Bad Ratings: Not Just for Community Anymore

On Friday, I postulated that Community’s recent ratings slide was the result of non-fans checking it out and just not liking it, but the New York Times suggests it’s part of a bigger trend. They write:

“In the four television weeks starting March 19, NBC lost an average of 59,000 viewers (about 3 percent) in that 18-to-49 age category compared with the same period last year, CBS lost 239,000 (8 percent), ABC lost 681,000 (21 percent) and Fox lost 709,000 (20 percent).”

This collective nosedive is affecting the barely watched (i.e. NBC’s Thursday Night) and the super popular (i.e. Modern Family).

Beyond the question of why is network television doing so poorly in general, what is more strange is why this accelerated drop is happening right now. There are explanations like weather and daylight savings but those are factors that would be around every year.

One researcher interviewed, Michael Nathanson, suggested it all has to do with American Idol’s decreased popularity. The former ratings behemoth, he explains, got people in the habit of watching shows when they first aired. Another expert posited that the decrease could be credited to “the disruption of the ordered pattern of episodes.” This spring, it seems like new episodes of network anchors, like Modern Family or Big Bang Theory, have been spread extra thin as to best set up mid-season replacements but this has had an adverse effect on their own ratings (which can be seen in the graph above).

And, of course, there is the general Hulu, DVR, Netflix, iTunes, iPad, iPhone, iTelevision, iEye (ay-yi-yi) of it all. By now, anyone under the age of CBS’s average viewership understands that appointment viewing is a thing of the past.  Watching a show when it airs is not only less convenient, it’s less enjoyable so people wait until they have the time and the ability to skip over commercials.

It’s hard to say for sure if any of these factors are the fundamental reason but it does suggest a shifted landscape. It’s mostly likely a combination of all of them creating a perfect storm of shitty ratings. It’s very possible that we’re in the middle of a post-tip tipping point and there is no turning back. Hey, if everyone stops watching television then Community’s ratings won’t look so bad in comparison.

What do you think? How do you watch television?

Bad Ratings: Not Just for Community Anymore