Everyone's Watching Less Network TV: Guess What They're Doing Instead

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Family not watching TVPrime time isn't what it used to be.

Fresh data from ratings tracker Nielsen shows an alarming drop in television viewership. ABC, Fox, CBS and NBC have combined for a 9 percent drop in viewers in the coveted 18-to-49 age bracket since the fall season began on Sept. 24.

Media executives are worried, and rightfully so. Only Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC is better off than where it was a year ago, up a sharp 23 percent. However, it's hard for NBC to celebrate when Disney's (DIS) ABC is down 7 percent, CBS (CBS) is off by 18 percent, and News Corp.'s (NWS) Fox is down by a brutal 26%.

If there are fewer folks tuning in to network television, that will make it that much harder for NBC to sustain its gains in the future.

Cable and DVRs and Facebook, Oh My

There are some reasonable explanations behind the drop, and that's before debating the actual quality of the shows that the four major networks are airing these days.

Let's start with cable networks.

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All the shows generating any kind of buzz -- "Walking Dead," "Breaking Bad," "American Horror Story" -- are on cable networks, where they can get away with the edgier programming that traditional broadcasters can't. Then we get to the premium movie channels that have evolved into hubs of high-end programming including "Homeland," "Boardwalk Empire," and "Game of Thrones."

It's hard for the over-the-air commercial networks to compete, so perhaps it's no wonder that they have resorted to costly sports programming or filling their schedules with reality shows that are cheaper to produce than another watered-down sitcom or drama.

DVRs, on-demand viewing, and online streams have also spread out the way that we consume conventional prime-time programming.

World Wide Web Watching

What about all of the time that folks spend online? Facebook (FB) now has a billion active users, and more than half of them are spending time on the site on any given day. Time spent strolling through friend status updates or following links to viral videos is entertainment.

Netflix (NFLX) could be an even bigger problem. The leading video service is now serving up more than a billion hours of content a month. It can't all be incremental. Some of it has to come at the expense of traditional TV consumption.

It won't be easy for the four major networks to win back the viewers that they're losing. The trends are real, and they may not be reversible.

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Everyone's Watching Less Network TV: Guess What They're Doing Instead
It's no secret that you can learn something about the way money works by watching television programs like 'Power Lunch,' on CNBC, and 'Money for Breakfast,' on FOX Business. But for many of us, watching those shows can feel like work. Fortunately, if you want to enjoy a fun sitcom or a trashy reality show and still learn how to make money, you can.

Click through our photo gallery as Bankrate profiles what you can learn from 8 popular TV shows.

First Up: 'The Apprentice'
It's no secret that you can learn something about the way money works by watching television programs like 'Power Lunch,' on CNBC, and 'Money for Breakfast,' on FOX Business. But for many of us, watching those shows can feel like work. Fortunately, if you want to enjoy a fun sitcom or a trashy reality show and still learn how to make money, you can.

Click through our photo gallery as Bankrate profiles what you can learn from 8 popular TV shows.

First Up: 'The Apprentice'
What You Can Learn:
In real life, just as on the show, there are co-workers who will demoralize their team and who will be happy to sell your soul if it means currying favor with the boss, who you will hate. Yet there will be other staff members who you will take a bullet for, or even risk hearing, "you're fired," if it means protecting your workplace pal.

' 'Apprentice' Money Quote & More

Next: 'The Office'
What You Can Learn:
In real life, just as on the show, there are co-workers who will demoralize their team and who will be happy to sell your soul if it means currying favor with the boss, who you will hate. Yet there will be other staff members who you will take a bullet for, or even risk hearing, "you're fired," if it means protecting your workplace pal.

' 'Apprentice' Money Quote & More

Next: 'The Office'
What You Can Learn:
Michael Scott, the Scranton, Pa., branch manager of paper company Dunder Mifflin, is a case study for how not to manage one's finances professionally and personally. Even what Michael did in his youth, is a financial cautionary tale. As a young man, he admirably put aside money for his education while working at an Arby's restaurant. But his plans to go to college were destroyed when he lost his entire savings in a pyramid scheme.
' See 'Office' Money Quote & More

Next: 'Two and a Half Men'
What You Can Learn:
Michael Scott, the Scranton, Pa., branch manager of paper company Dunder Mifflin, is a case study for how not to manage one's finances professionally and personally. Even what Michael did in his youth, is a financial cautionary tale. As a young man, he admirably put aside money for his education while working at an Arby's restaurant. But his plans to go to college were destroyed when he lost his entire savings in a pyramid scheme.
' See 'Office' Money Quote & More

Next: 'Two and a Half Men'
What You Can Learn:
Money is always haunting the Harper brothers. Alan is a chiropractor, but has his finances tied up in alimony payments and child support. Charlie is a musician, but not the kind who makes platinum albums; he writes ad jingles. After Alan's second divorce, he makes the wry observation that, "In my entire life, my dog is the only person I've slept in the same bed with that didn't sue me for alimony."

' See 'Men' Money Quote & More

Next: 'Sex and the City'
What You Can Learn:
Money is always haunting the Harper brothers. Alan is a chiropractor, but has his finances tied up in alimony payments and child support. Charlie is a musician, but not the kind who makes platinum albums; he writes ad jingles. After Alan's second divorce, he makes the wry observation that, "In my entire life, my dog is the only person I've slept in the same bed with that didn't sue me for alimony."

