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The 2012/2013 Television Season: The More Things Change…

When you look at the results of the past broadcast season, you might just find something interesting. It looks very much like last year. And the year before that, and the year before that, and before that, and so on.

Over 90% of the top 200 A25-54 primetime programs airing during this season were on broadcast. Were there more cable programs that made the top 200? Yes — eight election-related and eight sports-related (primarily College Football Bowl games). Which leaves us with only two cable shows that were in the top 200 programs of the season – #70 Walking Dead and The Bible miniseries at #163.

What about Duck Dynasty? The latest cable darling came in at #225 overall. The first Real Housewife (Atlanta) is #715. Mad Men is #1182. Former broadcast sitcom Cougar Town came in at #1286. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is #1326. Dallas came to rest at #1414.

It just goes to show that the amount of ink (virtual and otherwise) spilled over these shows is disproportionate to the audiences they deliver.

So for those who are under the impression that the balance of power had finally shifted to cable this season, we’d like to direct them to the facts rather than the headlines.

Broadcast television remains the dominant vehicle to deliver large-scale audiences, season after season. Cable may have some sports that crack the top 200, but broadcast has sports that dominate the top 50, and that’s not even when you include the Super Bowl. Specials? Check. The Oscars (#9), Grammys (#19) and even the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (#39), just to name a few, all deliver far more viewers than any cable headliner. And comparing broadcast’s regularly scheduled programs to cable’s just isn’t a fair fight.

So we bid farewell to another “official” television season in the same way we’ve done every other TV season — with a fact-based realization that when you think television, think broadcast.

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