It's not just the Oscars. Ratings are down for most major, live events

It will come as no surprise for those of you who follow me on social media to learn that I did not watch the Oscars this year. Turns out I wasn’t the only one because viewership for the big awards ceremony was down for the second year in a row, ringing up the second lowest total of people watching in the show’s history. But apparently it’s not just the lack of interest in Hollywood causing problems. As we previously discussed, the Super Bowl landed with a thud in terms of audience size as well. There’s clearly something going on here and it has advertisers increasingly nervous. (Associated Press)

The live-TV meltdown isn’t going unnoticed by advertisers who, like cord-cutting viewers who have ditched their cable subscriptions, are increasingly feeling the pull of the internet.

“Media fragmentation is causing a splinter,” said Jon Cogan, managing director of investment research at Omnicom Media Group. “Live TV, or your DVR queue, or Netflix queue or on-demand — the choices are enormous compared to recent years. People want to watch what technology has given them an opportunity to watch.”

Indeed, with the big May TV upfront selling period around the corner, and marketers ready to comb the data to figure out how to spend some $70 billion, NBCUniversal said last week it won’t wait around: It set aside $1 billion of inventory to guarantee against digital data rather than Nielsen’s TV ratings.

It seems to me that there is very little we can say for sure beyond the fact that the law of supply and demand is an action. Of course, we can’t entirely discount the possibility that consumers are less happy with the product being offered in the case of many large, live televised spectacles. Is it, as I have so often wondered, a case of these traditional refuges of entertainment becoming overtly politicized? I’m still willing to bet that’s part of it. NFL quarterbacks kneeling to protest the national anthem and pampered Hollywood stars lecturing the audience about politics are not the sorts of things which tend to maximize your appeal.

But to be fair, the Associated Press makes a good point when they delve into the geek oriented aspect of the story. Whether you find the content appealing or not, there are simply too many outlets and consumer options when it comes to watching these shows and others like them, not to mention a dizzying variety of alternative programming available to the public. Cord cutting is all the rage in younger demographics so there’s an increasingly large audience share which is simply never going to show up in the Nielsen numbers no matter how good of a job the producers do with the broadcast.

We also live in an era where there is no such thing as, “I guess there’s nothing better on tonight.” Most people who don’t live in extremely remote, rural areas have access to cable television and channels numbering in the hundreds. And if you don’t like what’s on TV, you can quickly gain access to YouTube, Netflix, HBO Now or any of dozens of other services to pick and choose from. Has this cornucopia of options dulled our senses and made us too finicky to be manageable? The other interesting fact brought up in the AP piece is that an increasing number of people who actually enjoy these live events are skipping the live broadcast, preferring to catch a highlight reel the next morning either on the news or one of the aforementioned video services.

In some ways this goes back to my repeating theme of how, “the Internet ruins everything.” Everyone loves having all of these options but in some ways it seems to do us a disservice. This applies to the artists and producers of content as well. It’s hard to convince anyone to pay you for your music no matter how good you are when there are so many other options available for free. Why take a chance on sinking vast sums of money into a new television series and making it truly stand out from the crowd when the crowd is so incredibly large? All of these factors have produced something of a race to the bottom when it comes to video entertainment. “Appointment TV” just isn’t a thing anymore, and while I’m sure most of us enjoy having all of these options, I still must confess that I kind of miss it.