As TV Ratings and Profits Fall, Networks Face a Cliffhanger

May 13, 2013 1:36 AM

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As TV Ratings and Profits Fall, Networks Face a Cliffhanger

Prime-time ratings for the Big Four broadcasters — ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — together are dropping more precipitously than ever. Even their biggest hits, like “American Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars,” are fading fast. Advertisers are moving more cash to cable, cutting into the networks’ quarterly profits. New technologies are making it easier to skip those ads, anyway.

That’s not all: there are more outlets for programming than ever, with Netflix and Amazon and dozens of cable channels competing for actors, producers and, most important, viewers. Government regulators want to take back some of the spectrum allotted to local television stations. And start-ups like ...

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