In the month of October, two cable channels that cater almost exclusively to young people lost viewers by double digits. Comedy Central’s primetime audience dropped 19%, MTV’s 32%. In average daily viewership, Comedy Central is down 10%, MTV 18% There are probably many reasons for this, but my guess is that streaming is a big one.
As much as I would like to believe that America is finally waking up to and turning away from the cultural, left-wing rot that MTV and Comedy Central represent, that would be wishful thinking. Considering the make-up of their audience, a better explanation — and one no less comforting to the entertainment industry — is that the migration to online viewing (streaming) is now taking a noticeable chunk of the MTV, Comedy Central cable audience.
Both MTV and Comedy Central have a solid online presence, as far as clips of their shows, and in some cases full episodes. Two of Comedy Central’s most popular shows — The Daily Show and The Colbert Report — both make full episodes available online within hours of their broadcasts.
We are a culture and country that is getting more and more used to watching what we want when we want, and that is what online streaming offers. Young people, the core Comedy Central, MTV audience, are the obviously the most tech-savvy and ready to embrace this change.
The bad news for the entertainment industry, though, is that this march towards streaming is a march away from the Big Con of bundled cable. Big Media is getting filthy rich off the dark art of forcing people to pay a ton of money for cable packages that include a ton of channels they never watch.
Bundled cable is a corporate windfall because cable channels need not succeed to be profitable. Hardly anyone watches 90% of cable channels, but because Big Media have suckered hundreds of millions of Americans into paying for them anyway, these channels are hugely profitable.
If the MTV, Comedy Central ratings drops are real (the trend has been downward for some time), it could mean that the move online is happening faster than most of us predicted. And that is very bad news for an entertainment and news business that for thirty years has enriched itself from exploiting millions with their wink-and-a-nod monopoly.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC