As Seen On TV – Media Hacking The Tube

Posted by

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 TimesMedia 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.

Social TV.

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?


  1. I would agree with your idea that tv is just video..(that’s why it cracks me up when people proudly boast that they cut their cable and don’t watch ‘tv’!)
    I think there is a significant part of the population that enjoys connecting with other viewers watching, or just engaging with feedback….sort of a online watercooler. Much Music does a good job of this with their #TodaysTop10 as well as engaging viewers during some of their other shows. I think that’s what makes live tv interesting again, engaging with others who share the same interest. Maybe more should follow this example?

  2. Hey Mitch, Stacey and I want to thank you for the mention of Social TV (book). I absolutely love your line, “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?” — I think what we’re seeing is a little bit of both — but in the end, while many have felt that the Internet would kill television, it has actually become an amazing compliment to the 73 year old medium. It’s exciting times for sure in “television” (However one chooses to define it 🙂

  3. The web seems to be directing all media toward singularity and the reason for this development is that the web and mobile are the two great medium equalizers upon which all other platforms (will soon) depend. Whether you’re a newspaper, TV, radio, magazine, blog, aggregator, publisher, and so forth the web is becoming your primary medium through which everything flows. Newspapers are in the video content production, TV websites are into text publishing, etc. The ultimate outcome of this is that as everything becomes blurred the legacy medium becomes irrelevant and inconsequential as long as there is a sustainable business model underpinning the whole operation (ala Vice Media for example).

  4. I love this topic. I think the TV industry is going to face huge amounts of disruption but it won’t really come to fruition until the battle for the configuration of the hardware plays out. In that regard, 2012 will be a huge year because I think Apple TV will be a big step forward and Google TV will also make big moves (Eric Schmidt said at Le Web that 1/2 of all Smart TVs will have Google TV by the end of the year).
    I say this because Google TV V1.0 was a huge failure (Sony is out and Logitech branded it as such from their perspective) but I think their next kick at that can will be huge because Youtube is starting to really excite me. Samsung seems to be intent on going ahead with Smart Hub for now, which seems a bit concerning but that might change.
    In the end, you’re right – viewers don’t really care where the content comes from, they just want to be able to access from any device, anywhere. I don’t own a TV or subscribe to a cable package but that doesn’t mean that I don’t watch TV…

  5. I think it’s complimentary for some, but the majority still interact with TV as a passive media. When it all becomes one, we’ll truly see what percentage of consumers want to do more than simply watch it. This (and other topics) shall be discussed when we record a Podcast to discuss your book, Social TV (and congrats on the launching of it 🙂

  6. Plus, a lot of them are struggling because that’s not the type of media business they have ever been in before. It’s (basically) like starting over or introducing a completely new business model – which is never easy.

  7. I think it will be a total disruption.
    Steve Jobs said before he died that he had ‘cracked’ TV? I don’t know what he meant.
    But I believe he had a plan, and a plan that he has passed on…
    for me I see this.
    Three big players.
    Apple, Google and Microsoft
    Tied to three big Telco’s
    ATT, Verizon, T-Moble
    Tied to three big TV producers
    NBC, CBS, Fox
    Tied to three big Cable companies
    Time/Warner, Comcast and others.
    The disruption of TV as we, baby boomer, knew it is gone, what is coming is a collapsing of the individual empires into a Three Giant Conglomerate to compete for our eyeballs.

  8. This is a great topic and I am enjoying all the comments. For me, I think it is also about the content. TV, web and mobile as delivery formats may merge, providing screens of different sizes to users, but what people watch on these different screens is of interest to me. TV as a business succeeds because it provides (relatively) high cost/quality passive entertainment “videos” in prime viewing hours regularly scheduled to generate audience engagement and that water cooler effect.
    Web and mobile content can be of good quality and engaging but the revenue model isn’t quite there yet to afford the type of content that TV networks provide. YouTube may offer $1 million to web producers who feel they’ve won the lottery, but the same amount buys maybe part of a TV episode or movie. Plus it seems to me that the smaller the screen the shorter the ideal length of a “video”.
    So for me it is still about watching who is making the content and what kind of audiences they generate but regardless of the platform. As others have noted, I think we are seeing a future of subscription television regardless of the delivery format, where YouTube and HBO and the NYT live side-by-side and are available on any screen you want.

  9. Terrestrial (or, over-the-air as some call it) will be able to adapt. Nobody is directly paying for their content through subscription fees, so they have everything to gain, and nothing to lose by embracing the net. Put every program online, and load on the pre-roll! (within reason, of course).
    If anyone is shaking in their boots right now, it has to be the cable station operators. They run on subscription and ad revenue, and if everyone begins to cut their cable and toss their satellite dishes in the rubbish bin, subscriber revenue will fall of- and their then audiences will be become less attractive to advertisers.
    They can combat this by putting their programs on the net, but then that creates a bit a conundrum- if the video is available online (and many cable stations already do this), then what incentive does one have to subscribe to cable?
    In my opinion, it’s the sports stations like TSN, Sportsnet, and The Score that are keeping cable/pay TV alive. I don’t have any research to back this up, but my gut tells me that sports is less susceptible piracy then A&E programming, meaning that people are willing to pay the fare to consume this live. Whereas the aforementioned genre has a bit more of a shelf life.
    Did anyone see one of the new features between Apple’s new OS Mountain Lion, and Apple TV? You can stream your computer screen to your TV with very little fuss, and, above all, wirelessly. No need for propeitary apps for video, just open Safari, type in your favourite TV station’s URS, and then click on the video section.
    This, in my opinion, is the future of TV. (or online video, that is)

  10. The crux of what you’re saying is very powerful: for this to work we need the tech companies, the TV networks, the carriers (teleco, etc…) to play nice. I don’t think either of us should start holding our breath just yet 😉

Comments are closed.