Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The survey that should scare the shit out of anyone in TV

A friend of mine in advertising (let’s call him Don Draper) turned me on to this rather startling survey, conducted by the Katz Television Group. They surveyed Americans to see how familiar they were with the ten shows that were nominated for Best Comedy and Drama for the Golden Globes. Here’s what they found, and if I were any network, not just the major broadcast networks, or any producer, I’d be very concerned.

THIS IS US did the best. 33% of those surveyed have watched the show. Another 34% have heard of it but haven’t seen it. And 33% have never heard of it. That’s pretty damn good actually for this landscape.

BLACKISH finished second best. 29% have watched it (although it doesn’t say whether they still watch or sampled it once), another 53% have heard of it but haven’t seen it, and only 18% have never heard of it. Kudos to ABC.

GAME OF THRONES has been seen by 26%, another 68% have heard of it, and only 6% have never heard of it. Boy, that’s a big percentage of folks who’ve heard of it but have no desire to check it out.

STRANGER THINGS is this so-called viral hit on Netflix. Only 15% have seen it (still pretty good for a streaming service), 37% know about it but aren’t seemingly interested, and 48% has never heard of it. Almost half the population doesn’t know this zeitgeist darling exists.

WESTWORLD has been seen by 12%, another 36% are aware of it, but 52% have never heard of it. That’s a pretty high number for an HBO show.

Then things get really shocking. VEEP. It wins Emmys for Best Comedy. Julia Louis-Dreyfus wins Emmys every year. Big comedy hit, right? Are you ready? 6% of the population has watched an episode of VEEP. 38% know of it but haven’t watched, and despite all the hype and Emmys and HBO and the fact that it’s in its sixth or seventh season – a whopping 56% of Americans have never even heard of it. Wow. Just… wow.

But wait. It gets worse. Way worse.

THE CROWN won the Golden Globe for Best Drama. 5% of the audience has seen it. 24% has not seen it but knows of it. And 71% of America has never even heard of it. 71% of the audience has never heard of the Best Drama (according to the Golden Globes).

ATLANTA won Best Comedy. 3% have seen it. Another 28% have heard of it (although how many of those thought they were asking about the city?), and 69% were clueless of its existence.

Okay, now let’s get to those shows we’re told are groundbreaking and game-changing. Hold onto your hats.

TRANSPARENT – for all the hype, award consideration, Entertainment Weekly profiles, etc. – only 2% of Americans have ever seen an episode of TRANSPARENT. 32% more know about it. And even after several years of the best press a show can get – 66% of the population has never heard of it.

Let me reiterate – this is an independent study by a company that studies media and determines the best uses of advertising.

Finally, there’s MOZART IN THE JUNGLE. 2% have seen it. Only 15% know about it but have yet to watch. And a staggering 83% of Americans have never heard of it.

What can we conclude? Niche shows have tiny audiences. Even excellent niche shows. I’m still gobsmacked that after all this time, 2/3rds of the population have never even HEARD of TRANSPARENT. I get that many don’t watch it. Amazon is not one of the biggies (yet). But how can so many people not even know it exists?

And the big takeaway is the disconnect between critics and viewers. It used to be that winning awards elevated shows awareness. CHEERS winning Best Comedy its first year resulted in way better ratings. Now it means nothing. And I don’t know what TRANSPARENT and VEEP can do to get on peoples’ radar.

Television needs HITS. REAL hits. Not media darlings, not underground favorites. Shows that people WATCH. Or at least KNOW. When no one is interested in even the so-called best that television can produce, it’s time to really take a hard look at what is being produced, how it is being promoted, and maybe (as a last resort) what the viewer WANTS to see. Maybe your show is excellent but it’s not what the population wants. Could it be that THE BIG BANG THEORY is really the Best Comedy of the Year? And GREY’S ANATOMY is the Best Drama?  I bet you've heard of them. 


Richard Y said...

We have not watched ANY of the programs you mention although in all fairness even though subscribing to cable we do not have any of the pay (so-called) ‘premium’ channels which knocks a few of them out of contention. I know OF many of the programs but only due to their being advertised while watching some other program. Then there are a couple that is in the never-heard-of category.

Not sure where that puts us...

Constance Reader said...

It may not be a lack of hits, it may be a wealth of things to do in the evenings besides watch television shows. I've heard of all of these shows, I have no interest in watching most of them, and some I would like to watch but am not willing to pay yet another subscription fee just to watch one show. "Game of Thrones" was the exception to that.

Terrence Moss said...

Is there a link available to this survey?

Bryan L said...

I've heard of all of them, and want to watch many of them, but I simply can't subscribe to every premium channel and streaming service out there. I've got Netflix, so I've watched Stranger Things (and liked it), but I'm not going to add Amazon just to see Transparent. Or HBO just to see Veep. I think that's what you're going to find with a lot of people. That's what's going to make or break shows in the future -- whether or not they're on a network that's generally accessible, or if not, has a compelling "package" of other programming to entice subscribers.

B.A. said...

'that’s a big percentage of folks who’ve heard of it but have no desire to check it out.'
I've got a desire to check it out but HBO is too expensive for me. I know of it mainly through references and parodies such as Louise Belcher's in BOB'S BURGERS.

Aaron Sheckley said...

Aaron Sheckley said...

Ken, I can appreciate that for someone who works in the industry, television is an important part of their lives. For a lot of us out here though, our lives don't revolve around what's on, or what's coming on, or what's new and hot. A lot of us don't watch much network TV (I don't), or don't subscribe to HBO (again, me), and there's still a lot of people who don't have access to broadband internet. Of the shows on your survey, three I've never heard of, and I only regularly watch This is Us and Stranger Things. This is Us was recommended by my Millenial stepkid, and I found out about Stranger Things by reading about it on a blog.

