TV is So Bad, Broadcasters Aren’t Bothering With Releasing Fall Schedules

The quality of TV has plummeted for years. It’s gotten to the point where Fall schedules aren’t even announced any more.

The quality of broadcast TV has been in decline for decades now. There was a time when television was the go to place for entertainment. The Simpsons was at its prime, there was a slate of drama’s people were interested, numerous comedy shows actually had a sense of humour, and game shows piqued the interest of the somewhat more intellectually minded. The real problem with television in the past was that there was so many options, you had to pick and choose between which great TV shows to watch.

It was around 2000 when the first season of survivor aired. This was shortly followed by Big Brother. While it did signal the beginning era of reality TV, few would have predicted at the time that it signalled the beginning of the overall decline of TV. If anything, one might have thought that such shows would just add to the overall line-up. Their favourite shows would still continue and new ones would crop up, how could anyone lose?

It turns out, a lot of people could stand to lose.

For those crunching the numbers, reality TV had become the new cash cow for broadcast TV. After all, why spend millions to produce a show with elaborate sets, actors and actresses, screen writers, and a film crew when you could just plunk a bunch of people onto a set for free and let whatever happens, happen? Sure, the prize money does add to the budget, but you didn’t exactly have to pay people beyond simply set design and a host and a small crew to produce the show. Compared to high budget shows, producing reality TV wound up being a downright bargain. You’d be crazy not to want to be in on that game. After all, the returns are the same anyway.

What ensued was the overall decline of quality on TV. Program after program kept getting bumped off the air as networks basically threw out the variety and went all in on reality TV. So, you’d have the rise of The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Trading Spaces, Pawn Stars, America’s Got Talent, The Liquidator, and countless others. Television shows that more or less stayed out of the reality TV mould, such as Mythbusters (education) and 1 vs 100 (game show), wound up being an anomaly on the schedule rather than being simply the norm.

The effect in all of this would gradually become more and more obvious: the market became absolutely saturated in low budget, low quality dime a dozen reality TV shows. If you didn’t want to watch reality TV, it became increasingly clear that television would become an increasingly hostile environment to your taste.

Of course, the effects of this weren’t immediately obvious. It would still take time for streaming to take hold. Netflix was still trying to gain a foothold in the entertainment sector and YouTube was still seen as largely a place to stream music and flash in the pan viral video’s (even though there were whole companies even in the mid 2000’s devoted to creating quality content at the time). Of course, as the years went on, the damage done by poor quality TV would keep becoming more and more apparent.

This has been brought on by a movement known as cord-cutting. Why spend hundreds per month on television when there was almost nothing on? Is there a reason one couldn’t simply go to alternatives such as streaming services? YouTube would get an increasing foothold in entertainment thanks to big name streamers delivering something interesting to watch on a regular basis. Netflix would eventually become a titan in the entertainment space, causing many other companies to follow suit and start their own streaming services in the process.

Increasingly, one of the last bastions of TV, News, has becoming increasingly less attractive. In the US, the drive to remain as neutral as possible led to an overall bigger voice to an increasingly psychotic political ideology that has led to racist attacks and the normalization of acting out on false conspiracy theories.

In Canada, news networks have grown increasingly partisan, constantly acting as a borderline PR front to the political “side” they happen to be on. Few examples of this are more notable than when coverage of the NDP happens to grace the headlines from time to time and the claws on “both sides” will inevitably come out – even when they become the official opposition in jurisdictions that don’t typically see them being successful beyond taking a handful of seats.

Not helping matters is when traditional media also actively pushes disinformation campaigns to sell legislation they have a financial interest in on top of it all – leaving sites like us to act as the fact checkers and trusted news sources.

As the quality of the large cable news networks continue to diminish, more and more are increasingly asking, “why are we paying for TV again?” Techdirt, of course, has been keeping an eye on the cord cutting phenomenon. In 2020, Karl Bode noted how an additional 6 million American’s were poised to cut the cord. The typical response to this trend is to simply raise the prices to make up for the lost subscribers. Over the long term, that will likely only hasten people’s choice to cut the cord.

Anecdotally, I’ve personally seen more and more people simply remark how they are increasingly disinterested in television as a whole. Some are holdouts, wanting to keep watching Survivor. Others are simply in it to watch the news (local or national) so they have an idea of what is going on in the world (however distorted it can be at times). Still, at best, there’s very specific programs people want to keep watching rather than being motivated for the overall experience.

