TV Racing Print to Obsolescence

With newspaper circulation dropping nationwide and more readers moving over to e-readers and away from bound, paper books, it appeared for years that the printed word was racing toward death with unmatched abandon. Nothing, it seemed, could beat “the print sprint” to extinction as modern technology loomed over it.

But not so fast, experts say; there’s a dark horse in this race.

Television viewership is down across the board, reported Reuters media analyst Albert Davison, and OnDemand services aren’t backing up traditional programming the way providers had planned. Around 5 million Americans have ended their cable and broadband contracts since the start of 2010, he said, and by the end of the year, the number of cable TV subscribers at major providers will dip below 40 million for the first time.

“Gentlemen,” he added, “place your bets.”

“We all knew that tablets, Kindles and online media were whipping print into a frenzied, frothing marathon toward cruel death; we all knew that,” Davison said. “But AppleTV and Netflix have traditional TV running for its life as well. This race just got interesting!”

HBO has put its entire catalog online in an effort to retain subscribers. Major TV events like the World Series no longer bring in the huge live ratings they used to. Fewer and fewer homes even have TVs. And NBC’s Thursday night sucks, apart from “Parks and Recreation.”

All of this points to a medium that might well go the way of the dodo even before The New York Times or Esquire, Davison said, noting that the decline of print-edition books has slowed, which could indicate that the market is leveling out.

“If the Kindle is killing Simon & Schuster, FunnyOrDie could well be killing Comedy Central faster,” Davison said. “Do flat screens convert just as well into fish tanks as other TVs? I think we’re going to find out. Still, it’s important that we don’t call this race too soon: people thought radio was headed straight for the scrap heap about 60 years ago.”