I'm not condemning your profession, any more than I condemn people who love baseball. But in both cases, there are lots of people out there that, to them, neither one is an important factor in their own lives, and they don't pay much attention to it.

Andrew said...

I'm genuinely surprised that Game of Thrones isn't much higher. That's the only show everyone talks about at work.

I remember thinking the same thing about Breaking Bad years ago. It had all the buzz, it was the only TV show people were talking about. But how many people were actually watching it? A fraction of the population.

VP81955 said...

Trouble is, the type of television that creates hits doesn't resonate with the conglomerates behind niche channels. Suggest a multi-cam sitcom filmed before a live audience to executives at Netflix, Amazon or Hulu, and in their eyes you're suggesting a televised equivalent of the Model A. It won't win them favor with David Bianculli or other TV snob critics, either.

Jeff :) said...

Although this study is surprising, I think there is an important thing to note about many of these shows. Take Game of Thrones for example. This study suggests 26% of the population watches it. While that number may seem low, the vast majority of that 26% doesn't just watch Game of Thrones, they obsess over it, discuss it, disect it, create fan theories about it, etc. Those 26% are heavily invested in the show.

To me, that is more valuable than having 40% of the population watch, yet care little about it. I'm guessing millions of more people watched Law and Order, yet I'm also guessing few tears were shed when it ended. I feel as if fandom is too undervalued in Hollywood. I remember a few years back when CBS cancelled a show called Jericho. Fans literally camped out outside the studio to protest. I doubt there would be much of a protest if Man With a Plan got canned.

I understand that advertisers want eyeballs on the screen more than anything, but rather than focus solely on the number of eyeballs a show is getting, they should be more focused on tailoring their messaging to the eyeballs that are watching.

As for the critically acclaimed shows not drawing huge audiences. I think many of the shows nominated are shows that require a while to catch on. I know many people currently watching Westworld, even though the season ended weeks ago. Word of mouth has convinced them to give it a shot.

My two cents.

Jeff :)

Mitchell McLean said...

I watched a few episodes of Transparent. I liked it, but I stopped watching because of the nudity and sex scenes. It didn't offend me; I just like to stream shows on my laptop while I eat. I'm not sure I'll be allowed back in that restaurant any time soon.

ChipO said...

First thought: Dilution. So much out there, not just an overwhelming amount of tv, but also all other types of entertainment. (Video games have sucked ... ?% from those who in past generations watched the tube.)

Is the survey available for review? Hopefully responses are also reviewed by age, by income, by country area, etc.

Janice C. said...

CHEERS was about a group of people hanging out at a bar. The situations were relative to a lot of people. But when shows segregate themselves, even so much as to put their target audience in the title such as with TRANSPARENCY or BLACKISH, well those aren't situations I'm going to relate to. I'm not surprised at all that TRANSPARENCY has such a small audience.

Anonymous said...

They could have saved some money on the survey and just talked to me. The results pretty much match my own viewing profile. Not everyone lives for television.

And I've never heard of TRANSPARENT. Probably 'cause my subscription to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY lapsed about 25 years ago.


Jeremiah Avery said...

I'm one of those who never heard of "The Crown". I only became aware of "Stranger Things" after someone I know busted my chops for not having heard of it and they gave a brief description of it. After the jabs about being clueless to something apparently "everyone else has heard of it" - though this survey clearly indicates otherwise - I have no interest in seeking it out. Haven't watched or heard of a lot of what's on that survey. Seen some of "Game of Thrones" but I was aware of it because of reading the books but am not a regular viewer.

Some of the "critically acclaimed" shows don't have much appeal to me and often lack a premise or consistent writing/performances that could gain more appeal to audiences. Seems like when some shows do get a broader appeal, critics turn on it. Don't have to pander to the lowest common denominator but producing work that comes across as just award bait tends to stay a favorite predominantly among those voters.

Nick Alexander said...

Maybe those powers-that-be that define what "excellence" is, are woefully out of touch with what the audience wants.

Don Jennett said...

"Westworld" (with Yul Brynner and Richard Benjamin) was on TCM the other day. I thought that's what everyone was referring to. I didn't know there was a show.Is it based on the film?? And count me among the 68% who have no desire to watch "Game of Thrones." (I actually did attempt to do so for about 25 minutes).

The fragmented nature of entertainment in the digital age: 500 channels of mostly "reality" --- though obviously, The Kardashians are as scripted (however poorly) as any episode of "Cheers." Is it any wonder the lines have blurred to the extent that a reality show host is now president-elect?

Rory W. said...

Hey Ken,

You know I love you, but I have to disagree with you on this one.

I think it's the fact that most of these shows require a subscription is why they're not better known. Of the shows you cited, only THIS IS US and BLACKISH are on "free" TV. People like me (cheap people) won't pay for a subscription to HBO, Netflix, and Amazon. HBO is only in 35% of US homes.

You ask, "How can people not even know [these shows] exist?" Where are they advertised? Not on the networks or basic cable channels; not during sporting events. (I watch A LOT of [basic cable] TV and have never seen an ad for TRANSPARENT.) I know about these shows because I read about media a lot, but most people don't.

Speaking of people, PEOPLE magazine has the largest audience of any American magazine with a readership of 46.6 million adults. That's only 20% of U.S. adults. So, even if HBO advertised in PEOPLE, they'd still only be hitting a fifth of the population (and probably the wrong demographic - older folks and people in dentist's waiting rooms).

Why are TBBT and GREY'S ANATOMY hits? Because you can't watch 10 minutes of a football game without seeing an ad for them.

