The Shift To TV Everywhere

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Television has always been based on two pillars:

  1. Destination. From "Must See TV" to your favorite sitcoms on Thursday night, you could always tell what the conversation around the water-cooler was going to be based on the schedule set forth in TV Guide. We do things (like eat supper and get home from work) at a specific time to not miss our favorite shows and share in both the collective moment (that was shared with everyone else watching) and a moment of privacy (as we watch with our blinds closed from the comforts of our couches). TV was never everywhere. That is changing rapidly.
  2. Passivity. Media can be both passive and active. Clearly, the Internet is an active media. We create, collaborate, share, friend, like, follow and express ourselves. Even with all of the interactivity that has recently been introduced, the majority of our population still enjoys TV as a passive media. Most people come home after a long day of hard work and just want to forget about the day they had, and not think about the day that’s coming tomorrow. TV lets them escape and it doesn’t require much work. They’re not interested in chatting on Facebook about something or tweeting about it… they just want to watch and get lost for a little while. TV was always passive. That is rapidly changing.

We’re moving away from DVRs, specialty channels and cable as the great TV disruptors into newer, unchartered areas.

Much like human beings have become increasingly untethered, so too is television. With smartphones and iPads now promoting content where, when and how consumers want it, the trend is not being lost on television. According to the MediaPost news item, ABC Studies iPad: Redefines TV Viewing, "The iPad surely will play a role in accentuating that lesser connection to time and place going forward. ABC would have studied viewer usage of other tablets, but none had critical mass. That might change with the introduction of the new Kindle." The news item goes on to define three emerging TV viewing trends:

  1. Micro-mobility. Consumers would like TV content on-demand, but not just from the comforts of their home… they want it from the beach and commute to work to their backyards and across multiple platforms.
  2. Parallel Play. Your wife is watching American Pickers while you’re sitting there next to her watching an episode of Pawn Stars on your iPad. Parallel play is all about people in the same room watching different shows on different platforms.
  3. Marathoning. If it weren’t for marathoning, I would have never been able to see Mad Men or Battlestar Galactica. Marathoning is when a viewer watches multiple episodes of the same show, one after the other.

Think about how television makes it money.

The promise to advertisers was all about the captive audience at a set time on a set date. Yes, the branding power has now been extended because people do use a DVR or download their shows from iTunes, but this changes the advertising model. On top of that, the ability to skip and fast-forward commercials has been the bane of television since the first VCRs were introduced. There is no doubt that brands and their media reps are getting smarter and better at capturing attention, but the format of TV advertising must adjust to this… much like it will have to adjust even more as these new trends in usage and consumption continue to evolve.

What about Social Media and those who do turn TV into a more active media?

While Twitter feeds light up with mentions of TV shows, it turns out that Social Media doesn’t really affect TV all that much. MediaPost published another news item last week titled, Social Media Has Negligible Effect on TV Ratings, that stated: "An analysis by NM Incite, a Nielsen/McKinsey Company, found a 9% overall lift in social media ‘volume’ a month before a TV show’s start can improve numbers 1% for 18-34 viewers, who are typically the busiest on social media site." It goes on to cite additional data points that lead to a conclusion that while Social Media does spread the word and keep the TV brands in the spotlight, it doesn’t have much affect on overall ratings. In fact, this could well be the proof that it’s challenging to truly make a passive media all that active and vice-versa. Regardless, TV as we’ve known it continues to evolve and it’s fascinating to watch the media become so ubiquitous across so many different platforms.

The big question is this: will TV be able to maintain its dominance as a media platform or will it truly converge with the Web?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post called, Media Hacker. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:


  1. Television has always been viewed as free entertainment that in fact was paid for with advertising. As we add adds to the free web content wow how they complain. The “web” is getting better at delivering the message of a sponsor to the viewer. With the internet enabled TV’s there will be a more targetable audience that will deliver better CPM returns to producers allowing better content or that is the hope.

  2. Good points & great forensic pathologist work. The talk about TV looks more and more like an autopsy.
    Definitely, in the mind of the 00, Y & late X the concept of TV is shifting. Consumption of TV content over the web creates a completely different set of expectations. The good news is that consumers don’t really mind ads that much. However on the other hand they expect more and more for TV to be integrated and become one with be the web.
    Now as an advertiser I dont need to have a captive audience anymore, a smart 3 sec ad to the right audience is enough to generate a click through sale.

