Will the viewers come back?

All right, the strike is finally over. Now comes the toughest task of all: trying to win the viewers back.

When Major League Baseball went on strike in 1994 and when the NHL players were locked out twice in the last fifteen years, it hurt both sports tremendously, and some teams are still feeling the effects. Locally, the Chicago White Sox didn’t really recover until they won the 2005 World Series, and the Chicago Blackhawks are only starting now to do so. The Cubs have always had its loyal fan base to count on after a work stoppage has occurred.

If only the television business were that lucky. While fans will no doubt return to their favorite shows, it may be tougher than ever to launch new shows – as viewers has left network TV behind for other viewing options – or simply to find something else to do. That phenomenon already happened before the strike – particularly among male 18-34 viewers, who abandoned network prime-time TV long ago for the Internet and video games. With Smackdown canceled by CW last week, more of them will likely head for the exits. The question is, will female viewers join them?

The Internet, Apple downloads, and DVRs are quickly changing the television world, and there’s no going back. The viewer is clearly in control.