IndieWire asked a solid question: Why do TV shows all air on Sunday? All the “best” shows on television premiere their newest episodes on Sunday night, and one might think “Wouldn’t that force people to choose and divide viewership?” The example used compared them to film releases, and as of now Captain America 3 is scheduled for the same time as Batman vs. Superman… yeah, one of them is going to budge most likely.
“Despite what’s going on creatively in the TV world with filmmakers and actors flocking to the smaller screen, television shows are not like movies. Films have a limited number of theaters. TV shows are available to anyone who wants them and is willing to pay to see them. For many Americans, choosing what show to watch isn’t even the choice: it’s choosing which show to watch live. Consumers can decide when they want to watch their favorite shows thanks to DVRs and the internet, making it not a choice of which show to watch but how many and when.
Diluting the audience isn’t much of a factor either. Advertisers are taking Live+3 and Live+7 views — which is just a fancy way to say people who watch a show three days and seven days after it first airs — as much as premiere night ratings. For example, “Salem” earned more than 1.5 million viewers on the night of its premiere. Those numbers are important, but the people at WGN got really excited when they saw “Salem” pulled more than 3.4 million total viewers for its premiere episode when you include DVR viewings later in the week.
Pay cable companies have been paying attention to long term numbers for quite some time. Since they don’t have to worry about advertisers placing spots with timely messages, they’re more concerned about how many eyes are on a show over the course of the week. They want growth in viewers, and use premiere nights as a way to gauge demand — if more viewers watch this Sunday night than last Sunday night, they care enough about the show to watch it right away, even if more will still tune in for repeat screenings throughout the week.
The Nielsen ratings have always supported the idea of Sunday being a hot night for TV, and common sense helps it along as well. People are back at home after an exciting weekend, ready to wind down before work starts on Monday. Why not have one more thing to get excited for before heading back to the office? Past shows to air on Sundays included “True Detective,” which received the highest ratings for a freshman HBO show ever, passing “Six Feet Under” and “The Sopranos,” (which also aired Sunday nights). “The Simpsons” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” also aired Sundays, along with hundreds more. “
Television used to be watched by a lot more people. Breaking Bad is arguably one of the most popular dramas in recent years, yet the finale was viewed by maybe 12 million people. In the 90’s, every episode of Seinfeld had more views than that because there just wasn’t shit to watch. So it’s double edged: TV quality and programming for dramas has increased to become more cinematic, but the way people watch now has been changed by the internet.