"Within two years, sweeps aren't going to exist," Zucker predicts. "When you're doing (year-round programming), it just doesn't make sense to save all your big programming for three four-week periods."
You can see what's been driving this - there are lots of new shows popping up on cable - the SciFi channel, HBO, Showtime (etc) - and they don't always follow the traditional fall to spring schedule. The major networks, bleeding viewers as the number of choices has expanded - and soon to bleed advertisers as time shifting (ReplayTV, TiVo, etc) simply had to wake up to the changes sooner or later. In particular, if you sell lots of advertising during a specific 2-4 week period, and vast parts of your audience opt out of the ads via time shifting, then you have a problem. You can see the dawning realization of that here:
..."Undoubtedly, advertisers at some point are going to be unwilling to pay more for less," (Fox president Sandy) Grushow said. "Networks have got to figure out a way to open an alternative revenue stream."
Now, this isn't going to be limited to TV. Listen to marketing folks wax lyrical about your website, and you'll find that they want to track visitors, get visitors to stay around... not a lot different from what the tv guys want. There are a number of forces working against that - the sheer volume of available "channels" on the web, and the increase in syndication (RSS/Atom). Over the next few years, a significant number of web users are going to start preferring (and voting with their mice) syndicated content, tuned specifically to their interests. That's an opportunity, not a problem - but as with TV execs, watch an awful lot of marketing execs rage against it, as they struggle to make the (increasingly less relevant) home page more compelling