Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

You Really Can Blame the Web for Shrinking TV Ratings — But You Have to Credit It for Boosting TV, Too

Why are lots of TV networks’ ratings down? The most obvious answer is that people are watching stuff on the Web instead.

But people are still watching a whole lot of TV — perhaps as much as ever. So the more nuanced answer is that some people are swapping out the Web for TV, some of the time. And other times Web video consumption may end up leading to more TV-watching.

Here’s some evidence supporting that idea: New data from Bernstein Research that tracks TV viewing habits for Netflix streaming subscribers. It shows a drop in kids’ TV viewing — but an increase for networks like AMC and FX. Presumably that’s because Netflix users are discovering old episodes of shows like “Mad Men” and “Sons of Anarchy” on Netflix, which is prompting them to watch new episodes of those shows on cable.

This chart shows a dropoff for programming on kids’ networks like Disney and Nickelodeon:

And this chart shows spikes for AMC whenever the network shows new episodes of shows that have old episodes on Netflix:

Bernstein put its research together using data from TiVo users. So on the one hand the numbers are pinpoint accurate, since they’re tracking actual TV usage. And, on the other hand, it may not be representative of the entire country.

Still, it makes intuitive sense, and certainly syncs up with the way the Web gets used in our house: Our kids are unaware you can do anything with an iPad other than watch “Backyardigans” and “Dinosaur Train.”

Meanwhile, I just plowed through the first four seasons of “Breaking Bad” on Netflix (and iTunes) last month — and am going out of my mind waiting for the fifth season to start on AMC this summer. Let’s cook!


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik