How end of ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ hints at demise of cable TV

After 14 years, we’re finally done “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” — and it may spell the end of an era in more ways than one.

Kim Kardashian West announced on Tuesday that E!’s long-running unicorn reality series will air its 20th and final season in March 2021.

“After what will be 14 years, 20 seasons, hundreds of episodes and numerous spin-off shows, we are beyond grateful to all of you who’ve watched us for all of these years – through the good times, the bad times, the happiness, the tears, and the many relationships and children,” the KKW Beauty Founder posted on her Instagram page.

We’ll forever cherish the wonderful memories and countless people we’ve met along the way,” she added.

But the show’s end says less about the Kardashians’ relevancy and more about the decline of traditional cable television.

(L-R): Kris Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Khloé Kardashian, and Kourtney Kardashian accept The Reality Show of 2019 for ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ on stage during the 2019 E! People’s Choice Awards held at the Barker Hangar on November 10, 2019

“Keeping Up with the Kardashians” (KUWTK) premiered in 2007 — a poignant time in peak TV history.

It was the year The CW’s “Gossip Girl” and AMC’s “Made Men” made their grand debuts while “The Sopranos” and “The O.C” aired their final episodes.

At the time, Disney’s “High School Musical 2” became the most-watched made-for-cable movie in history with over 17 million viewers, while 7.4 million people tuned in to watch the now-cancelled Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on CBS.

For an extra dose of nostalgia, it was also the year that future U.S. president Donald Trump went head-to-head with Vince McMahon on WWE’s “The Battle of the Billionaires” (spoiler alert: Trump won.)

Cable TV was once a cherished form of at-home entertainment. But fast forward a decade and a half later, the media landscape is much different — and consumers have a lot more choices to juggle.

Streaming services — from veteran Netflix (NFLX) to newcomer Disney+ (DIS)— have surged in popularity over the past year, with 37% of wired broadband homes cutting the traditional video cord. That’s up from 12.5% in the first quarter of 2014, according to SNL Kagan, a group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Additionally, a new report by consumer research firm Leichtman Research Group, which surveyed 1,990 U.S. adults in June and July, said that 78% of U.S. households have subscribed to one or more of the top three video-on-demand services—Amazon (AMZN), Netflix and Hulu — up from 69% in 2018.

Younger age groups continue to dominate the space with 55% of respondents (ages 18-44) said they stream an SVOD service daily – compared to just 27% of ages 45 and up.

Meanwhile, social media and viral TikTok challenges continue to reign supreme — with reality stars (like the Kardashians) often at the forefront.

Currently, each of the ‘KarJenner’ sisters have amassed well over 100 million followers on Instagram alone (FB) — providing fans continuous, up-to-the-minute updates versus the much lengthier process of waiting week-by-week for new episodes to air on E!

Furthermore, ratings peaked at 4.8 million during the Season 4 finale in February 2010. The most recent episode had just 810,000 total viewers, according to Nielsen.

(L-R): Kyllie Jenner, Khloe Kardashian, Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian and Kendall Jenner arrive at the People’s Choice Awards in Los Angeles, California on January 5, 2011.

Simply put, the Kardashians don’t need E! to be successful. They just need to meet fans where they are — which these days is mostly on social media and streaming services — and networks are beginning to grapple with the same reality.

Last month, E!’s parent company NBCUniversal (CMCSA) cancelled its long-running “E! News” program after 29 years. Albeit surprising, it was a move that underscored the media giant’s shift in focus following the release of Peacock.

The fledgling platform recently won a competitive bidding war to house Morgan Cooper’s new “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reboot. Executive produced by Will Smith, the series will be a dramatic reimagining of the treasured NBC comedy.

Meanwhile, Netflix landed a reported $100 million deal with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The deal will pay Harry and Meghan to produce a host of programming, including scripted television, children’s shows and documentaries.

Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193

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