Media Outlook 2004

Cable TV

Evan Shapiro
Independent Film Channel

I regularly avoid making predictions like old leisure suits, they can often come back to haunt you. Therefore, it is with great trepidation that I write this article about the grandiose theme: The Future of Cable Television.

A month ago, it would have been tempting to say that, in 20 years, cable will overtake broadcast as the most watched televised medium. Cable, after all, had a huge fourth quarter, while the broadcast season was dead on arrival. Fall 2003 seemed to many like the fall of Rome young men had abandoned networks for video games, bars, and cable networks (cast as the Huns).

After January, however, that prediction lost some punch. Broadcasters have finally decided to take cable seriously, announcing their shift to a year-round programming model, and using January as the first example. On  a recent Thursday, the four major networks boasted a 70 share. Thursdays are always big, but this is January, not a sweeps month.