4 Ways You're Accidentally Killing Your Favorite TV Shows
We live in a golden age of television. Never before have we had so much quality programming, or so many different ways to view it while sitting on the toilet. However, the things we like so much about the current state of television are actually strangling our favorite shows to death like Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds.
Our Favorite Shows Get Terrible Ratings Because We Don't Watch Them When They Air
The business model that drives the creation of the shows we like is fairly straightforward: A network pays to make a show, and then we pay them back by watching the commercials attached to the show. It's basic, but it's an arrangement that's worked since your grandparents bought their first TV with the meager wages they earned after working impossible hours at the steel mill. So why do demonstrably popular shows like 30 Rock and Community struggle so hard?
Because they're demonstrably popular only in our elitist echo chamber?
It turns out that, although we may love a certain show and watch every episode, we aren't watching it quick enough. Whereas your grandparents had no choice but to watch a show right when it aired or else never see it ever again (keep in mind that reruns used to not be a thing), our DVR-spoiled asses are watching programs days or weeks after their original run. Ad revenues are only calculated from the first three days of views, so once that three-day period has passed, you might as well not even watch the show, as far as the networks are concerned.
Shows geared toward (comparatively) younger viewers like 30 Rock and Community eat up valuable prime-time real estate, and although they have a devoted core audience, that audience is most likely going to watch the episodes later on DVR or on the Internet through services like Hulu, where ad revenue is slashed. It's gotten so bad that NBC is now backing off of making quirky, narrow-interest comedies altogether and hedging their bets on bland, formulaic sitcoms with prerecorded laughter.
And these new, broader comedies have all been smashing successes.
CBS doesn't have that problem -- their average viewers are so old, they fart mummy dust as they happily watch their favorite shows (complete with commercials) the night they air. So we need to either learn to watch our favorite shows while they're actually on television or resign ourselves to an inevitable future of a Big Bang Theory/CSI mashup.
Our Love of Irony Is Killing Syfy
Five years ago, the Sci-Fi Channel took a gamble on the idea that Twitter and Facebook were going to convince young people to watch their terrible programming. They rebranded as Syfy and started feeding us films like Sharknado, which were specifically designed to be shared with ironic incredulity on social media. It seemed to work for a while, and since it was our best chance at eventually seeing Thrillosaurus Rex: Time-Traveling Dinosaur Detective, we embraced it.
"The best part is when he goes back 100 million years ... to the age of the other dinosaurs!"
However, making those joyously terrible movies is actually causing Syfy to implode. You see, even though movies like Sharknado and Ghost Shark draw a decent number of viewers and become trending topics across the Internet when they air, nobody is watching the channel in between those movies. Ever since Syfy rebranded itself and eschewed its traditional sci-fi programming, it began to hemorrhage all of the sci-fi fans who watched the network in the first place. Without those fans to keep the network afloat between releases of Crabquake and Testicular Rhino Dragon, Syfy is struggling to sustain itself.
AMC Wants to Be HBO (But Can't Afford It)
AMC has spent a lot of time and money making HBO-quality adult-oriented programming. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead proved to be hits on a network that had previously been known for John Wayne movies and airing the Jaws sequels out of order. The problem is, those shows all have premium cable budgets, and while HBO and Netflix can afford to sink millions of dollars into Game of Thrones and House of Cards because of their subscription-based revenue model, AMC is still dependent on the "watch this episode the night it airs or else we're screwed" model that has torpedoed countless other equally popular but less expensive shows. Chasing the next Breaking Bad may end up being the meth-sculpted albatross that sinks them.
Leaving them enough cash for just one new show: Talking Talking Dead.
You see, making expensive shows is a huge gamble, with the potential to win big and lose just as massively. A few failed shows are all it takes to make the stock take a serious dump and throw the network into financial ruin. So when we stop watching The Walking Dead as much as we used to, or we don't bother tuning in to Halt and Catch Fire or The Turn at all (if you asked "What the hell are those shows?" you have proven this point exactly), AMC panics, because they can't afford to lose what they spent to make them. If none of their new season of shows takes off, AMC might be back to late-night airings of Revenge of the Nerds and Hackers by this time next year.
We Refuse to Support Our Favorite Shows
One of the main reasons DVR took off was because it allowed us to watch our shows whenever we wanted and skip over all those annoying commercial breaks. That attitude continued when networks began putting their shows on the Internet, because if the current generation believes in one principle above anything else, it's that no one should ever have to pay for anything and all forms of entertainment should be funded by good will and charity. And that attitude is destroying the entertainment industry, your favorite TV shows included.
Stop trying to Kickstart a My So Called Life revival.
You see, young people disproportionately watch their television online, which represents a substantial cut in ad revenue compared to what a traditional broadcast generates. Between 80 and 85 percent of online ads are skipped when the viewer is given the option, so the advertisers who are willing to support Internet broadcasts will only pay a fraction of what they would to put an ad on television. That said, even if we hit "Skip This Ad" after the first five seconds, we are still watching part of the ad, which is worth something to the advertisers. What's really killing content is when we refuse to watch the ads at all.
Most Internet viewers use some kind of ad-blocking software, which completely circumvents advertising -- Adblock Plus alone has 60 million users. Since the current generation is also watching much more of their TV online, this means that a huge number of people who regularly watch a specific show are essentially refusing to support it. This is sort of like watching a trombone-playing circus bear juggle unicycles for an hour and then refusing to take 30 seconds to toss him a fish.
Which would have been a scene in Community Season 6, but now it won't, and it's YOUR fault.
One-third of those 60 million Adblock Plus users are people age 20 to 29, which you may notice are the exact same people that start Internet petitions and social media campaigns when their favorite shows are in danger of cancellation and write protracted blog posts lamenting the lack of quality content on television. Do you really want to see a sixth season of Community? Quit writing petitions and start watching some Lexus ads.