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Is it too late to save Live TV?

Last night my husband got invited to the neighbors house to watch the NFL draft with a few other guys. As they sat around watching picks and devouring pizza I was at home thinking about the power a major live television event can still draw. The only live TV we watch these days is events like the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and - for my husband - Cubs games. When I watch local news coverage it's on my phone or via an app on TV.

The draft was the clear ratings winner last night and brought ABC much needed male viewers. This on the heels of a disappointing Oscars show. It got me thinking... Is live TV dying? Or is it just changing?

From my perch watching the broadcast industry change by leaps and bounds in the past 20 years I offer my humble opinion! Live TV isn't dead but it's certainly undergoing a major shift - and broadcast networks need to change with it. More and more consumers are moving their viewing habits to streaming - and live TV events are moving with it. Covid just accelerated this trend.

This year - Amazon will have Thursday Night Football - a major coup that will have every streaming service watching closely. While they won't be the first to stream a live sporting event - they will be dramatically shifting viewership from broadcast to streaming.

I could see Disney+ with its already huge footprint - becoming a vehicle for live events and driving even more subscriptions. After all Disney owns ABC and ESPN. They would have to make these events ad supported though to really recapture the dollars.

The challenge will be for local TV stations to survive this viewing shift. Many station groups are already making the pivot and developing streaming CTV apps to regain audience. But many station groups have dug in their heels - fighting harder and harder to reclaim viewers that simply won't return to the "old way" of watching TV.

My prediction: The groups that are forward thinking on digital consumption and are building audiences off-linear will be around in 10-15 years. The others are going to be struggling against competitors that gained early market share.

As for the Oscars and other live-Award show events - I believe the disappointing ratings are - in large part - due to the pandemic. The award shows suffered from a multitude of unfixable problems - from actors who couldn't travel to accept awards, viewers who didn't go to the theatres all year and movie production was slowed or halted in 2020. Add to that show production faced huge logistical challenges due to covid so they just didn't "feel" like the award shows we know.

Hollywood is poised for a big comeback post-covid and I believe when theaters can open we'll see people return to this time-honored tradition. For me, watching a cinematic release at home just isn't the same.

Let me know your thoughts - what will it take to save linear TV viewing? What will it take to save local TV?

- Lauren

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