year in linear TV ad revenue was another story that should also surprise no one.

The headline on that one read: “February Streaming Viewing Climbs 10%, YouTube, FAST Platforms Show Growth.” 

Linear TV is down and streaming TV is up. And that's about the size of it.

Photo credit: Homer Simpson, “The Simpsons,” courtesy of Fox TV Network.

1 comment about "Recent Stories Imply Linear TV Is At Point Of No Return".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 25, 2024 at 8:29 a.m.

    Adam, "linear TV" is simply one way that lots of people still get TV content. So is streaming. To the average consumer, it's all TV and most use both methods, not one exclusively---as the need suits them. The fact that one of the two  is slowly declining --and slowly is the key word---reflects mostly that current and "original"  linear TV content is inreasingly available via the newer streaming services. So many are getting much the same  programming they once got from broadcast TV and cable---from streaming ---but paying somewhat less for it---which is why most switched.  Indeed if one considers the origin of streaming content-----something like 90% of the non-movie english language content ---that is consumed probably originated via linear TV.

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