from DVRs to the weather, they're turning a blind eye to the real cause of the problem: increased competition from cable, Netflix and other non-traditional viewing sources.
Much like the American automotive industry that has seen its share fall from over 90% in the 1950s to under 50% now, the television networks are suffering from of a proliferation of competition and a product that's not demonstrably better.
Now that a whole generation has grown up with cable in the house, they don't see a difference between channels 2, 4 or 7 and channel 247. It doesn't matter where you are on the dial, just that you have something worth watching. And that's where the real problem comes in.
Quality programming is not something networks and producers define. Quality lives in the eyes of the the viewers. So while NBC may think it has a quality show in "Parenthood" with a good cast, proven writers and a lot of money tied up in production, it will never achieve the ratings success of a "Hill Street Blues." In addition to competing with ABC, NBC and Fox offerings, a few percentage points of NBC's viewership now goes to shows like Storage Wars, Chopped, Big Break, on the hundreds of other channels that come into our homes.
Add to that the fact that we have gone from having one television in every home to nearly one in every room and the problem gets worse as viewership within a household becomes more fragmented.
NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox will never be able to reach the ratings heights they once knew just because of math. The universe of viewers isn't expanding. The number of channels are.
There aren't any excuses that can cover up that fact.