TV and me

TV and me

: I came to a shocking realization over the last few days:

I don’t watch broadcast TV anymore.

Now that’s shocking because I love TV. I was the TV critic for TV Guide and People magazines and I created a damned entertainment mag and appeared on TV and watched TV. I kept four VCRs going at once almost every night. I knew what was happening in every corner of prime time. This weekend, when I took my son on the NBC studios tour in New York (our clever avoidance of a visit to the American Girl store with the women of the house), I was the only person in the group who could name every founding cast member of Saturday Night Live. TV was my life. Was.

But here comes the new fall season and, frankly, I couldn’t give a damn. I’m not watching any new series. I’m not following old series. I’m not watching broadcast TV. Three reasons:

1. The internet and the distraction of blogs. I spend a great deal of my day doing just what I’m doing at this second: reading and writing on the internet. I don’t consume media anymore; I live it.

2. Cable is so damned good. There are great shows on cable, especially on HBO, and I watch them with the same devotion I used to give to Cheers or Hill St. Blues and Seinfeld. But The Sopranos and The Wire and Curb Your Enthusiasm are better and more addictive. And even when I’m not watching them, I’m watching niche TV: We love do-it-yourself home improvement shows, for example. As with all other media, one-size-fits all is dead; nice programming — quality niches, special-interest niches, audience niches — are taking over.

3. Broadcast is getting so damned bad. I am not now and never have been and never will be a snob about TV. I look down my nose at people who look down their noses at people who watch TV; I distrust anybody who brags to me that they don’t own a TV or just watch PBS. Bull. But I do have to say that I have not become a regular with The Apprentice or Survivor or American Idol and I do believe that — as with all other trends that threatened to eat TV — these, too shall pass. And then where will the networks be?

All of this is to say that the studies showing a decline in TV viewership tied to an increase in internet usage are right. I’m the damned poster child.

A greater percentage of the Internet households surveyed by the Digital Future Project indicated that they spent less time watching TV in 2003 than previous years. Nearly 38 percent said they spent less time watching television in 2003, compared to 31 percent in 2002, and 33 percent in 2001.

The greatest impact on television viewing was seen among veteran users with 7+ years online, with 45.5 percent saying they watched less since they started using the Internet. In 2001, just 35 percent said the Internet caused them to watch less TV. That swelled to 38 percent in 2002.

Just wait until TV explodes with alternate means of delivery — via the internet — and alternate sources of programming — the citizens. The death of the network age, so often predicted, is upon us.