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Television Feels the Slump

Published August 3, 2005 in Television
By Beth Rodio | Image property of TNT
Into the West Into the West helps TNT have positive viewership over summer.
The summer is usually a slump time for TV fans. Primetime runs on the misconception that TV watchers sit in front of the glaring screen because they can think of nothing better to do. As a result, reruns and sub-par programming (and sometimes an unholy combination of both) plague the airwaves.

Knowing this, why have all the TV-related news articles focused on the downward trend of ratings for the summer? Speculation suggests that America is changing-whether it is for the worse depends on where your money comes from.

TV Taking the Backseat

Like the numbers in the movie theaters-which have, according to NPR, been dropping off into what passes as a "danger zone" for Hollywood-the numbers in TV have decreased. The news is especially dire for the "big four" network stations, ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX. Reuters reports that the numbers for these stations are down or, at best, even with the numbers from the summer of 2004, when none of the stations offered nearly as many original off-season shows in 2004 as in this year. TNT and Lifetime, both basic cable stations, have seen a significant rise in their viewers this summer.

Some of the blame falls on that dark mistress, the Internet. A new study, not the first of its kind, shows an inverse relationship between Internet use and TV viewing, with Internet as the cause (the study suggests) for fewer hours of TV per week.

The numbers for the study, as given by Reuters, are that broadband users watch 12 hours of TV per week compared to non-internet users 14 hours, and dial-up users watch 12.5. Further, those with laptop and desktop access drop 4 hours of time, watching 10 hours per week of television.

Recently, when speaking to a new mother, I had a conversation about the effects of television on children. She claimed that sitting in front of a TV did more harm than even video games because the act of watching is totally passive. Unlike reading, which requires your imagination to interact with the text or, it can be argued, the internet, which not only requires reading but also has the user making decisions and talking with people, TV gives you everything and requires nothing of you. Of course I'm not anti-TV, but I am happy to see some moderation, especially considering the quality of news on local network stations in comparison to reading The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal online. While getting rid of TV entirely is neither realistic nor desirable, a decline in that truly passive activity is wholly acceptable.

Stay tuned for updates.

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Compiled By (Sources)
Beth Rodio
Sources: Image property of TNT

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