The laments from commenters that broadcast television networks “need to listen to their customers” typically betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between broadcast TV viewers and broadcast TV networks.
Viewers are not the broadcast networks’ customers, they’re the networks’ product.
How do the customers and products stack up in TV land?
Broadcast TV Networks:
- Customers: Traditionally advertisers. In recent years, broadcast networks have begun negotiating carriage fees from cable, satellite and telephone providers, so those companies are now also customers.
- Product: Viewers (adults 18-49 in primetime) to advertisers. Programming feed to providers.
Ad Supported Cable Networks:
- Customers: Same customers as the broadcast TV networks, but currently reversed in importance. Carriage fees are more important to most (all?) ad supported cable networks than is advertising revenue.
- Product: Viewers (various age/gender demo groups) to advertisers. Programming feed to providers.
Premium Cable Networks: (HBO, Showtime, etc)
- Customers: Primarily subscribers, but carriage providers as well, who act as the “retailers” of their product.
- Product: Programming.
- Customers: Broadcast and cable networks, both for first run and syndication. DVD buyers. Online streaming companies (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc).
- Product: TV programs.