It's been coming for a while now and, like most momentous shifts, it's one of those things that seems impossible until it happens and then, with the benefit of hindsight, it appears to have been pretty much inevitable.  Then you start to wonder why it took so long for us to catch on and see what was happening literally right before our eyes. We're at the cusp right now of a comprehensive collapse of the traditional television experience across a much broader spectrum of the population than anyone anticipated and at a much more rapid rate than anyone thought was possible. TV is toast.
Some common behaviors are still shielding the scope of the collapse.  TVs are often turned on in many homes and in other venues, with no one watching. They serve as inexpensive comfort companions and white noise machines, but no one in his right mind would pay to reach these phantom viewers. It's the old-media version of the tree falling in the forest that no one hears. And many of us clearly remain victims of our own inertia and laziness. We can't bring ourselves to cut the cable even though we know in our heads and hearts that there's no reason to continue to pay for 500 channels crammed with nothing worth watching. And finally, there are the sports nuts who are captive to the ESPN bundles. Even with them, we're also seeing these full-line forcing deals continue to break down as sports-specific and carefully curated streaming services proliferate.
Streaming media is exploding - 73% of millennials are currently using some form of streaming service. Netflix's subscriber base is already bigger than cable. We're getting closer and closer to the world of "OTT and you and me" and it really can't come too soon. In a world where time is the scarcest resource, choice is an imperative and smart time-shifting is the newest superpower. Appointment TV is an albatross soon to become a dodo.
Frankly, to the extent that anyone's still watching the tube in real time, they're old and tired and no one with any marketing savvy or limited advertising dollars cares about reaching them anyway. This aging and graying marketplace has been a topic of strained and uncomfortable conversations with media execs for a while now, but here again, we're seeing the discussions picking up and the trends accelerating.
Over the last six years, the only two age groups whose share of watched TV minutes grew have been people aged 50-to-64 (up 5% or so) and those over 65, whose numbers jumped to more than 26% of the total TV pie. In terms of live TV versus digital, viewers over 55 watch twice as much broadcast as viewers under 35 and the disparity continues to grow. Some 500 hours of video are being uploaded to YouTube every minute. Facebook is facing another flood of inbound content. Americans are watching more than four million videos a minute at present.
But what actually brought the seriousness of the situation forcefully home to me, and provided some indication of what sad shape the tube is in, was a recent announcement from the cigarette guys that they'd be running a year's worth of new disclosure ads on TV.  Dollar wise, it's like old home week on Madison Avenue-; a clear cause for celebration-;and no creativity or client approvals are required since the painful content is specified by the government. But I think of this development as the icing on the TV corpse's cake or casket as the case may be. 

Remember that cigarette ads were banned from television decades ago for obvious reasons including, but not limited to, the fact that these are advertisements created by the creepy people who are consciously continuing to try to poison us and our kids every day. Disgusting for sure, but their latest and most flagrant caper is a testament to a level of manipulation and shamelessness that boggles the mind. They've been required by the courts to make and publish some seriously negative ads and blunt disclosure statements, such as admitting to making cigarettes more addictive and citing stats on deaths from smoking.
But the way they're going about it is a first-order fraud that's being foisted on the courts and regulators (and indirectly on the public). The vehicle for this scam is - wait for it - the Big 3 TV networks who couldn't be happier to take tens of millions of dollars in new advertising from these people. What will the networks be paid for? Running black and white mea culpa ads.
And here's the beautifully awful and wonderfully cynical part of this whole deal. They're running these court-mandated ads five days a week for a year on the traditional Big 3 nets in the prime-est of prime time because they know that the people who are going to be watching those ads are the people least likely to  be talked into buying their cancer sticks. Either those viewers are already lifelong smokers slowly killing themselves or they're people with at least half a brain who concluded long ago that they'd prefer to live a longer and healthier life and dumped the nasty habit.
After all, who is really stupid enough to still smoke these days or, worse yet, to start smoking? The most obvious marketing targets for the tobacco companies are young people and millennials. Kids who think it's cool. And 13% of kids under 25 are still smoking. God forbid we give them any reason to quit. So, let's do everything we can to keep them from seeing these stark, mandatory messages about disease and death.
How do you do that? You stick all the messages smack in the middle of network prime time. Hiding in plain sight. And why is that so smart and so cynical? Because today, most of the kids and millennials aren't watching TV at all. In fact, 47% of millennials and Gen X'ers watch no media on traditional TV.  PSAs in prime time are about as effective and useful as an iPhone is to a moose.