Honestly, who could blame them? Looking at Global TV’s schedule, you have shows like NCIS, Entertainment Tonight, FBI, New Amsterdam, ET Canada, Survivor, Ghosts, Bull, and Come Dance With Me. Apart from people who are already into Survivor, little wonder why people are tuning out.

What about CTV? We see shows like old re-runs of Seinfeld, old re-runs of The Big Bang Theory, and The Good Doctor. Another day: More re-runs of The big Bang Theory, more re-runs of Seinfeld, and, of course, eTalk. OK, how about a different day: more re-runs of The Big Bang Theory, MasterChef, and Holey Moley. There’s got to be something interesting to watch, right? Let’s tr another day: more re-runs of The Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy, and Transplant. Alright, one more day: more re-runs of The Big Bang Theory, Magnum P.I., Blue Bloods, and Shark Tank. We’re not joking when we say there really is nothing to watch.

OK, maybe we got unlucky with two broadcasters. Let’s try City: old re-runs of Mom, The People’s Court, Young Rock, more re-runs of Mom, Hudson & Rex, The Chase (Yay! Something that might be worth watching!), Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. (seriously, what’s with “Chicago” shows, anyway?), So You Think You Can Dance, more re-runs of Mom, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, A Bridesmaid in Love, and even more old re-runs of Mom.

Alright, let’s go for the big one: CBC: Hockey Night in Canada (well, sports fans will be happy at least), Just for Laughs Gags, and Still Standing. Ouch. That is, at best, slim pickings. Kind of a schedule for viewers desperate to watch something and anything will do.

Let’s face it, the programming is overall crap. Is it really any wonder that people have tuned off of TV these days?

It appears that the bad quality of TV is only going to continue. The Associated Press notes that television has gotten so bad, executives aren’t even bothering with announcing a Fall schedule:

There were constant reminders of the diminished influence of broadcast television networks this past week, when entertainment companies Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, NBC Universal and Fox hawked their upcoming wares to advertisers in flashy New York presentations.

None was more glaring than the fact that Craig Erwich and Kelly Kahl, chiefs of the ABC and CBS entertainment divisions, watched from the sidelines. Erwich was replaced by a boss with broader responsibilities, and NBC doesn’t even have an entertainment president; instead, there’s an executive who oversees several networks and streaming.

Broadcasters once owned the week, revealing their fall schedules to much fanfare. They’re now almost afterthoughts in bloated presentations where the action is now in streaming, and in the coming shakeout over how advertising will invade that format.

Yet with their plans, ABC, CBS and NBC — Fox didn’t even bother to release a fall schedule — show they clearly know their new place in the entertainment world.

“How do you not recognize reality?” said Garth Ancier, former entertainment president at NBC and Fox. “All of the networks are basically recognizing reality with their schedules. They’re not saying, ‘we’re going to build the audience back.’”

Twenty years ago, the networks were coming off a season where three scripted programs — “Friends,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “ER” — all averaged more than 22 million viewers per episode. This season, “NCIS” and “FBI” are, barely, the only such shows to exceed 10 million, the Nielsen company said.

Have you ever read a more telling story that television broadcasters have basically given up? It’s easy to point to streaming and the Internet as the culprit. To some degree, it is. All those talented groups and individuals that pitched ideas that might be of interest to viewers were all rejected and simply moved over to platforms like YouTube and TikTok. Unsurprisingly, audiences simply followed them over. Probably the worst possible response from broadcasters is a collective “we give up and we only care about retaining a smaller core audience” – yet that is the exact response that those broadcasters are giving.

Indeed, the signs were there for years that broadcasters have given up, but it is definitely very palpable with what we see above.

What’s more is the exact consequence of all of this. What does all of this signal to advertisers? When audiences are leaving in droves and broadcasters can’t be bothered to do anything about it, it diminishes the reason to dump money into television marketing. It’s no real surprise so many have started moving over to the larger platforms. Advertisers care about how many eyeballs see their product pitches. When fewer and fewer eyeballs are on TV, they are going to move towards sources where the eyeballs are. That invariably means fewer dollars towards programming and television stations as a whole.

You can’t help but shake your head. Sure, maybe we were always going to move towards an online environment for all of our entertainment, but it doesn’t help the broadcasters cause when they basically announce to the world that they have given up completely. If you really want a reason why traditional broadcasting is on the decline, the first place is to look from within the industry. In this case, a majority of the causes can be found there.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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