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Live Television Is a Bloated, Dying Animal

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Despite Bill O'Reilly's entreaties, we will not do it live.

With the explosion of streaming video availability and time-shifted programming, a growing number of TV viewers are abandoning networks' calculated schedules and watching shows at flexible hours. According to a survey conducted by Comcast, 60% of viewers are watching time-shifted content more often than a year ago, a figure increased to a whopping 84% if the time span is extended to three years.

It's hardly surprising that live television is on the wane. Hectic personal schedules lend themselves to DVD season compilations, YouTube clips, TiVo recommendations, Netflix instant streaming, the iTunes store, and a network-backed Hulu -- not to mention a very industrious BitTorrent community. David Bauder of the Associated Press chronicled many folks who simply can't or refuse to revolve their lives around a primetime lineup.

Cable providers are trying to catch up, too, by offering more on demand programs. Over five years, Time Warner Cable boosted the number from 1,400 to 12,000 selections per month. Comcast boosted its number from 1,700 in 2004 to 17,000 per month today. But what the companies lose in live advertising dollars, well, maybe a data cap or two will keep customers relying on their services.

Speaking with the AP, NBC Universal's chief researcher Alan Wurtzel noted the rise in time-shifted programming using the most laughably oblivious point of reference imaginable. "The people who are doing this are not young kids who wear black and live in SoHo," he said. "They are mainstream."

As long as network executives continue to be this out of touch and clueless about the average viewer, alternative forms of watching TV will continue to blossom.
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