NEWSPAPERS are dying; the music industry is still yelping about iTunes; book publishers think they are next. Yet one bit of old media seems to be doing rather well. In the final quarter of 2009 the average American spent almost 37 hours a week watching television. Earlier this year 116m of them saw the Super Bowl—a record for a single programme. Far from being cowed by new media, TV is colonising it. Shows like “American Idol” and “Britain’s Got Talent” draw huge audiences partly because people are constantly messaging and tweeting about them, and discussing them on Facebook.
Advertising wobbled during the recession, shaking the free-to-air broadcasters that depend on it. But cable and satellite TV breezed through. Pay-television subscriptions grew by more than 2m in America last year. The explosive growth of cable and satellite TV in India explains how that country has gone from two channels in the early 1990s to more than 600 today. Pay-TV bosses scarcely acknowledge the existence of viewers who do not subscribe to multichannel TV, talking only of people who have “yet to choose” a provider. This is not merely bluster. As our special report this week explains, once people start paying for greater television choice, they rarely stop.
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