The Reckoning for Traditional TV Is Fast Approaching

Traditional TV Reckoning
Cheyne Gateley/VIP+

Traditional cable and broadcast TV are bottom of the list as entertainment sources among younger viewers. Even with trends like cord-cutting and the rise of streaming, it is still astonishing to see how poorly the format performs with those below 45, especially emerging consumers aged 15-29.

Data provided exclusively from GetWizer Consumer Insight for VIP+'s September subscriber report, “The Demographic Divide,” show that 15-29s are 5x (500%) less likely to rate broadcast and cable TV networks as a top 3 source of entertainment than those 60+. In case you think this is just a facet of Baby Boomers being ultra-traditionalists, 15-29s are 3.4x less likely than 45-49s to rank broadcast TV and 3.3x less likely to rate cable networks as entertaining.

There is a palpable shift in what constitutes entertainment, with traditional TV ranking lowest, and what’s going to be frightening to the industry is how gutted interest is in traditional viewing methods. Yes, there's the ongoing migration to streaming services in an attempt to reach younger viewers on their terms, but think 20 years down the road.

In the early 2040s, many of those currently propping up traditional TV will no longer be alive. The current 45-59 cohort will then be 65-79 and be network TV’s last stand (as cable TV will have effectively vanished by then). Local stations, especially their news operations, and multicast networks have the next 10 years or so to utilize alternative distribution formats, such as FAST’s linear streaming, in order to maintain relevancy, with the younger generations shying away from their current means of reaching homes.

What is interesting to note in GetWizer’s results is how similar the pattern is from cable TV to broadcast. It’s clear the generation that grew up initially knowing YouTube, Netflix and Hulu doesn’t see the appeal in a format that rarely has originals on the air (per channel), schedules content instead of being available on-demand and devotes more time to ads than any other. This doesn’t bode well for the long-term health of the format.

Without getting too speculative, it’s likely that with the number of streaming services subscribed currently hovering around the 3-4 mark, the number of distinct streaming services eventually snaps back. Content discovery is going to become a real problem when there’s 20+ SVOD services to pick from, with the golden days of Hulu offering most cable networks’ content something to pine after.

The solution will be to re-create the cable bundle but along postmodern lines. Given the acceptance of SVOD as the number one entertainment source among younger Americans, the streaming rebundling is something to look for within the next 5-10 years as the industry continues to grapple with changing behaviors and their knock-on effects.

Read the full special report