On the eve of the broadcast upfronts, in the wake of 17 returning shows being cancelled and its cast and crew joining the unemployed this week, the timing of a Hollywood Reporter article that attempted to use Nielsen data to shine some light on the potential sea change that caused this struck me as, well, curious.
The article (link below) uses the metric most commonly used by streaming services, minutes viewed, in the multiple of the 191-day broadcast “season” (9/20/21-5/8/22) and the 332 million people in the United States to produce the tabloid-worthy headline that we spent a “staggering” amount of time watching the four largest broadcast networks and the five Nielsen-measured SVODs (Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+ and Apple TV+). Just north of 4 TRILLION minutes were spent watching just those nine entities’ nationally-distributed programming. Extracting data from other Nielsen reports that account for total usage of cable and streaming choices, that figure rises to just north of 6 trillion viewing minutes, or approximately 301 hours per person,
Unsurprisingly, Netflix content topped the list of what was measured, with 1.33 trillion viewing minutes for its “limitless library of originals and acquired content”. CBS was a competitive second on this list, with just under 753 billion viewing minutes, with its top five series outpacing Netflix’s top five, and THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT notably leading the pack of late night talk shows as well.
Sure sounds impressive. Imagine if Carl Sagan were still around to intone these numbers. (Google it, millennials–trust me, it’s funny).
Buuuut…there’s an awful lot of unpacking in that thar spin. To wit:
— The report did not include any viewing to the CW, Spanish language broadcast networks or PBS.
— The report did not include any viewing to locally produced or syndicated television.
— The report was limited to the connected screens which Nielsen currently measures, not all the devices where streaming content, let alone many of the identified linear sources that exist online.
— There were at least 101 original hours of those top five CBS shows newly available over those 191 days, versus only 49 of the Top 5 Netflix series.
And impressive as those “staggering” cumulative numbers are, when you do the math those 301 hours per person works out to about 94 minutes a day. Or the equivalent of one drama, one sitcom and eight commercials.
Which means even at a time where a staggering number of us worked from home, wore masks indoors, had some device on almost constantly as family entertainment or distraction, and baked banana bread we were somehow doing something else besides watching a procedural drama or a Korean-produced phenomenon in front of a 4K TV.
So I’d offer the story here is not whether or not those wonderful CBS dramas are also available on Paramount+ (and, indeed, both Colbert and Trevor Noah take every possible opportunity to remind us that they are, and I’m already a charter subscriber with an active renewal) but rather what else WERE we doing, WHY we were doing it, and WHO among us was doing those other things more often?
Fortunately, there’s a conference coming up next week in Nashville that will bring lots of people together to discuss those possibilities. I’m sure you know what it is by now, and how you can attend at a substantial discount if you message me for a code. The agenda is also linked below. Look through the impressive array of experts and personalities who will address these and other burning issues in these industries. In person. Smiling. Not baking, in all likelihood.
So perhaps the only unanswered question is: who may have inspired THR to write this article? Perhaps CBS, which just happened to look best and happened to include a victory lap quote from its top dog, George Cheeks? Perhaps Netflix, which has had a whole bunch of issues of late and whose executives may be joining some of the rank and file from the 17 cancelled series at a Starbuck’s this summer?
I personally don’t care who sent it out, because even this cursory overview unveiled how thin and qualified these bragging rights are. There’s literally no telling how many trillions of minutes of content we watched beyond this ecosystem, or what we purchased as a result or in spite of it. That’s what the MI&E will attempt to explore.
At least we can assume this “leak” didn’t come from her:
Until next time…