' See 'Men' Money Quote & More

Next: 'Sex and the City'
What You Can Learn:
Carrie Bradshaw, Samantha Jones, Charlotte York and Miranda Hobbes are all living in the corporate world -- 'Desperate Housewives' this is not. Financial lessons abound, particularly when following Carrie, who has trouble with the "living within your means" guideline.

' See 'Sex' Money Quote & More

Next: 'The Colbert Report'
What You Can Learn:
Carrie Bradshaw, Samantha Jones, Charlotte York and Miranda Hobbes are all living in the corporate world -- 'Desperate Housewives' this is not. Financial lessons abound, particularly when following Carrie, who has trouble with the "living within your means" guideline.

' See 'Sex' Money Quote & More

Next: 'The Colbert Report'
What You Can Learn:
Colbert's regular segments include "Bears & Balls," in which finance-related questions are asked, and he provides answers ("Buy gas. It's a sure-fire commodity with no risk except for the sure risk of fire.") Then there's Colbert Platinum, in which the host thoughtfully showcases outlandishly pricey products that only the superrich can afford. But that's OK. As Colbert points out, these segments are for billionaires. Cash-strapped millionaires should change the channel.
' See 'Colbert' Money Quote & More
Next: 'The Simpsons'
What You Can Learn:
Colbert's regular segments include "Bears & Balls," in which finance-related questions are asked, and he provides answers ("Buy gas. It's a sure-fire commodity with no risk except for the sure risk of fire.") Then there's Colbert Platinum, in which the host thoughtfully showcases outlandishly pricey products that only the superrich can afford. But that's OK. As Colbert points out, these segments are for billionaires. Cash-strapped millionaires should change the channel.
' See 'Colbert' Money Quote & More
Next: 'The Simpsons'
What You Can Learn:
Over the years, Homer Simpson has lost his family's life savings, become a grifter, been audited by the IRS, accepted a loan from his bartender Moe (who we learn is also a loan shark), and given up work for eight days so he can be the second person in line to get some football tickets. And who can forget the time that, after attending a seminar where they learned to be smart shoppers, Homer took his family on an expensive trip to Tokyo? While there, they lost all their money.
' See 'Simpsons' Money Quote & More
Next: 'Ugly Betty'
What You Can Learn:
Over the years, Homer Simpson has lost his family's life savings, become a grifter, been audited by the IRS, accepted a loan from his bartender Moe (who we learn is also a loan shark), and given up work for eight days so he can be the second person in line to get some football tickets. And who can forget the time that, after attending a seminar where they learned to be smart shoppers, Homer took his family on an expensive trip to Tokyo? While there, they lost all their money.
' See 'Simpsons' Money Quote & More
Next: 'Ugly Betty'
What You Can Learn:
Many episodes often feature slices of life revolving around finances. In the first season, Betty has to organize the finances of her publisher boss, Daniel, which leads to her eventually learning that some of her co-workers have falsified expenses; Daniel is yelled at by his father who still owns the magazine, and gets his company credit card cut off for a week; Wilhelmina, the magazine's assistant editor, uses her company credit card expense account for a "butt lift."
' See 'Betty' Money Quote & More
Next: 'The Cosby Show'
What You Can Learn:
Many episodes often feature slices of life revolving around finances. In the first season, Betty has to organize the finances of her publisher boss, Daniel, which leads to her eventually learning that some of her co-workers have falsified expenses; Daniel is yelled at by his father who still owns the magazine, and gets his company credit card cut off for a week; Wilhelmina, the magazine's assistant editor, uses her company credit card expense account for a "butt lift."
' See 'Betty' Money Quote & More
Next: 'The Cosby Show'
What You Can Learn:
See what family life can be like when both parents work hard to become successful, affluent professionals. The family goes through the trials of daily life while putting family first -- and managing to laugh, hug and drop lots of clever one-liners.

' See 'Cosby' Money Quote & More



Next: More on AOL
What You Can Learn:
See what family life can be like when both parents work hard to become successful, affluent professionals. The family goes through the trials of daily life while putting family first -- and managing to laugh, hug and drop lots of clever one-liners.

' See 'Cosby' Money Quote & More



Next: More on AOL
Celebrity Billionaires

Hard to believe, but most billionaires live in relative obscurity. (Anyone know what a Walton looks like?) Even billionaire owners of household brands -- Dell, Marriott and Benetton to name a few -- go largely unrecognized by the masses. Only a tiny fraction of billionaires hit it big on both counts, enjoying both fame and fortune.

Here are some of them.

See Celebrity Billionaires
Celebrity Billionaires

Hard to believe, but most billionaires live in relative obscurity. (Anyone know what a Walton looks like?) Even billionaire owners of household brands -- Dell, Marriott and Benetton to name a few -- go largely unrecognized by the masses. Only a tiny fraction of billionaires hit it big on both counts, enjoying both fame and fortune.

Here are some of them.

See Celebrity Billionaires
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Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article except for Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook, Netflix, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has bought calls on Facebook. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Facebook, Walt Disney, and Netflix and creating a bear put ladder position in Netflix.

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