Posted by: crudbasher | March 23, 2015

Can Declining Cable Viewerships Inform Us About Universities?

I came of age when cable TV became big. Futurist 15 years ago predicted that cable TV would continue to add channels and they were right. What they didn’t predict was this:

H/T Washington Post

Traditional television watching is declining faster than ever as streaming services become a mainstream feature in American homes, according to new research by Nielsen.


The trends have rattled the entertainment industry, with broadcast and cable networks scrambling to take on new competitors on the Web. Cable networks have seen steep ratings declines, which got much worse in the last six months of 2014. Cable ratings among adults fell 9 percent in 2014, three times the rate of decline over 2013, according to Michael Nathanson, an analyst at Moffett Nathanson research.

“It’s hard to ignore our belief that technology is disrupting viewer consumption of linear network programming,” Nathanson wrote in a recent research note.

Traditional network television creates content, then packages it in a particular order. You have to watch their channel, when they want you to in order to access the content. They make their money on selling commercials, not on the content itself.

So let’s compare this to education.

Colleges provide content (courses) and package it in a particular order (a degree). Colleges make their money on certifying that people completed the content, not on the content itself.

The traditional model of television is crumbling at an increasing rate. This would have been unthinkable 15 years ago and yet it’s happening. Could the university model also crumble? People still like to watch TV shows, just not on TV and not with commercials and only when we want. Universities could go the same way. Students will still want the courses but maybe the degrees won’t be as valuable? Maybe students will get smaller certifications for their actual skills, and maybe they will mix and match their courses online from a variety of schools and providers? Time will tell.

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