Viewers control the Television Industry, Networks Listen or Lose
On the surface, the television industry seems complicated; however, in many ways it is just like every other industry. In order to be successful, a business not only has to provide a product or service that customers want to buy, it also needs to provide the highest quality for the value. Broadcast television is no different except that it has two customers bases instead of one. No longer limited to two or three stations, the competition for both viewers and advertisers has not only raised the stakes, but has also shifted the power away from the networks and bestowed on the viewers
Unlike most industries, broadcast television has a dual flow of both product and customers. Both viewers and advertisers can be considered clients. Whereas the viewer seeks entertainment and information, the advertisers search for exposure for their products or services. Television sells entertainment to the viewers and viewers to the advertisers.
Whether over the air or through cable, broadcasting attracts viewers with entertainment, news and sports. Although the viewers don't lay down cash for the programming, they do pay for the entertainment by watching the commercials. By investing their time, attention and loyalty to a program or actor, the viewer becomes not only a client, but also a product the broadcast industry sells the advertisers. TV shows that respect the viewers by providing quality entertainment or accurate facts in the case of news programs will be the one to garter the viewers’ loyalty and increase their viewers. Advertisers will compete for the limited air time during these programs, thereby increasing the revenues of the networks. However, the reverse is also true; unpopular programming will not only lack viewers, but will also have to fight for sponsors by lowering the commercial rates.
Technical advances in cable and satellite dishes have increased the number of available channels, not only increasing the competition for viewers, but also diversifying the programs available. No longer limited to their local stations or the three big networks, the viewers are the ones who control the remote and decide which programs will succeed. Independent stations and new networks have shattered the monopoly of the elitist network and program executives. If the viewers don’t like what they are seeing, they simply change the channel to another one of the hundreds available; they are not bound to watch any program or event
This symbiotic relationship between viewers and advertisers gives them control over what is produced and broadcast. Viewers won't watch programming they don't like; advertisers won't buy time on shows the viewers don't like; therefore, it is the viewers who control the success or failure of a program, not the executive producers, writers, or network management. No matter what the industry insiders want or what agenda they try to push, if the viewers aren’t interested, they will not watch. Those in the industry who provide what the viewers want will be successful; those who chose to ignore the viewers’ wishes will soon find themselves on the outside, looking in at those execs, producers and writers who do fulfill the viewers needs and expectations.