Monday, December 17, 2012

Let’s ban the word Television – part 1

Read Part 2 here.

In case you have not noticed yet, there is a battle going on in the living room, and it is not about who holds the remote (OK, it is that one, too…). It is, of course, the 87 year old battle for TV viewers. 

The TV in its most primitive form was invented 87 years ago in 1925 in Scotland, a logical place as the only other diversions at the time included anything to do with sheep.

The viewer battle has become a lot more complex, and now involves TV networks, cable networks, satellite networks, online networks, individual producers and assorted other players such as event and sports owners.

Companies like Netflix, Amazon and HULU are ordering original content to lure viewers. YouTube has launched over 150 channels, and rules it with an iron delivery fist: deliver viewers and you are “in”, don’t and you’re out. 

And even you, the viewer, can get into the game, as we have witnessed the first successful attempts at crowd sourced TV content through Mobcaster, a Kickstarter type service for TV/video content production.

What has this done to TV viewership?

The surprising, and perhaps sad, answer is “pretty much nothing”. The data below shows that viewership over the last three years is basically stagnant. And this is data for the coveted young adult audience, the audience that is most likely to be adopters of all the new technology that allows access to all forms of “TV” possible.

Why is that? I think you need to look online for the answer. The real growth is in time spent online, especially with social media.

It is clear that online anything is eating up an enormous amount of time. And the Comscore data is actually incomplete because it is missing “viewing video content online”. The problem is that video content is viewed through a variety of platforms, such as Facebook, DailyMotion, or even Twitter (until they shut that down just like Instagram…). 

So how to classify these views? Is it social media activity? Video viewing? If you watch an episode of Modern Family, the Daily Show or even just the news through an online device, does that count as a rating for the TV show or an online view? Good luck figuring that out. 

So let’s take a look at total online video consumption according to eMarketer:

The good news (perhaps?) is that the viewing is switching from the computer screen to a mobile and/or tablet screen. This is where traditional TV players and all new players both meet in hope and fear. 

Hope, because these screens are with the person at all times, and thus offer a whole array of new ratings. 

Fear, because the mobile devices open up full living room (any room; actually, any place) access to all the traditional as well as new content players, thus increasing the battle for viewers onto a far more measurable platform than the traditional screen has ever been able to offer.

Many people are betting that so-called smart TVs, e.g. TVs that are connected to the internet, will be the answer to the screen battle in the home. But the penetration of these types of TVs as well as the enabling boxes such as Roku or Apple TV grows at a very slow rate.

And even among the early adopters that have such a TV, the actual usage is very low as about half of them don’t bother to connect the TV at all, or don’t use the connectivity for a variety of very logical sounding reasons.

So where does that leave TV advertisers? Here are my suggested points for consideration:
  • Don’t depend on TV to deliver your audience, especially if you want to reach a younger audience.
  • Don’t allocate budget to “TV” but rather to “video content”.
  • Forget the whole First, Second or Third Screen debate. Different screens are First depending on the end-user’s time and place. If I am on a train or bus, my number one screen is most likely my mobile device. If I want to watch the Super Bowl or Oscars or Champions League, TV is still the number one screen (but even for these institutions no longer exclusively so!).

In Part Two of this post (which will follow soon), we will examine what all this means for how advertisers should approach TV measurement and negotiations with the content suppliers. In the meantime, promise me you won’t call any of this content TV anymore, OK?

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