WSJ: A&E lost half its audience after canceling "Live PD"

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving network. A&E panicked in the aftermath of the homicide of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and canceled all of its “Live PD” programming. Half of its viewers responded by canceling their A&E viewing, the Wall Street Journal reported today (via Instapundit):

Ratings for A&E Network have plummeted since it canceled the hit police reality show “Live PD” on June 10, a sign of how much the network relies on law-enforcement programming.

Average prime-time viewership for A&E between June 11 and July 19 was 498,000 people, down 49% from the same period last year, according to data from Nielsen. In the key demographics of adults 18-49 and 25-54, the declines are 55% and 53%, respectively.

Those results in the younger demos demonstrate just how idiotic the decision to cancel the entire Live PD platform was. The point of the cancellation was, presumably, to demonstrate that A&E was down with the struggle by caving to demands from primarily younger activists to eliminate programming that painted police in a positive light. Rather than wait to see whether there was still a demand for the show, A&E apparently just assumed that the activists spoke for their audience.

Big mistake, as it turns out. As Ed Driscoll quipped at Instapundit, “Get woke, go broke.”

As I wrote at the time, A&E could have avoided the problem — and the stampede away from its programming — by trusting its viewers to signal whether the show could keep going:

If the ratings and loyal viewer base disappeared because of the anger over the George Floyd homicide, then cancellation would be understandable. It’s still an open question as to whether people might lose their taste for the show after all of the unrest of the last couple of weeks. But why not wait to let the viewers make that decision on their own? If the ratings collapsed, then the “no way forward” conclusion might make sense.

The obvious conclusion is that ratings and viewers don’t actually matter to A&E. Or, perhaps more accurately, ratings and viewers matter less to A&E than pretensions to “wokeness.” And in this case, education and transparency regarding law enforcement will lose out to corporate virtue-signaling.

The disservice to viewers and communities goes further than just the mindless condescension and patronization of that decision. The Live PD platform gave viewers a look at real policing in real time, allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions about performance and policies. That allowed for a fuller, more context-loaded perspective about difficulties on all sides of policing. It also demonstrated the benefit of body cams and transparency to policing in a manner that engaged Americans far more vigorously than dry debates ever did.

By turning all of that off, A&E treated its audience as though they just assumed us all to be idiots who couldn’t possibly handle that transparency. And in doing that, they effectively short-circuited informed debate and nuanced engagement in the policy discussions that have become critical in these past few weeks. Small wonder, then, that A&E’s audience left the channel for other providers who don’t treat them with contempt. Perhaps A&E’s corporate bosses should consider canceling the contracts of the people who made this foolish decision and revive the Live PD platform — before another television network beats them to it and acquires that loyal viewership. Tick tock, tick tock …