If you want eyeballs to watch your shows, you have to go to where the people are to tell them about it. If TRANSPARENT took out a 30 second ad on SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL (the highest rated network show 16 weeks of the year), I'd bet they'd get more subscriptions and a bigger audience.

Just my $0.02.

Unknown said...

"It use to be that winning awards elevated shows awareness"

Ken two days ago, "I don't care about the Golden Globes. I was at a book reading last night and didn't see them"

First let's tackle the obvious. If a man like Ken, high profile peson in the industry, doesn't care I'm sure the plumber in Toledo doesn't either. So maybe it's the medium sending the message to the masses, or the message itself, that is the problem. People don't read magazines like Entertainment Weekly anymore, at least not if they have to physically pick it up and hold it in their hands. Actually turning pages manually is too labor intensive. Until a computer is cheap enough to purchase so you can have them stacked up in the bathroom for reading like magazines people will never get the message en mass.

If people aren't tweeting, texting or facebooking about those shows Ken mentioned they wont have a large following. I think that is why the Kardashians TV shows are huge, people use those mediums to talk about them, not The Crown. If the real Queen of England would get off her ass and start tweeting I"m sure that 5 percent figure for The Crown would shoot up to 80 percent and the show would become as popular as On The Buses. The Kardashians are our Beverly Hillbillies, in fact they should just call the entire frachise The Urban Hillbillies. But no awards show, or critic, is going to recognize them because it would be career suicide if it ever got out that you watched them, enjoyed them, wrote about them and voted for them.

The People's Choice Awards are considered a joke but guess what, they are just like American Idol. Two Broke Girls is Kelly Pickler. Everybody knows who the voters are, everybody knows how the voting is done and the favorite wins, it's transparent. But not Transparent.

Paul Duca said...

Ken, you're sounding a little too much like Jim Belushi...he bitches that ACCORDING TO JIM got higher ratings than the shows which won Emmy awards at the time--since he had more warm eyeballs looking at him, HE clearly was the Best Actor, and his program the Best Comedy.

blinky said...

What you described is a symptom of the real disease our country is suffering from. Americans have no shared experience other than the Super Bowl.
In the olden days everyone watched the same shows and saw the same news. Now it is all personal: personal watermelons, personal news feed, personal entertainment, on and on.

Anonymous said...

I watched the first two or three episodes of Transparent and couldn't stand it. The show wasn't funny and I hated the characters and didn't care about what happened to them. It's about the struggles of upper middle class Angelenos, which most Americans can't relate to (although this group is very prominent in the award nominating and voting communities).

Eric J said...

I'm in never-heard-of-it for most of the shows, in heard-of-but-don't-care in several, and watched-it in one (Stranger Things, one episode).

Watching TV shows is a big commitment today because there's so many other things I can do instead. When MASH/Cheers etc. were on, it was also a big commitment in hours, but we had little else to do after working all day except read a book. Today, there are so many more interesting things to do.

But for network shows there's another huge obstacle. Today, I wouldn't watch MASH or Cheers or Wings, three of my all-time favorites. It's too goddam distracting to be bombarded by endless commercials, chyrons and senseless animations promoting shows I'm never going to watch. It's distracting, destroys comedic and dramatic timing, and insults you the creator and me the audience. I don't even own a device that picks up network shows by choice.

Others have mentioned the cost of premium services. I don't subscribe to any of them, but I have Netflix Streaming and DVD which I watch 3 or 4 evenings a week. Ironically, I mostly watch TV shows that were on network and premium services! Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Northern Exposure, House of Lies, Rockford, Twin Peaks, etc.

Johnny Walker said...

"When no one is interested in even the so-called best that television can produce, it’s time to really take a hard look at what is being produced, how it is being promoted, and maybe (as a last resort) what the viewer WANTS to see."

I don't know if I interpret the results a little differently. My reaction will probably be proven wrong by time, and I'm probably getting the wrong end of the stick. Yes, it's shocking how few people have heard of these shows, but is there really a correlation between what's popular and what's good? Maybe I need to cast my mind back to the halcyon days when there where hit shows that WERE good. When it was possible to HAVE a hit show?

This survery makes me wonder if that's possible anymore. Maybe it is still possible to have a show that brings everyone together, but right now it seems we're descending into our own little echo chambery worlds. A lot of my friends would know what TRANSPARENT is, even if my mother has never heard of it. Nearly everyone I know has watched STRANGER THINGS. Lots of people I know love GAME OF THRONES. My experience simply doesn't reflect reality.

I don't know if it's possible to reverse the direction we're heading in. We're living on the same planet, same country, same cities, but different worlds.

Can anyone tell me what the US ratings look like at the moment? I can't seem to find a reliable site that lists the ratings for the month. What's the most popular TV show at the moment? I'm interested in what's actually happening right now.

Matt said...

It shouldn't scare everybody in TV, it should scare people who don't understand where TV is.

TV is in a golden age and at the same time the worst TV ever is being produced. There is an amazing amount of content.

However, the broadcast networks, who have been ignoring me for years, should be very scared.

Pat Reeder said...

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm with Anonymous up there! Being among the 2% who actually have seen episodes of "Transparent," I wish I were among the 66% who've never heard of it. I haven't had such a visceral hostile reaction to a bunch of selfish, repulsive narcissists since "ThirtySomething." And please don't accuse me of being a transphobe; the transsexual dad is the only character I liked. Put it this way: until I saw this show, I never understood how someone could wish another person to "die in a fire." Now I get it.

Maybe if viewers aren't paying any attention to shows that win "Best Comedy" awards, it's because we've wised up to the fact that they're now just SJW participation trophies handed out to shows like "Transparent" and "Girls" that are about as funny as an ingrown toenail.

