By Darren Johnson
You surely heard all the media hubbub about the “Breaking Bad” finale last month. And deservedly so. This clearly was the best series ever captured on film in the history of mankind. I loved it.
But, did you know, only only about 10.3 million watched that finale live? OK, that is a large number, but, put into perspective, that’s only about 3 percent of the US population.
Reading the articles, one would think the whole country watched it!
So, the best show in America only gets a handful of viewers.
To put it into perspective, the “M*A*S*H” finale had 105.9M viewers in 1983. “Cheers” had 80.4M viewers in its final episode 10 years after that.
In 1998, “Seinfeld” said farewell to 76.3M viewers. “Friends,” in 2004, pulled a 52.5M number.
In 1992, 50 million people stayed up late to say goodbye to Johnny Carson. Today, late shows like that are lucky to get a million viewers.
Fixing the numbers to population, consider that there are about 319M people in the US today. In 1983, there were 234M people. So that means that the finale of “M*A*S*H” was viewed by over 45 percent of the country! All at one time, eyes were watching Hawkeye and the gang say adieu.
And, clearly, “Breaking Bad” is a better show than any of the above, except, maybe, “Seinfeld.” (Jerry’s farewell was seen by about 28 percent of the country.)
So, what happened?
Sure, people still watch the Super Bowl, but the Super Bowl is different — if you don’t watch it, you miss it. Recording it and watching it later makes no sense — you will know who won. There is no way to avoid not knowing who won the Super Bowl immediately after unless one totally unplugs everything and lives in a shack in the desert.
Bank on it. Your Twitter feeds will be filled with “Yay Broncos!” or “Yay Seahawks!” that special Sunday.
The idea of the “special event” is gone. Deadlines aren’t really deadlines anymore. And maybe media hype doesn’t work anymore, either. People just don’t get as excited about being tuned into something at a certain time.
Yes, tens of millions more people will see that “Breaking Bad” finale in the days and weeks (and years) ahead. Who knows, perhaps when all the different mediums are taken into account — Netflix, cable on-demand, Apple Store, etc. — the finale will reach “M*A*S*H”-like numbers?
So, what’s the big deal, then?
Other mediums have gone the same way. Record stores are mostly gone. Book stores go kaput. Bands can’t sell out large arenas. Did you know that bands used to regularly sell out Giants Stadium? Now there are tickets to be had day-of at measely Jones Beach.
No one cares about going to one place at one time anymore, whether it be a concert, a TV show, or even an open house for this college.
The question becomes, how will people who want to get your attention contact you?
If there is no defining event, where will everyone meet? On Facebook?
For advertisers, it’s a nightmare. An ad on the “Breaking Bad” finale would only have 1/15th the effect compared to 30 years prior when “M*A*S*H” folded tent.
With the fracturing of media, we all have tailored our entertainment and news to fit our lifestyles. We all have different phones, we listen to different things in the car in different ways, we all watch different shows, we get our news from a hodge podge of sources.
Over 400,000 people attended Woodstock in Upstate New York in 1969. They had no Internet to spread the word, but it somehow did.
Posters? Newspapers? Radio?
Could you imagine that many people gathering for such an event today? Or would a post about Woodstock 2013 get lost amidst the clutter on your Facebook feed with pictures of Aunt Bee’s new dog and the cake your friend made?
As the Beatles once sang, “Come Together,” but will we ever come together for anything ever again?