Where is TV going?

On the 30th September 2009 Guy Pearson was quoted in Campaign Live as saying “this is a significant milestone. This is the first major market where online has overtaken television to become the biggest single medium” (http://www.brandrepublic.com/News/942046/UK-online-advertising-spending-overtakes-TV/?DCMP=ILC-SEARCH). He was talking, of course, about figures released that day showing that online advertising revenue now accounted for a higher market share than that of television – 23.5% to 21.9%. So how is TV changing? Will it survive in its current form? Will it disappear from the centre of our lives completely?

So, the end is coming for the mighty television, done for by the rise of the hyper connected individual, the laptop, iPhone, blackberry, PSP etc etc are now the primary screens people fixate over during prime time, that surge in power during the Corry coffee break is a thing of the past as we can now just stream the episode off the ITV website when we want, just like we can stream that funny laughing baby clip or Evian advert (again about babies, this time roller skating ones) off YouTube. So TV, it seems, is just too slow, too rigid and too 20th century for this brave new digital world! – Well yes and no.

TV is declining in one way but changing as well, the way we consume all media is changing rapidly, most people now spend their time chatting on FB chat or tweeting on their laptop or phone while they watch TV in the background, often chatting about the show as it happens (X-Factor was a trending topic on Twitter almost every night it aired recently).  Television is changing, Virgin on-demand, Sky+ and V+ as well as the much loved IPlayer and alike are all signs of renewed attempts by content providers to become more flexible and adaptable to our needs. It is fast becoming the case that we can watch TV on our terms, consuming what we want when we want and as the technology of digital TV evolves the ability to customise our viewing habits evolves with it.

Another interesting aside here is the upcoming development of projects like football3’s (http://football3s.com/) which is built on a platform called Hemlock designed by a company called Mint Digital (http://mintdigital.com/about/hemlock) – this football3’s game allows players to interact with each other in real time on the web whilst playing a game based around a live football match being broadcast on TV – so for example: Liverpool are playing Reading now, you can play this game and make decisions based on real life events you see on your other screen (the TV) in real time! – Awesome! To me this is a whole new level of audience engagement and could be really interesting if applied to a reality TV format like X-Factor, although I have to do more thinking on that! – It really is the natural advancement of the text or phone in medium that already exists.

So viewers are free to customise their content to a great extent when live shows (like sporting events, reality shows etc) are on the consumer has a greater ability to interact with them. However there is another big area we have missed: Ownership!

In the past if I liked a film I brought it on VHS, more recently DVD, in fact we still by millions of DVD’s a year – I brought one at the weekend! – However I feel change is coming, let’s make a comparison: music… In the musical world we can now (legally) stream playlists of whatever we want via Spotify for £10 a month, or free if you don’t mind the adverts, it’s a great service, I’m listening to it now. And if we are compelled to buy a track we can get a single off iTunes for 50p or so, as a result: we don’t really own our music like we used to. It is a transient property that comes and goes, it is cheap, often free (legally or illegally) and our tastes change quickly. This has caused massive change in the music world with many big labels struggling, however what will happen when this starts to happen to TV content and movies? Piracy and downloads are already a problem and Virgin already have a great service in place with vast volumes of content on their on-demand service and micropayment models like  sky box office are great, so will a time soon come when we don’t really “own” music or films, either on hardcopy (like DVD or CD) or purchased softcopy (iTunes etc) but where everything is just streamed on a micropayment basis or on a free with adverts basis (like Spotify for TV)?

So to answer my own questions: I don’t think TV is going away, it is going to change and it is going to integrate, we need to stop thinking about TV and Internet as completely separate channels, they are converging at a faster rate than many realise. In the near future we will probably not speak of TV as a separate medium but in the context of a wider, fully integrated and fully customisable home entertainment and information setup designed around the individual.

OK so to leave you with a thought… How will all the above effect brands? How can brands exploit and what are the dangers? – Of course we can all buy adverts on Spotify, but thats very old school isn’t it? Is there more we can all be doing?

That will be the subject of a future post…

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