Commentary: Some of us are tiring of TV news
Who cares what we watch on TV? Some of us don’t really care what everybody else watches, but local stations, on-air and cable networks and advertisers do. Media income results from attracting eyeballs to the screen – the more, the better.
While one report says summertime viewing is off this year as often happens, another one shows that TV network revenues – especially in news programs – are up.
That seems plausible after finding that the two top-viewed cable channels are Fox News and MSNBC, in that order. Hannity on Fox and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC were the top shows.
Some of us are tiring of TV news – you most likely can identify many of the reasons. We’re finding different things to do with our time and changes in our routines may account for variations in viewing habits, too.
A somewhat recent development – more and different screens – might be another reason. Many of us now spend considerable time looking at small cellphone and computer screens rather than our big TV screens.
A new report from Nielsen reveals that American adults 18 and older now spend almost six hours a day watching video of all kinds. That’s eleven minutes more than during the previous quarter. And those numbers are just part of the larger picture – on average, Americans spend eleven hours a day watching, listening to, reading or otherwise interacting with media.
It’s scary – spending 46 percent of our day with media. Add to that nine or ten hours for sleep and meals – a total of more than 87 percent – and there’s not much time to do anything else. Worse yet, if you happen to be one who doesn’t engage in all that screen time, it means someone else is making up for you and screen-watching even more.
Of the nearly six-hours we spend looking at screens daily, Nielsen says four hours and 46-minutes are with our TV sets (a 21-minute increase from February). That includes watching both live and time-shifted (recorded) TV programs. We also allot 46-minutes to TV connected devices, like playing games and watching DVDs. We spend ten-minutes looking at video on our computers, and another 15-minutes looking at video on smartphones and tablets.
Even though there are more screens vying for our time, most of us – especially older folks – gravitate toward traditional media. And we oldsters are spending more time with our TVs.
Many of us acknowledge that we spend too much of our day in front of screens. Even teenagers realize that, and Pew Research says 52 percent of them are cutting back on mobile phone use and slowing down on social media and video games. Some of that reduction is self-imposed, but in other cases, it might result from parents setting limits on their teens’ mobile screen time. My niece has done that with her two teenage sons – she allots a specific amount of screen time per day – when they use it up, they have to abandon all their devices.
I’m hopeful that all younger generations will ultimately find the right amount of time to spend with screens and make the appropriate adjustments, though it may take a while. Spending so much time looking at a screen turns out to be unsatisfying and leaves a void in our lives. It hinders social interaction, too.
In any event, I’m not really a good one to complain about people who spend too much screen time. I admit to devoting way too much of it on my computer – reading news, reviewing all sorts of articles for ideas to use in newspaper columns, keeping my finances in order, keeping track of a couple hobbies and keeping in touch with a few friends. It’s a good thing my wife hasn’t forced me to follow my niece’s edicts!
Let’s look at some very recent TV news. NFL football remains a giant attraction. During the pre-season, national advertisers spent more than $126 million on NFL game broadcasts, and that doesn’t include local sponsors. The big advertisers are set to lay out a fortune during the regular season. Last year, they spent $3.7 billion advertising on NFL broadcasts. The game keeps drawing big audiences.
It looks as if lots of us still love Judge Judy. Her courtroom show is once again ending the year as the top-rated syndicated program. Her audience grew by three percent this year, and the show is the highest-rated production in syndication for nine years running. Other syndicated shows that do well are Dr. Phil, Live with Kelly and Ryan and Ellen DeGeneres.
Among game shows, Family Feud, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune were the top three and Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight finished one-two among magazine shows.
Once network shows end their runs, they go into syndication and the reruns we’re watching include Big Bang Theory, Last Man Standing, Modern Family, The Goldbergs and Two and a Half Men – in that order.
Finally, I was sad to learn that comedian Tim Conway – one of my all-time favorites – is confined to a wheelchair in a nursing facility suffering from dementia. His daughter says he’s almost unresponsive.
Who can forget Conway’s classic bits, including the one on the Carol Burnett Show in which he played a dentist about to administer Novocain with a hypodermic needle when he accidentally stabbed himself in the leg? Then he stuck the needle into his hand and proceeded to act out one of TV’s funniest skits ever.