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is the cost. If you can afford cable/basic cable, you might not be able to afford the premium channels. If you get Netflix, you might not have Amazon Prime or Hulu. If you stream, you may not be able to afford all of the networks that offer stuff. Network tv may be the only think you can afford.

With all of the threats to our Social Security & Medicare, rising insurance and medical costs, and trying to put away for retirement, getting every network/channel to be able to watch critically acclaimed shows is at the bottom of my list. Dear Hubby and I make good money, but in the 4.5 years we have until we can claim SSN (if its still there), we have to sock away every penny we can so we can afford the internet/basic cable.

Its great to have a lot of choices, but when it is so spread out, it is hard to decide what is best for you. And you can miss out on a lot.

Pam, St. Louis

benson said...

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I just am amazed at the condescending attitude to Big Bang Theory and, to a lesser extent, Grey's Anatomy.

Do you know why BBT delivers the best ratings? Because it's probably the best comedy on television. Yes, it's running out of gas, but so did Cheers, MASH, Frasier, even DVD, MTM, Seinfeld and All in the Family.

Ken, this reminds me of the 70's, where all the cool people listened to Album Rock radio and Top 40 was beneath them. All Top 40 did was play the popular songs that people did actually like. Not the stuff cool people said they listened to but never actually heard. And it's amazing how many of the cool people knew all about the top 40 songs they disdained.

The problem to me has been stated here before. The networks desperately need a hit, but idiots are running the networks and there's no hope of them going away anytime soon. Everything goes in cycles but I see no hope for this cycle ending anytime soon.

By Ken Levine said...


I'm not knocking those two shows. I'm saying they deserve more respect than they're getting.

Gwendolyn said...

Way-back-when I knew of Cheers but never watched it. Ditto Seinfeld. Not sure I knew of the Emmy awards.
So I didn't watch Cheers until 2012 when I got Netflix streaming. That led me to Frasier.... which I had NEVER seen or heard of! However, made up for that when I watched all 11 years in two weeks. I got my first computer in 1993. That was a big distraction and took me away from TV ...which may be some explanation. Now, I've seen some Veep on Amazon and would like to see more but am unwilling to subscribe to HBO. Netflix, Amazon and Acorn are enough. (Somehow I manage to read a lot too)

YEKIMI said...

I have heard of all the shows except "Mozart In The Jungle". I don't do cable [prior rant; until they let me pick "a la carte" I'm NOT paying for channels I do not want] I get my TV over the air. Since they switched to digital and I live quite a distance from the TV antenna farms I can only pick up the ABC, FOX, and PBS channels and their digital sub-channels. NBC, CBS, CW, etc. are just rumours. I either wait for shows to come out on DVD or just don't bother. "Transparent", not my cup of tea, even though I think Jeffrey Tambor is one of the better actors around. "Blackish", I have watched a couple of episodes but just can't relate to it. And another reason I rarely watch is the same reason I rarely listen to radio anymore....commercial overload. It's way worse on the digital subchannels. I realize commercials pay the bills but when my local Ifartradio stations play 7-9 minutes of commercials in a row [and yes, I've timed them] I'm going elsewhere for my music listening.....usually way down to the non-commercial end of the dial. Same goes for TV....when the commercials start and I can do a load of dishes, take a dump, fold the laundry, filet a fish, etc. before the show is back on and by that point I'll need a reminder of what happened {"previously on "This Is It" before the commercial break"} I'm not sticking around especially if I have marginal interest in it anyways.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,

Are you able to share the survey / where you got the stats? Would be curious to know who was sampled for this survey.


Eduardo Jencarelli said...

It should be taken into account that people have less and less time to watch shows these days. Too many distractions on the phone or important appointments. Add the fact that we have an enormous amount of quality shows today. The end result: too many shows to watch. Too little time to spare.

I know all of the shows you've mentioned, but only saw a small fraction. I've seen VEEP, GAME OF THRONES, STRANGER THINGS AND WESTWORLD. If I decide to watch THE CROWN, I'll likely be up for endless nights without sleep. Choosing to watch a new show is a major time commitment.

Aaron Hazouri said...

In comic books it's kind of the same thing. Series that get a ton of press and critical praise are read by maybe 15-30k people. Meanwhile Batman and/or the Avengers lead sales, far and away.

I too wonder about shows like "Last Man Standing" and "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia." I hear nobody talk about "Last Man Standing" but ratings indicate something like 8 million people are watching that show. Meanwhile I constantly hear about Always Sunny (my favorite show right now) and their ratings just recently broke a million. So maybe a lot of it is the perceived hotness of the show, and that dictates how much the press wants to cover it. That and most of us are surrounded by people of similar interest so our entertainment choices are reinforced.

Anonymous said...

I agree with blinky and Johnny walker--it's the atomization of American culture. No one won the "culture wars" because we all lost.


Charles said...

I'm a person who probably falls into the "lives for tv" category. I use an online TV Calendar to keep track of which episodes I've watched of the shows I follow, to make sure I haven't missed anything. And I subscribe to premium cable, Netflix, and Hulu (but haven't yet ponied up for the ad-free version). I watch television at the gym while walking on the treadmill (a half-hour sitcom fits my workout almost perfectly, especially after struggling with the wifi connection), at my desk during lunch, and far later into the evening that I should, given what time I have to get up in the morning to go to the aforementioned gym.

I've heard of all the shows on the list. I've watched many of them, and most of the others are on my "I have to try that some day" list, though pretty far down. But I'm not surprised that the general public hasn't heard of some of them.

