TrendWatch: TV Goes down the Tubes…

‘Disruptive innovation’ is a modern business buzzword. By definition, it refers to something new that creates a new market and displaces an earlier technology. This can occur over varying amounts of time, sometimes a few years and sometimes decades.

If you have observed how television is changing over the past five years, you understand that we are in the midst of a great example of disruptive innovation. Recent Nielson ratings data shows that U.S. television viewership declined by 12 per cent in January compared to the same month a year earlier, the eighth consecutive double-digit drop (CBC News). This percentage shift accounts for billions of dollars of lost revenue.

A snapshot of a week at our house reveals this principle at work. My pre-teen daughters favorite channels are on YouTube and Netflix. My wife and I are hooked on a drama that we are watching courtesy of our commercial-free Amazon Prime membership (on our Roku). Our Superbowl party began on the back patio where I streamed the game via an NBC app on my iPad and an AppleTV. Oh, and the two shows we watch as a family are never watched live thanks to our DVR.

Strategic leadership authors Ashley and Morrison believe that disruptive innovation has a remedy – something called anticipatory management. They note that anticipatory management provides the lead time which provides organizations with competitive Issue Life Cycleadvantage. Without intentional efforts to which help us anticipate change, organizations lapse into negative and reactive behaviors when changes occur (see diagram). The earlier we are able to see a shift coming, the more options we have. Conversely, the longer we wait, the less options we have (and they are usually much less desirable).

Anticipatory management is not difficult to understand but it takes intentionality and discipline to accomplish. If we are not aware that our services and and products have a life cycle, we will eventually find ourselves facing tough issues as our environments move on without us. It will be fascinating to see how television networks reinvent themselves in light of these changes. Will they adapt the nimbleness of Netflix or become another Blockbuster dinosaur?


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Ashley, W.C., & Morrison, J.L. (1995). Anticipatory management: 10 power tools for achieving excellence into the 21st century. Leesburg, VA: Issue Action Publications.

Evans, P. (Feb. 4, 2015). Neilson ratings data shows big TV decline due to streaming data. CBC News on-line. Retrieved from