When will we ever learn?

by Roger Pynn


Like Pete Seeger’s 60s folk classic “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” television executives have to be wondering where all the viewers have gone … and why?  The story told by Nielsen Company’s just-released data showing continued decline in the number of American “TV households” may be as telling about our media habits as Seeger’s lyrics became to the story of the Vietnam-era, anti-war movement.

It is hard to visit a Costco, Best Buy, Sears or any other major retailer without seeing someone wheeling out the latest 50+-inch television set.  Come Super Bowl weekend, inventories seem to disappear as consumers try to outdo themselves from last year’s Super Bowl parties.

But Nielsen’s study shows that while the number of households has increased, they aren’t connected to the programming Nielsen monitors … content that comes from a cable, satellite or antenna connection.

It has been reported that this year the Consumer Electronics Association projected TV set sales would increase … but by just 2 million over 2011’s sales of 260 million.  Meanwhile, 2011 sales of tablet computers like the iPad rose 260 percent over 2010.

You can use those tablets and a slew of apps to connect whenever you like to almost all the programming that Nielsen reports on … and although an Internet connection is helpful, you don’t have to have access to watch your favorite programs.  At lunch one of my colleagues shared that she owns a DVD collection of every Seinfeld episode ever broadcast.

While the answer to Seeger’s question was simple … that “the girls have picked them every one” … he also asked “when will they ever learn?”—suggesting in his anti-war lyrics that man never learned from his mistakes.

We’ll likely be asking where all the television viewers went for a long, long time.  Broadcasters may well be asking “when will we ever learn?”

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