Editorial: Brooklyn Nine Nine’s saving grace: Is broadcast television a thing of the past?


With the recent devastating news of Brooklyn Nine Nine’s cancellation, and then later that day its renewal by NBC, it got me thinking about traditional broadcast television and whether or not it is relevant in our modern society with the emergence of streaming services.

In 2018, people have changed the way they enjoy watching content. Streaming services like Hulu, Netflix and Stan have become the cultural norm and binging television is a common occurrence. With a Facebook friend list filled with Brooklyn Nine Nine fans, my feed was littered with concerned posts about the program’s future. However, the biggest comment being made was “Don’t worry, I bet Netflix will pick it up”. This got me thinking, had NBC not taken over the contract, would Netflix have stepped in? Did NBC indeed save Nine Nine’s future or was it never really in jeopardy?

2017 was the first year in history in which watching downloaded or streamed video was more popular than watching traditional TV among U.S. consumers aged 45 and under. Netflix leads the online avenue and is predicted to hit 800 million subscribers by 2021.  When thinking about my daily chats with friends, when we talk about new content, the first question is always “Is it on Netflix?” It is becoming clearer and clearer that the younger generations associate television with online streaming services or subscriptions, rather than free-to-air.

Twenty years ago, seasons of major television programs averaged more than two million viewers. Reality television, still going strong on free-to-air, averages around 1.2 million viewers. However, when these ratings were so high, there were only five channels, not today’s 23 free-to-air channels, plus Foxtel and over-the-top streaming services.

So, it’s clear that younger viewers watch less TV than older viewers, but it has always been so. Ninety percent of the population still turn on their main TV every week, whether or not that is just for one program or for the news.

So is broadcast television really dying? Ratings still have an effect on whether or not a program is renewed. With dying ratings, Brooklyn Nine Nine was cancelled, among other popular television shows like Lucifer. As Australians, we have a different mentality to television as we are avid downloaders. It was our only option for a long time to keep up with American content. Now, with streaming services, we can access our favourite television shows in legal ways. For us, streaming has always been the main option for popular American television series, while worldwide this switch to online consumption is more groundbreaking. Broadcast television seems to have become the launch pad for a lot of amazing series, only to also become available for online streaming.

Consumers now have the ability to keep programs going despite poor ratings, which used to be the only way a network could tell whether or not they should renew. Broadcast TV is still going strong, but streaming services have definitely changed the game and what this might mean for the future of television. I’m just happy that due to the social media outrage and support Brooklyn Nine Nine has been saved. However, I will still have to wait until Netflix can stream it for me as I am that typical younger viewer who only accesses content online. Am I the minority or majority? Only time will tell. 


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