How much disruption will the television industry face?
New Media pundits made a big mistake when betting against television. Sure, the Internet has put the pain on media platforms like newspapers, magazines and radio, but television is still going strong. Most research firms will tell you that viewership has either maintained or risen in the past few years (and yes, I realize that younger people don't have the same affinity to the platform as the rest of the world), while advertising revenues (still a relevant metric) continue to maintain or rise (slightly). Is this always going to hold up? It's hard to tell. So long as television has an audience (and yes, fragmentation, cable, DVRs, on-demand and more has changed the game dramatically), there will always be advertisers lining up to hock their wares. Is TV advertising as relevant and powerful as it was in the day and age when it was the 800-pound gorilla, because there were no other pertinent media apes swinging along the vines? No. There aren't only three broadcasting networks that offer a very scarce commodity to a massive and captive audience anymore. And yes, the Internet is capturing a lot of the video content (and that stat continues to rise - each and every day).
What is TV?
This is going to be the real question going forward. Hugh McGuire (friend, co-host on the Media Hacks Podcast, founder of PressBooks and Librivox, and now editor of Book: A Futurist's Manifesto) likes to provoke by saying that there is little difference between a book and a website (for more on that thinking, please read this article from today's The Guardian: Are books and the internet about to merge?). As I read the article in The Guardian, another news item from The New York Times' Media Decoder titled, New Service Will Stream Local TV Stations in New York, came across my feeds. Aereo is being described as an Internet television service that will distribute television over the Internet (it is being backed by Barry Diller - who created Fox Television). While the concept is nothing new, it seems like the initial buzz of this initiative (especially if Aereo is used in combination with services like Hulu or Netflix) could be a changing tide in how we watch television as well.
Is there a difference between a TV show and a video that you watch online?
We may have been looking at the new media equation backwards. Instead of wondering how TV is going to adapt in the Internet age, maybe we should have been looking at how the Internet is going to adapt to TV? We all see the spikes in Social Media when something on TV is worth talking about (it could be ads on the Superbowl or when a celebrity unveils their baby bump), and it's this point of media multi-platforming that exists in a world where everything hasn't melded into one channel. Yet.
A Futurist's Media Manifesto.
No more platforms. One platform. We simply see media as text, images, audio and video. The subtle differences between a movie, TV show and video Podcast goes away. It's video - when we want it and how we want it. The subtle differences between a newspaper story, a magazine article, a book and a blog post goes away (a notion Seth Godin recently tackled in his The Domino Project Blog post, The end of paper changes everything). It's just text - when we want it and how we want it. Think about it this way: once the delivery platform becomes one pipe and ubiquitous, the biggest challenge is going to be for marketer's to figure out where to stick their advertising. Is this a trend we're going to see tomorrow? Probably not. But, let's confuse linear growth with exponential growth. Because you can now stream this high definition content with little buffering and quality issues, expect to see exponential technological improvements moving forward. What does that mean? It's going to happen a lot faster than most of us (including the experts) are prepared for.
In a somewhat strange coincidence, I received a copy of the book, Social TV - How marketers can reach and engage audiences by connecting television to the web, social media and mobile, by Mike Proulx and Stacey Shepatin today in the mail. I often lament the idea that TV is the type of media that people don't like to be overly active with (more on that here: The Next Layer Of Social Media). We tend to forget that TV is - for most of the population - an act of escapism. It's not something they want to create, share, tweet, friend, +1, comment on, etc... They just want to sit back and let it wash all over them, so that they can forget about the crappy day at work that they just had while also not thinking about the one that's going to come tomorrow. If you're reading this (and you made it this far in the post), you are the antithesis of everything Clay Shirky writes about in his book, Cognitive Surplus. You're not wasting your cognitive surplus. You're active, a creator and a doer. This futuristic view of media as one platform is probably something you can't wait for. So, as you sit at the edge of your seat and beg for your TV to be more interactive, intuitive and everywhere, my recommendation is that you read a book like Social TV and figure out how to create marketing campaigns that effectively cross-channel promote, while the lawmakers and cable companies do everything within their power to keep their business models cash flow positive. Just watch and see how the traditional TV broadcasters are going to deal with companies like Apple, Google and Aereo as they begin creeping in to disrupt their industry.
How much disruption do you think the TV industry is going to face?