Viewers are abandoning the old-line TV networks in droves, but advertisers are still willing to pay big bucks.
CBS (CBS), NBC, ABC and Fox are all down over the past year in the key demographic of viewers in the 18-to-49 year old range. But they may get seven to nine percent more from ad revenue this week in what's known as their upfront presentations to advertisers.
The four major networks are offering up dozens of new shows for the upcoming season, starting this fall. It's one of the biggest rollouts of new programming ever, as the networks look to blow up their schedules after a disastrous drop in ratings over the past year.
The main reason is wave of competition from cable and online.
Goldman Sachs (GS) estimates that 17 percent of that key 18-to-49 demographic has simply stopped watching broadcast TV over the past year.
Meanwhile, on cable there are hit shows like "Homeland", "Game of Thrones", "The Walking Dead", and "The Bible". Netflix (NFLX) too has original programming, most notably "House of Cards" and "Arrested Development".
And then there's Hulu, YouTube and Aereo, which reroutes network programming onto computers and smartphones for free.
All of this reduces the number of eyeballs available for the networks. But advertisers are still willing to pay big bucks for network programs. Even though viewership is down -– as much as 21 percent at Fox -– the networks still garner the biggest audiences, and national advertisers find that too appealing to pass up.
As for the new shows, the one that likely to get the most early publicity is an NBC sitcom featuring Michael J. Fox. He plays a character that might sound familiar: a TV personality, this time a reporter, who comes out of retirement despite his obvious symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
CBS, which sits in first place, has new comedies featuring Robin Williams, Will Arnett and Anna Faris.
Fox has several new comedies –- one about a gay divorced dad, another about Latino and white families thrust together when their teenage kids prepare to become parents.
And ABC seems to be targeting male viewers with shows like "Resurrection", in which the dead mysteriously come back to life. On the comedy side, it will try a "Modern Family" spinoff.
Comcast (CMCSA) owns NBC, Walt Disney (DIS) owns ABC, and News Corp. (NWS) owns Fox.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg