TV shows like “Cops” and “Live PD” have always been viewing generators. However, due to the current political/ social climate, channels like the A&E Network have elected to remove ‘police’ content in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Mr. Floyd’s death, of course, has sparked protests about police violence, a movement to defund the police and broader discussions about race and diversity in-and-around the United States and abroad.
On June 10, 2020 A&E canceled its hit police reality show “Live PD”. The aftermath of that fateful decision has resulted in their viewing numbers cratering. Before A&E pulled the show, its prime-time viewership was up 4% from the same period in 2019, according to Nielsen. The average prime-time viewership for A&E between June 11 and July 19 was 498,000 people, which was down a whopping 49% from the same time period last year, according to data from Nielsen. The viewing demographics for adults 18-49 was a decline of 55%, and for adults 25-54 the decline was an astonishing 53%. The sister shows of “Live PD”—also canceled—include “Live PD: Police Patrol” and “Live PD Presents: PD Cam.” In some weeks, the “Live PD” universe accounted for more than 85% of A&E’s daily programming. Like A&E, Viacom CBS Inc.’s Paramount Network canceled its successful policing show “Cops” last month.
The death of Mr. Floyd has led to discussions about the role that media forums have played in shaping our perceptions of law enforcement, and the fact that they have failed to adequately address concerns about excessive use of force and bad policing in general.
All in all, it will be interesting to see if the television networks continue to stay away from policing shows in light of the revenue they generate; money speaks and these types of shows clearly net immense viewership and thus capital. Will social justice ultimately outweigh capitalism? We shall see. For now, it is clear the climate is too toxic to venture into those stormy waters.
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