I think the previous commenters have hit it on the head. There's no one factor that contributes to why people may not be watching these shows, or even familiar with them. If you don't spend the money for premium channels or streaming services, you may not be familiar with their offerings, or when you see an ad in a magazine (assuming you read magazines), you may not pay any attention. I'm guessing that at least some of the people who have "never heard of" some of the shows have actually seen ads for them, but they didn't register.

When Cheers was big, there were a handful of channels being broadcast, and everyone had the same access to the same programs at the same ($0) cost. So simple math says that a larger percentage of viewers were watching any given show. Now, the viewership is more widely diluted due to the number of offerings and the variety of platforms available on which to watch them.

Charles said...

Oh, and by the way, big props for the double call-back to TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN in your first podcast. I'm always tempted to use that line when someone asks "Are there any questions?" at the end of a meeting, but can't afford the time in HR.

404 said...

Well, Aaron, he did say that this was bad news for those that worked in the industry, not necessarily the rest of us.

I agree with Jeff, I think -- lack of advertising. If someone doesn't have an Amazon Prime membership, how, exactly, would they know about TRANSPARENT? Amazon doesn't advertise on TV, and if someone is on their site for shopping there's a good chance they'll just ignore what they're not looking for.

And that assumes you're going to the website for a reason, like shopping. What possible reason would someone with no Netflix account have to just randomly go to their website and check out their shows?

Even Network and Cable TV has this problem. In any given show, I can see eighteen promos for one show alone (slight exaggeration there, but still ...). There are tons of shows on the major networks I've never seen a single commercial, billboard, ad, or anything else for, even though I watch enough that I would have seen SOMETHING if they actually cared to promote it.

cleek said...

" This study suggests 26% of the population watches it [GoT]."

that's 26% who have seen it, not who watch it.

i point this out because like many people, i've seen some of GoT because i wanted to know what the fuss was about (so i would answer Yes to this survey question). but after having seen it, i have no interest in watching another episode ever.

cleek said...

"I haven't had such a visceral hostile reaction to a bunch of selfish, repulsive narcissists since "ThirtySomething.""

oh god yes. i watched the full first season and, yes: the kids on Transparent are all terrible people. TERRIBLE. the dad is the only decent one, but he spends most of his time dealing with his TERRIBLE kids.

MikeN said...

Why are you so surprised about Game of Thrones? It's on HBO, so lots of people will not watch it. I'm surprised how poorly I did on this survey.

MOZART IN THE JUNGLE Only vaguely heard of it.
BLACKISH heard, never seen it, but plan to

Chris Rock gave the same warning 12 years ago.

Jeff said...

I'm a little dubious of the validity of this survey because of the lack of a baseline. I mean, it essentially equates "people who watch comedy and drama series on television on a regular basis" with "everyone". Some people hardly watch tv at all (more and more common, with all the internet has to offer). Some only watch news. Some stick to info-based or reality programs. Some only watch channels with older fare, like Decades or Antenna TV. Some may only watch movies.

I'd like to see these results filtered with the question, "Do you keep an eye out for new programs to watch?" It would also be useful to hear, from all respondents, where they hear about new shows.

Unknown said...

If this was a phone survey that required a landline then you're respondents will skew much older. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the age groups in the survey.

Steve B. said...

One thing to note are new paradigms for how and why these shows are being made.

Example: Amazon. Amazon is not making shows or movies as direct profit centers. Amazon uses their programming as an enticement to get people to sign up for Amazon Prime, and thus get them more entrenched in buying products in the Amazon eco-sphere.

TV nets traditionally used shows as the enticement to get you to watch the commercials. Now, Amazon is using shows as a way to get consumers to buy more crap on their website.

So for Amazon, it's not imperative to have the most popular shows (though I'm sure they'd love it). It's most important to give the right kind of consumers another reason to keep subscribing to Amazon Prime. If you look at their programming, they are going after a certain type of high-end consumer, not popularity.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

GREAT thoughts by all the readers.

You'd think Americans would know these shows but
Americans don't know who any of their representatives are, or can name 2 Supreme Court justices.
Or can locate their state on the map (Texans, Floridians, Hawaiians and Alaskans are exceptions).

We are busy.
Hollywood thinks we watch the Oscars or Golden Globes for the awards. We don't care.
We like to see beautiful people dressed beautifully. And to be entertained.

Personally, I'd watch another episode of Seinfeld v. Veep, or Arrested Development v. Transparent. We do watch Blackish. Though their kids are all spoiled and annoying.

Jon B. said...

In case anyone thinks these "niche" shows were cheaply produced, Netflix reportedly spent $130,000,000 on the first season of THE CROWN, making it the most expensive series ever. Based on what I saw, the money was well spent. It was "on the screen", as they say.

Patrick said...

Who exactly are they even asking? I bet if the centered on middle America - not exactly Veep's audience then yea they would get a small number. All you have to do is look at ratings to know how popular it is - If Veep gets 4 - 6 Million viewers an episode across all platforms - yea thats a small % of America - you really shouldn't be that shocked...

GOT has high awareness but low actual viewing because most people want to watch but think its too daunting of a show to get into this late in the game.

Im not shocked by any of those numbers..

Unknown said...

This doesn't surprise me. I used to love Awards shows too. They were my Super Bowl. Now, I find myself losing interest more and more because I have never seen or, in some cases, never seen nor heard of a number of a lot of shows/movies/performers nowadays. I also really have no interest in watching things from Amazon and I don't have Netflix. Never felt the need. The shows I have heard of just don't simply interest me at all. I am sure they are well done but there isn't much there to get me excited. I think there are mainstream things out there on the networks that more people have heard that don't get nominated (but are worthy) and some that were nominated but just aren't anymore.

DwWashburn said...

