Is anyone watching television anymore?

The New York Post reports that televisions ratings “see double digit declines for fifth straight month“.

Commercial ratings — the viewing “currency” that determines what advertisers pay for TV time — cratered across broadcast and cable networks, marking the fifth straight month of double-digit declines for the industry.

“It’s clear the downward spiral in TV ratings continues with no end in sight,” media analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a research note on Friday.

Overall prime-time broadcast network ratings were off 12 percent last month compared to a year ago, while cable networks dropped 11 percent, according to his report.

Other than live sports, I really don’t watch television anymore. I have a few shows that the wife and I watch together after the children are all settled, but we don’t watch them live. 99% of the time the program is usually something streaming from either Netflix or Amazon. For movies, it’s the same thing. In fact, if it wasn’t for sports, I’d probably wouldn’t have a subscription to regular television.

Also, ever since the new year, I’ve been trying to cut down on the television watching. For me, watching television is like eating junk food – it’s fun while you’re doing it, but you feel guilty afterwards. Most of the time, I feel like I’ve wasted my time just watching tv. I mean, honestly, almost anything you do is more worthy that sitting in front of the Idiot Tube and being hypnotized by the beams of light coming out of it. I kind of think the television has something to do with the shape of this country. Watching (most) television makes you dumb, disconnected, and lazy.

It also makes it easy to just waste your entire night, and by extension all your nights. Television makes it so easy to simply do nothing. And we shouldn’t do nothing. We only have a little time on this earth, and watching television isn’t the way to spend it.

Some of the best nights I have are reading books, playing with my children and actually talking to people. Unless we’re talking about having the television on in the background when you’re doing mindless work with no one around, watching television is always an inferior choice to doing anything.

Accordingly, I’m glad that cable television is going down the tubes. Unfortunately, it’s probably due to all the other ways that we now have to distract ourselves.

All y’all already know this, but I’m encouraging everyone to try and make better choices with how we spend our time. Television is never usually the right choice.

13 thoughts on “Is anyone watching television anymore?

  1. Doug Ross

    I spend half my week in a hotel room. I have not turned on the TV at the hotel in over a month. At home, I watch sports and a couple shows (Modern Family, Mad Men, SNL, Buying Alaska) on DVR where I can fast forward through the commercials. I’ve watched a ton of series on Netflix and Amazon this year… between those two I have all of my entertainment viewing covered. I’ve got a subscription to MLB.TV for baseball for the coming season so that covers sports until football starts again. ESPN is going to offer a cord cutting option and that will pretty much end my need for broadcast TV.

    1. Bryan Caskey Post author

      ESPN is going to offer a cord cutting option and that will pretty much end my need for broadcast TV.

      I would be interested in that.

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    We cut the cord more than ten years ago and do not miss it one bit. For the few shows (Mad Men, Justified) that I do not want to wait to watch, I buy a season pass on Amazon. Otherwise. between Netflix streaming and one DVD, Amazon and what I can watch on my laptop from the network websites (The Good Wife and Downton Abbey), we are set! I love watching a 43 minute show in 43 minutes.

    I like watching quality TV, including shows from Denmark, Belgium, Sweden…We only watch less than two hours most nights, if any, though.

  3. Mark Stewart

    I renewed my cable package a couple of months ago. I regret that.

    On the other hand, I have only one TV in the house. I used to be pretty proud of that until I realized I was jumping from phone to iPad to laptop, etc. as I moved around the house. So in a way I am more tethered to time wasting gadgets than I would have been before with just one screen available. I have stopped buying ebooks mostly and try to get back to real books. Its way less “efficient” but books do feel right and they don’t drive sleep away.

    It is hard during the dark evening of winter to not vegge out sometimes; thankfully its “get outside weather”!

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      I prefer e-books for storage reasons, and my Kindle doesn’t seem to disturb my sleep. I would not try reading on an LCD screen, though.

    2. Bryan Caskey Post author

      I have stopped buying ebooks mostly and try to get back to real books. Its way less “efficient” but books do feel right and they don’t drive sleep away.

      One of the Christmas gifts that I got from my in-laws this year was a first edition set of Churchill’s The Second World War. They found it at an old estate sale, and knew that I was making may way through the second volume, checking it out of the library.

      I love how an old hardback book feels. I love being able to slip a little piece of paper in as a bookmark. The tactile sense of being able to turn the pages is also helpful, as Churchill’s books have tons of maps and tables that you really have to keep flipping back and forth to refer to as you read through certain passages. Real books beat e-readers for me.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Hardbacks are so heavy to curl up with. My hands, especially my left one, tend to get painful and arthritic when i hold something too long. I switched back to my laptop from my IPad mini, which was a switch from the iPad, to relieve my hands. A lightweight paperback or my Kindle are so much kinder. That said, I am reading a Reynolds Price in hardback that I bought twenty years ago and have just now gottne around to reading. Man could write!

  4. Norm Ivey

    Time-wise, most of my viewing is documentaries. I watch a few network shows (Modern Family, Big Bang, Gotham, PBS science and history stuff), but they have to be recorded. Sports are the only thing I schedule time to watch, and even that is often on my phone or Chromebook (watching a ballgame while riding down the highway blows my mind). If I find an older series I like, I tend to binge watch on Amazon. I still have Netflix, but watch it so seldom, I think I may drop it.

    I use my Kindle for most books. I like being able to throw one hand behind my head and kick back and still be able to turn pages with the thumb of the hand holding the device. And I really like hearing about a title and being able to read it right now. I like my magazines as hard copies.

  5. Mark Stewart

    More than one third (!) of all internet traffic volume is porn. Just throwing that out there.

    Since that’s probably not happening much at work (except among judges, legislators, etc.) it could have a substantial bearing on TV viewing at other hours. It is interesting in its own way that sports channels are holding up better than the networks and other cable channels, given the demographics – and the above statement.

  6. bud

    Reality TV is sort of the disco music of the 2010s, much maligned. While many shows are terrible and some fairly decent shows (Survivor) have much too long of a run, there are some interesting shows that show people in situations that you can learn from. The Amazing Race is a very good reality show that allows the viewer to see places that they otherwise would never get to see. We can’t all be world travelers like Brad. I learned a great deal about exercise and nutrition from The Biggest Loser. My person favorite is Naked and Afraid. It opened my eyes to just how completely dependent we are on modern conveniences and, more importantly, how interconnected we are with other people. It really destroys the whole idea that anyone is really a self-made man or woman. And even the cheesiest reality shows like The Bachelor show people in difficult and challenging situations that you just won’t find on any fictional show. I don’t consider myself a hard-core TV watcher, it is something like a drug really, but it is a part of our culture. To tune it out altogether in favor of old books and movies denies yourself an important part of the culture in which we live. I would suggest watching a reasonably good reality show is no more of a waste of time than visiting an art museum or attending a play. It comes down to how you want to appreciate the world in which we live.

  7. Barry

    I watch old movies on TCM- and old comedies on ME-TV and that’s it. I will tune in HGTV every so often if they are showing someone building something I am considering myself (garage, pool, etc).

    My children never watch any TV – except for Disney Ch. when they are going to bed on the weekends.

    My kids prefer youtube videos of cartoons and such- mainly by people that have made their own and uploaded them. They are low quality but they love them. They think they are better than anything on TV.

    I don’t watch- nor am I even remotely interested in – any current TV shows (Cable, or streaming).


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