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No, Wait, Network TV Is Back! May 25, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.

Ah, the folly of trend analysis based on short-term market gyrations:

    “The 25-year slide of broadcast television networks … is coming to an end,” (media analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co Tom) Wolzien says. While the networks likely will resume shedding viewers in coming seasons, he says — especially if cable develops more hit shows of its own — the declines should moderate…Cable channels have grown mainly by expanding their reach into more and more households, not through their shows’ popularity, he says. The industry can’t count as heavily on that kind of growth in the future.

Uh, how can that be? Ratings share is pretty much a zero-sum game, Tom. You can’t have broadcast shrinking but cable only growing by adding new-to-the-medium viewers. The total viewer pool isn’t growing all that much.

Wisely, the Journal’s story is much more cautious about making dramatic conclusions:

    When the finale of “Everybody Loves Raymond” drew 33 million total viewers May 16, for example, CBS was ecstatic, sending out a press release headed: “Holy crap! A record-shattering Monday for CBS.” But “The Beverly Hillbillies,” which aired on CBS in the late 1960s, routinely drew 60 million viewers.
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