Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Television feeling much better?

With numerous U.S. media outlets cranking out their analyses on the new fall television season, it appears to me that traditional broadcasting remains an extraordinarily important cultural, social and personal entertainment medium. Now that networks are regularly using DVD releases to extend and further engage the audiences for their shows, the death of TV seems not only to be greatly exaggerated, apparently networks can actually build bigger audiences by offering "better" new programming -- and by successfully tapping into some of the innovations technology is offering promote their shows more effectively.

For example, UPN has gotten a lot of ink for its new series, "Everybody Hates Chris." When the show debuted last week, its 7.8 million viewers numbered 0.1 million more than those watching "Joey" on NBC. A startling development for media analysts, for me, what's interesting is to think of those 15 million people all watching TV at that time, even if they're divided over two networks. Suffice to say, there were millions more watching the shows offered on ABC, CBS, Fox and the WB. Back to the UPN story, though: By this Monday, media watchers learned that they could see the entire pilot of "Everybody Hates Chris" on Google's beta Video service commercial-free. In an AP story on the subject, the senior business product manager for Google's video team described the promotion as a test to see how many web surfers will watch the show online if they missed it on TV. Though I have yet to see the answer, I'll be surprised if they don't double their audience through the online offering. Looking a little further at ratings info courtesy of Mark Berman at Mediaweek (you can subscribe for free to his informative daily Programming Insider newsletter here), you'll be hard pressed to find any broadcast show in any given week that doesn't draw millions and millions of viewers, even with reruns. And with CNN reporting that TV usage is up 5% over the past year, I think it's quite clear that broadcast TV remains a serious business.