Is there any benefit to watching a TV show on the night it airs?

These past couple of TV seasons, TV networks have started airing their shows for free over the internet, and in addition they’ve also run encores of their shows, put shows on itunes, and made TV shows available on DVD far more quickly.

I have traditionally tried to give myself a sense of routine throughout my week by reserving Thursday nights on NBC (when shows such as My Name is Earl, The Office, 30 Rock, etc. air) as the night I stay home and watch TV, but there’s really no reason to watch a primetime show on TV anymore. The only two advantages I can think of is that you don’t want to miss the water cooler talk the next day when they’re giving spoilers to a show you haven’t yet watched. Just like how a film with a high cultural impact can be felt like Borat, Brokeback Mountain, Casino Royale, Harry Potter, or any other water cooler film, there’s an anxiousness to see it when it first comes out so you can be up to date. The second advantage, of course, is that it’s nice to watch TV on a bigger screen.

My only concern is that I wonder how this is hurting the networks with advertisers. If TV ratings are down, then the advertisers might not be willing to pay anymore, and I currently like the current state of TV where it’s free and advertising-paid. I just hope networks aren’t declaring some state of crisis when they look at the numbers and think “oh, these shows are not performing well, let’s can them” because obviously Nielsen numbers are skewed at this point and don’t account for everyone watching the show. It’s a relatively simple point and I’d imagine that the heavily-paid people who negotiate on both sides of the advertising-tv production arrangements would be smart enough to realize that, but in general the people who run TV make very unintelligent decisions so I’m not so sure.

The current arrangement with the network video sites like Comedy Central’s “The Motherload” or the counterparts at ABC, CBS, NBC, etc. is that they have mandatory advertising at the start of each clip, so that does mean that advertising is paying for the shows, to some small degree. If the shows are on youtube, however, advertising is not, and I hope those copyright violators get pulled off ASAP.

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