I think your last paragraph is the summary of the entire article. I can tell you that as far as I'm concerned, most TV shows (or movies for that matter) that win big awards usually have no appeal to me. I don't know if you can really say that the TV industry needs to wake up. I think the television critics and "voters" of awards need to wake up. As you mentioned, maybe Atlanta, Transparent, and Veep win awards, but viewers have voted with their Neilsen boxes and they say "Give us NCIS, Big Bang, etc."

This is especially true with the Academy Awards. I cannot tell you the last movie that won multiple Oscars that I would have any interest in watching. Most of the Best Picture winners look so God-awful boring that I don't even bother. I noticed that with the Globes this year, too. I had not even heard of more that half of the titles. And if the clips I've seen (and I have to believe that they used what they thought were some of the best parts of the movie for the clips and trailers) are a representation of the actual movie, they are snooze fests.

SER said...

From a business perspective, I suppose the current trends work in the sense of selling advertising and earning page views, but on a larger level, I greatly regret the lack of a shared "community" from what Americans watch. From M*A*S*H, CHEERS, COSBY -- people from all walks of life watched and were entertained.

I recall a meeting years ago at my last job. It was me, my boss, and the president of the company. My boss was annoyed with how the IT department, with whom we shared office space, kept their area in disarray with random computer parts and servers lying around. "It's like SANFORD AND SON over there!"

The president laughed and said, "Ha! That was a funny show. Redd Foxx!"

I was a black Gen-Xer, my boss was a slightly older white guy from Virginia , and the president was a Jewish man from New York. We'd all seen SANFORD AND SON -- knew the basic premise and the star.

This is not to say that SANFORD AND SON is as "clever" or as "well-written" as VEEP or TRANSPARENT. But the shared culture is really something I miss.

sanford said...

I think I have hear of all those show except one. I have HBO and Showtime and share a netflix account. I probably spend too much time on the internet reading Ken and other blogs or articles that are of interest to me. I think I heard that only 10 percent of the public actually watches ESPN but yet the charge is ridiculous. I am a sports fan so that doesn't bother me. But there is so much on that it is hard to watch everything.

Jon B. said...

To DwWashburn, last year's Oscar winner, SPOTLIGHT, may be of interest to you. There was no gratuitous sex or violence. No crazy special effects. Just a solid story with great acting. With no unnecessary scenes, it wasn't too long or too short. It may be just what you are wishing for.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Blinky waxes nosatalgic to say that: (Americans having no shared experience is a) real disease our country is suffering from

I'll second Aaron Sheckley's sentiment that TV is not that important - except I would really miss professional sports if somehow that disappeared.

I'm not suffering - I believe that there is more top-notch TV right now that we've ever had. There may be a lot more crap as well. Both are a function of the fact that we just have (way) more TV.

More TV means fewer "hits" - if your definition is a minimum rating or share. With more content, this is inevitable.

In 1960 to go to the World Series a MLB team needed only beat out seven other teams. Then "expansion", which added teams to each league. This continued until 1969 when the AL and NL split into divisions and added a playoff series. Now we have a minimum of two playoff series plus the World Series, plus the possibility of one or two one-game playoffs (to break wild-card ties). When the Royals won in 2015, it was their first in 30 years - then Frank Deford pointed out that with 30 MLB teams - that's "about right".

For my money The Crown and Westworld are as good as, if not better, than any drama before The Wire in the late 90s.

Who cares that they are low-rating "underground" shows. Mad Men's best rating ever was less than 5-million - along with Breaking Bad. I believe everyone associated with those shows made money, even if not the one-million/show that Seinfeld the actor was rumored to make near the end of Seinfeld.

Isn't the sheer volume of shows good for everyone? More for writers, producers, directors, DP's, actors, and the rest who support television shows.

Mark said...

First, the viewing audience is more fragmented, and second, people simply watch less TV today. I know I do. That's a GOOD thing.

Gary Theroux said...

Frankly, I prefer reruns of "Cheers" and "Frasier." How many of the current sitmcoms listed come anywhere close to the quality of those shows' writing and acting?

dgwphotography said...

I have watched WestWorld, and eagerly await its second season. I have absolutely no interest in any of the other shows listed in the survey.

It seems like the people responsible for putting these shows on the air are increasingly out of touch with what we want to see.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Thanks to Jon B for reporting the production budget for The Crown ("100-milion pounds" stated a quote on Wikipedia).

Lots of extras and opulent sets - not all of those locations were "practical".

Andy Rose said...

@SER: Sanford and Son was created by Brits, adapted and produced by American Jews, with a black cast. No wonder it appealed to a lot of cultures... there were some diverse cultural influences there.

Ever since the Rural Purge, the networks have really struggled to address small town settings and middle America in their shows. I was reminded of this by the recent death of Hee-Haw showrunner Sam Lovullo. Although the show was produced in Nashville with a lot of local Opry figures, Sam was actually from Buffalo. The program's main creative team (and a couple of cast members) were from Canada. One of the co-hosts was from California by way of Arizona. Maybe shows today make less of an effort to cross those kinds of cultural lines because their creative teams mostly come from elite backgrounds. None of the shows mentioned in this article makes an attempt to acknowledge middle America. The Middle is basically the only show on all of network television that fills that "Roseanne" niche anymore. (Yes, Stranger Things is supposed to be set in Indiana, but that doesn't really play a role in the show. Indiana is just TV shorthand for "nowhere in particular.")

Keith Nichols said...

How many potential viewers have cable? I don't—just an ancient rooftop antenna. Although it pulls in about 80 channels, most featuring Spanish or Farsi or other language I don't understand, I'm definitely not getting most of the award-winning shows surveyed. And of what I can view, I no longer watch half-hour comedies, largely because the commercials take up 30 percent of the time, which leaves little time to develop a story.

DARON72 said...

What also has me a little concerned is that ,for the first time, last year's Top 20 Box Office Hits contained not one film based on true events. Are the theaters doomed to be taken over by teenagers who only seem to fancy PG-13 rated violence and/or fantasy? Granted, there were the usual two or three animated crowd pleasers but there wasn't even anything based on a novel or a play. "Sully" at No. 22 was as close as it came. Will there be another Neil Simon or Sidney Lumet who somehow can connect with a wider audience or are we just too fragmented (as another voice suggested)?

MikeN said...

The answer for TV execs is to make shows that appeal to Republicans. There was a survey about five years ago, with the top shows seen by each party. None of the top Democratic shows had Republican viewers. Even good ones like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, Republicans weren't watching. The other shows in the Dems top 10 were things like Kardashians.

On the other hand the Republican top shows, were almost all getting good ratings from Democrats as well. NCIS, The Closer, etc.

Although this means that I am recommending making shows to appeal to Republicans after pointing out that Democrats watch more TV.

cadavra said...

What's depressing to me is that I watch a crapload of TV--more than I should--but the shows I watch are never nominated for anything. Granted, most of them are network and basic cable, but still, I'm not exactly part of the Duck Dynasty crowd. Where is the disconnect?

Breadbaker said...

The survey of course is taken at a point in time, but that point in time is in some ways increasingly less and less relevant.

In 1967, I remember watching the summer replacement series "Coronet Blue" and missing the last episode, and literally never having a chance to see it again.

Now, I'm pretty sure that if I feel like binge watching "Game of Thrones", I can do it literally any time in my life going forward, and so I don't feel any great rush to do so now.

Charlie Salsa said...

I guess on one level it must be disheartening to create a really good show and so few people know or watch what you do. On the other hand so many interesting personal creative ventures probably aren't getting made right now if Hulu,Netflix,Amazon and cable companies weren't in their own arm race for original content. Currently we are at about peak levels for amount of original scripted programming(400+ in 2015,2016) and eventually this bubble will burst.In the meantime I guess everyone should be happy so many performers are getting work and that what feels like an infinite amount of content is being made for consumers. The optimist in me says eventually the best shows will still find more viewers over time.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Back in the Mesozoic, the EMMY awards expected nominees to be able to reach 50% of viewers. Maybe there needs to be some sort of ratings minimum again.

Ed said...

This is interesting to me. I remember you wrote once about how "Girls" was getting so much press, but less than one million people actually watched it.
Where is the survey that tells us what we ARE watching? Is Neilson still considered the standard?

BobinVT said...

Media critics have fallen into the same category as political pundits. A huge majority of Americans no longer pay attention to , or even read their opinions. Critical raves of movies and TV shows no longer cause people to check them out. But mostly it's just that there's so much out there, and most of it is lousy. Give this deluge of content, there are no longer have "water cooler" shows like there were back when the three networks dominated. The two things that still seem to be water cooler fodder are major sporting events (at least for men) and politics. You can be reasonably sure that most everyone knows about the Cubs, the Super Bowl, or Trump. It's not surprising to me that so few watch the shows listed. What does surprise me is how few have even heard of them. I guess another factor is that younger people spend a lot of their screen time on YouTube of playing video games. The latter are bigger than most movies.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

MikeN is actually on to something. Liberal shows are offputting to more moderate or conservative people (Democrat or Republican). Meanwhile, even the ones that MikeN mentioned aren't "conservative", but centrists
Politics matter.
Entertainers don't realize (I'm guessing) that people don't want to buy a product from people who they vehemently disagree with politically.
So, Meryl Streep and George Clooney come off very dislikeable to a vast amount of people.
Or Mel Gibson.

Andrew said...

I think Seinfeld got it right:

George: The story is the foundation of all entertainment. You must have a good story, otherwise it's just masturbation.

Russel: And people really have to care about the characters.

George: Care? Forget about care. Love. They have to love the characters. Otherwise, why would they keep tuning in?

Jerry: Wouldn't tune in.

George: Would they tune in?

Jerry: No tune.

Katherine @ Grass Stains said...

54 million people are on Amazon Prime, but I bet only a fraction of those know how to access the streaming video benefits that come along with it. Most people -- some of my friends and family included -- use it only for the free shipping! We use the heck out of it, for free Kindle books to video streaming to printing photos and having them shipped FREE to our house. If people would just google it, they'd learn more about what they're paying for and would have access to all these great TV shows and movies! My four kids (ages 5-14) even know how to access Amazon content on our TVs. Love. Also loving the podcast BTW. Just about to finish episode 1, and after reading all these years, it's great to finally hear your voice. LOL'd that in the first minute, you referred to it as a "blog." Freudian slip. ;-)

Cedricstudio said...

On the subject of TV demographics, the NY Times recently ran a piece claiming that one of the most accurate ways to predict if someone was a Trump voters vs a Hillary voter is their TV viewing habits. They looked at three various groups of Americans (urban vs rural vs the "black belt") and found that each group is watching completely different shows from the other two, with almost no overlap. Link with maps here:

Kirk said...

I'm not sure the nature of your complaint. There are hits since you just mentioned two--The Big Bang Theory and Grey's Anatomy--at the end of your piece. Are you upset that those shows are ignored by the Emmys and critics? Or is it the other way around, that you wish Veep and Transparent were as popular and are upset that they're not?

Frustrated said...

This sounds like the old library debate we had back in the 60's - do you stock your shelves with Harlequin romances and Zane Grey because that's what people actually read or do you stock your shelves with Jane Austen and Walter Scott because that's good for them.

Alan Light said...

