Pop Culture 2016: Revolutionary Changes in TV Viewing

NBC research president Alan Wurtzel began his presentation at the Television Critics Association press tour by reading an excerpt from a 1990 Time magazine article declaring TV to be in a state of upheaval driven by increased competition and disruptive technology.

“We’ve had disruption all along,” Wurtzel said. “The problem or the issue is that today the disruption is different.”

Wurtzel then laid out a stat-heavy case for the notion that the pace of change, the accelerating advances of technology, shifts in consumer attitudes and the mainstreaming of new behaviors has effectively dramatically and quickly the TV business.

Among the stats rolled out — 80% of viewers agree that they are watching television differently now than they were several years ago; 81% say that they expect to be watching TV differently in several years than they are now; and 86% say they are more comfortable now using technology to access TV shows than they were several years ago.

Wurtzel also said that 67% of viewers say that they no longer feel the need to watch an episode of television when it first airs on linear TV.

“Time-shifted viewing has always for the last eight to 10 years been a very big driver of how people watch TV, but it’s gone to a different level.”

Wurtzel offered that 54% of viewers now say they will not start watching a show unless they have access to prior episodes.

“That’s a big deal,” Wurtzel said. “I had a third-grade teacher who said, ‘A word to the wise is sufficient.’ I think everyone in this business needs to take heed of that 54%. It’s a huge issue.”