The NYT’s David Carr writes that audiences are now rarely drawn to live television:
So far in the month of May, our household has watched exactly two minutes and one second of live television. NBC’s broadcast of “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” as the Kentucky Derby is described, was epic, unfurling on the big flat panel we finally bought. But I doubt our spasm of live viewing is enough to keep the television business in business.
Carr is making the assumption that his habits are reflective of a growing trend, citing a study that shows online viewing is up more than 46 percent in the last year. Remember that “up more than 46 percent” could mean a move from, say, 1% to 1.5% of the presumed viewing audience, but Carr’s fundamental point seems to be true: DVRs are everywhere, online viewing is rising, and significantly, the people who have recently entered that coveted 18-to-35 demographic—and who will enter it in the next few years—have effectively grown up in the age of video on demand.
The Oatmeal’s comic about pirating “Game of Thrones” and MG Siegler’s similar article set off a lot of “piracy is whiny entitlement” responses, sometimes thoughtful and sometimes…well, at least amusingly ranty. Here’s the thing, though: whiny entitlement is a valid market signal. It’s full of noise, but people who would have given you money for something if you’d been ready and willing to take it really do matter.
Carr’s article suggests that the writing is on the wall. But it’s not writing on that wall. It’s a graph. One roughly like this:
There’s a falling line indicating the amount of money studios and networks estimate they’ll make by continuing to stick with the distribution channels they have now; there’s a rising line indicating the amount of money they estimate they could make by embracing the Internet wholeheartedly.
Us cord cutters and Internet boosters like to think that studios just don’t Get It. But they do get it. What they get is that until the point those lines cross—whether that’s next year or ten years from now—making that shift costs them more revenue than it gains. Until twenty or thirty times more people stop paying for cable and satellite than do now, it remains in HBO’s best interest to give The Finger to The Oatmeal.