This year’s upfronts are like all the others. The major networks are rolling out their TV lineups including their time slots. But there is something the TV networks and the media that covers them have not realized yet. It’s starting not to matter when a show comes on TV.
First of all, almost nothing on television is live outside of some news, sports and very specific things like Saturday Night Live or talent competitions that require live voting and audience interaction. Otherwise, the vast majority of television programming is far easier to view whenever viewers want to see it. Want to know who gets it? The CW. The CW announced this winter that it will air shows on Sundays giving it 6 days a week of original programming. Can its shows thrive on Sunday night? To be honest they probably can’t. But what having a Sunday night slot does is provide another opportunity to sell advertising during a given slot. The CW knows that many of its viewers tune in via its app.
The CW’s audience is heavily slanted towards the younger viewers who just don’t subscribe to the old-fashioned idea of coming home from 9-5 jobs having dinner and watching their favorite programs. That model for life ended with the great recession for a lot of the now young adult Millennials, regardless of their education level or previous experience. It’s a world of multiple part-time jobs, gig economy life, bartending and temp work for many. Not to say that nobody between the age of 18-35 has a stable career. That would be a huge and undefendable overstatement boarding on mistruth. But the falling numbers of cable subscribers shows how the price of TV has affected the importance of accessing it to many people. And it is not deniable that cord cutters and more importantly cord nevers trend younger and more tech-savvy.
The thing that makes the CW app different in the marketplace where TV everywhere apps make up most of the network TV options is that it is not a TV Everywhere app. While ABC, NBC and FOX all have apps for mobile devices and connected TV’s that require customers to sign in with a cable provider to watch much of their on-demand options, and CBS All Access requires a monthly fee, the CW makes its entire lineup of programming available through commercial supported and unauthenticated apps. The app launched soon after the CW decided to pull its shows from Hulu in order to move forward with a deal between the CBS owned property and Netflix. The CW is basically the most binge-friendly network on TV. Once a season is finished its Netflix affiliation kicks in with full seasons dropping on the service almost immediately.
The CW knows that people have changed the way they watch TV for the most part. Despite glowing ratings for shows like the Rosanne revival, almost nothing is appointment television anymore. It’s all about views over time. And it won’t be much longer before advertisers begin to value those sorts of numbers the same way they used to value time slots. After all, if a commercial is effective at 8 pm on Wednesday just think of how effective it can be if its seen 20 times in 4 hours while someone watches the last 5 episodes of the Flash and the 100. The times they are a changin in the TV world. And those that realize where the change it heading will be very ahead of the game.