  3. Great article and a good thought starter Mitch. Since TV is a digital medium, and as you pointed out consumers are increasingly untethered, I can’t see how TV won’t converge with the web.
    I think the appearance of Smart TVs (ie. web enabled) is the early indicator of this. As FB, TW and GetGlue become more pervasive as a TV App, do you think that TV is becoming a more active medium?
    It seems to me that while Twitter and FB are hotspots of conversations about TV shows that a couple of things could happen if Smart TV’s become the norm.
    1. Audience Measurement.
    As far as I know, Nielson, Arbitron, BBM and the similar ratings providers obtain their rating information from “people meters”. These are handed out to a test group to measure their media consumption and behaviour. The data from the digital media that this test group consumes is crunched and extrapolated to the whole population.
    If Social TV’s are able to break into the mainstream, then I think it’s possible that our FB and TW account info could be used to create a viewer profile for each of us based on the demographics that we enter into our accounts. This way, we become a real time sample set which includes both our demographics and real time conversation of the shows we watch.
    If the sample set reaches critical mass – then the FB or TW statisticians can crank out ratings of shows based on the number of people who have checked in to the show on their social platforms. Social Networks could offer a new in-depth format of ratings instead of Arbitron, Nielson or BBM.
    2. I may decide to watch new shows.
    Recently, I was researching a trip to Tofino on Tripadvisor. I noticed that when I was logged in with Facebook, TripAdvisor shows me my FB friends who have also visited that area. This prompted me to ask a few of them about their trips and revise our trip plans based on their recommendations.
    The same could happen with TV. If I could log into my TV with FB, then my cable provider could restructure their programming guide to include the shows that my friends watch. Which of the shows are rated highly and which arent’. If this were to happen, I may consider watching new shows that I’d otherwise never have included in my personal TV schedule.

  4. Technology has definitely caused a shift in which we watch TV because we can now watch TV on our smart phones or internet. Television is now on the go and we can watch it anywhere. I remember when me and my family watch TV together every night but now I use my laptop or smart phone instead and watch TV that way.

  5. Great thought provoking post as usual Mitch. Recently I had some satellite TV challenges and used streaming to watch q sporting event. I was very impressed with the quality of the picture. The initial ad that I had to watch before I got the program was acceptable. I see in the very near future Web TV will be the only thing we want. We will not be dictated to by cable and satellite providers on program schedules. We must not let anyone own the web and empower the user to watch what they want when they want it and be able to choose the device. ie, smart-phone, tablet, flat-screen, or display.. We all understand that nothing is for free. So if we don’t want ads we will pay for the programming. We think we are educated enough to make our own choices. However right now we are paying twice to cable and satellite providers to dictate programming.
    We must ask ourselves why we accept this!
    We must not forget everything we do online is traceable and much more effective to advertisers and brands in understanding the exact behaviours of customers. I think as consumers we understand and accept these terms only if brands acknowledge our awareness and intelligence in providing a better service or product.

  6. Television! I forget people still use that medium. I’m a Gen Xer and haven’t had a TV in years – at least 5 – and I never paid for cable or satellite – because there really is little worth my dedication on TV. I watch TV in hotel rooms which affirms my choices. Not to speak of provider choices being a bit pathetic.
    Which brings me to content: does it matter at all what that content is?
    I am online all the time either via smart-phone (yes, that BB Torch counts ;), or all-in-one HD touchscreen I call my computer. I can actually find the content I care about online whether for business, mountaineering or travel information. And youtube is very entertaining indeed. No fuss at all. I even find content through my social networks online I would not have known about otherwise or in an unfiltered way. Yes, I like to make up my own mind.
    Online/mobile, video or no video, is hard to beat for delivering content I want, when I want it, by people I think have info to share. The traditional media empires have become far to vested in their takes on content, which renders them less interesting to me. Sun TV just serves as an extreme example. I prefer raw news, even in 140 characters at a time over the lines that get fed by empire builders.
    Many deep issues here you got me to reflect on, Mitch. And that’s why I follow you rather than watch TV any day. And that is where the real power is shifting to – one day at a time.

  7. TV Everywhere I think is the future of TV, the ability to stream to your mobile devices is a great leap forward. Working for DISH Network I know that they have the best option in this department, their Sling Adapter is where it’s at! I can stream any and all of my content to my iPad2 (or any other tablet I could have) anywhere and anytime, it’s amazing not to mention free.

  8. I don’t think moving away from live TV and DVR content is the way to go DISH Network’s version of TV everywhere proves that! I get hundreds of channels to watch the exact amount I have at home plus all of my recordings. A co-worker at DISH told me a couple of months ago that if I go and download DISH’s free app called Dish Remote Access I can use my mobile device as a remote and manage my DVR schedules. DISH customers need to have high-speed internet or a 3G cellular data plan in order for this to work and they use sling technology to provide their customers TV everywhere.

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