As a regular reader of your blog and other entertainment sites you'd think I would have heard of all these shows. I have NOT heard of This Is Us, Blackish, Stranger Things, Atlanta or Mozart In the Jungle. I've heard of Game of Thrones and have HBO but the show looks too violent, dark and, well, just icky. Same reason I never watched Breaking Bad. I think Veep (HBO) and The Crown (Netflix) are superb. I have Amazon Prime but never figured out the video part and just use it for free shipping. I guess our entire society is fragmented today, and we see the results everywhere, including politics.

RockGolf said...

If you think these numbers are low, I'd hate to see the numbers for the likely Oscar Best Picture nominees: I'd bet Lion, La La Land, Manchester By the Sea, Fences and Silences would collectively be recognized by 10% of the average uS population, and less that 1% surveyed would have seen any of those films, less than 4% would plan to see any of them.

And they wonder why Oscar ratings drop year after year.

Frederic Alden said...

I gave up on TV long ago because the commercials began to last so long I forgot what I was watching. And forget subscribing to premium services for just a few of the things I would watch. And finally, it's all fiction, and reality is much more relevant to me these days. Why watch fantasy shows for entertainment, when we've got politicians for that?

Kaleberg said...

I've heard of most of these new shows, but I like to read about television. I don't particularly enjoy watching television though. It takes a lot of time and effort to get into a new show, so if there doesn't seem to be an obvious payoff, I go do something else. I think this is why a lot of people binge watch. Once they decide to watch the whole show, they are willing to make that up front investment. Then they have a sunk cost, so they watch the rest of it.

I'm probably not the best demographic though. I don't remember ever knowing anyone who had watched more than an episode or two of Seinfeld. I saw ten minutes of it once and decided to clip my toenails.

Some years back I read an NHANES report on what Americans were doing with their time. Back in the 1950s, leisure time was spent with one's friends. By the 1960s, people stopped killing time with their friends and watched television instead. I wonder how much of that change was because suburban life made it harder to spend time with one's friends as opposed to the sheer wonder of television. Now people have social networks and multiplayer games, which for many people provides a way to spend time with their friends if only remotely. I'm wondering if social networking and gaming have been replacing television viewing time as a reversion to older patterns rather than as something really new.

Unknown said...

The other issue is that the award shows, especially the Golden Globes, seems to like to give awards to TV shows that are relatively new and different. Brooklyn 99 won for Best TV Comedy show 2-3 years ago and I dont think it has even been nominated since. I enjoy the show, but even I didnt think that it was the Best Comedy The Emmy award seems to get stuck on the same people or shows (like VP and Transparent) What is worse is that most of these shows are watched by no one and typical have very short seasons. While popularity of a show shouldnt determine what is the best show or actor, it does make watching the award shows boring when my favorite shows are ignored and only 5 people have ever watched the winner. I would also assume it is going to be easier to make quality shows when you only have to make 13 compared to when you have to make 22 of them. I would also imagine its easier to make an extremely quality show or movie when you know no one is going to watch it. I remember watching Living Las Vegas with Nicholas Cage. I thought he and Elizabeth Shue were wonderful in it. However I hated the movie, everyone I know hated the movie and to me the movie was an exercise in acting. Great acting with Cage getting an Oscar for it. While I was the first to say that his acting was great in the movie, I still didnt like it

MikeN said...

There used to be a TV Guide awards where they gave top prizes to shows like Everybody Loves Raymond and Marshal Law.

Johnny Walker said...

I just want to quickly write about TRANSPARENT: I love the show, but I don't like anyone but the father, and don't think it's funny. It's a melancholy drama about a dysfunctional family where the only decent one trying to hold them together is the one that society is most likely to vilify. The children are written as selfish and self-absorbed, it's not by accident, but they're also all suffering in their own ways.

DonBoy said...

I noted last years that the Best Actor/Actress for Drama awards went to Rami Malek and Tatiana Maslany, and if 1% of the general population knows either of those names I'd be floored.

Alan Smithey said...

Do these comments have a cap at 80 entries? I could've sworn I posted a lengthy comment that offered some non-controversial valid points in regards to this blog entry. Maybe the perspective of someone with over ten years in the television business (both on the creative side and business side) is not in step with what some of the other commenters (or author?) is wanting re-affirmed. I always thought diversity in perspective was a good thing.... Apparently not. :(

Herschel said...

Growing up I had, what, six channels - three majors and three locals, in Atlanta to watch! When cable came in it got a lot better. Then the 21st Century hit and now we have so much content that no one person can keep up.

We are at the beginning of the next generation of media consumption. Consumers will flock to their own media-hub (Netflix, Hulu, ABC.Com, HBO Online, etc... ) where an algorithm will direct their attention to what they like based on what they've been watching in the past and based on what similar people watch.

The problem is the algorithm isn't mature. Older adults will miss the "new, hip show" that is directed at a younger audience. But the algorithm will get better over time.

It will be interesting to see how the democratization of media distribution will go!

Chris Juricich said...

Pretty astounding statistics. I have now lived overseas for two years and even though I knew the names of all those shows mentioned, many I haven't seen given the relative availability of this programming here in the western Pacific of Asia. And here...while there is cable and such tv available here, it's usually more international, Australian or British, with little USA stuff available.

I am able to keep up a bit with shows I enjoyed through the ubiquity of the..shall we say...questionable provenance of DVDs available for sale here on every street corner. There is, as well, varied torrent sites one could utilize were they inclined as well, but I have found since having retired...95% of stuff available 'for free' online through pirate or struggling creators giving away their efforts is simply not worth the time...particularly at download speeds of less than 3mbps on average.

I read a helluva lot more, now.