If screens become ubiquitous at every turn, does this change TV and what it means to our society?
We’re no longer talking about PVRs and the ability for people to zap through the commercials (which is a bigger deal than most people think). We have to remember that the point of TV was not to provide entertaining content. The point of TV was to run ads and to keep people watching those ads by putting something in between them that would hold their attention. When we allowed people to skip those ads, everything changed.
Everything is about to change again.
While many television executives attempt to figure out how to grow audience by making television more interactive (whether that be tag-teaming it with online functionality or providing more services like on-demand viewing and more niche/specialty programming), it’s the ubiquity of screens everywhere and the access to the content on almost any screen that’s going to force television to take a much colder/harder look at itself.
Where isn’t TV?
Flat screen TVs for the home are affordable for most. You can watch television on every device – your smartphone, tablet and computer. Applications and hardware allow you to now stream TV content from your home to wherever you are, and services like Netflix and Hulu give you the type of on-demand viewing that seemed like an improbability just a few years ago.
But just because you can, does it mean that you will watch TV everywhere but on the screen in your living room?
MediaPost ran a news items titled, Non-Traditional TV Viewing Surges (March 11th, 2011). The title caught my attention. Especially the words, "non-traditional TV viewing." It’s almost hard to imagine that everything the television networks were about: creating a solid line-up of content, figuring out the best days to run these shows and how one show would flow into another to capture and maintain an audience worthy of the advertisers with the biggest budget evolves at such a rapid pace. "Nearly one-third of urban media consumers watch TV on non-traditional platforms – well over the average for the U.S.," states the news item. "Larchmont, NY-based media researcher Horowitz Associates says 31% of city consumers watch TV content on computer/laptops, mobile devices or tablets, or streamed from the Internet to the TV through so-called ‘over the top’ devices, such as Apple TV, Xbox or blu-ray DVD players. Horowitz says those who use alternative platforms for TV spend, on average, 15% of their video time on platforms other than traditional TV – in addition to time spent viewing other traditional digital TV platforms: DVRs and video-on-demand services."
Pushing beyond broadcasting content.
In a world where TV is everywhere, it starts getting even that much more interesting when the platforms that distribute and publish this content also start delving into original content programming. For years, there were rumors of platforms like Xbox, PlayStation and the like looking into either producing unique TV content or to take on traditional shows that were being cancelled but still had enough of an audience to make it profitable for a smaller player.
Don’t discount the lazy.
I’ve said my peace about how television should not discount their power as a passive media by trying to become super-interactive (you can read that rant here: Television At The Crossroads), and the truth is that there remains a majority of people that like to sit back – at a specific time – and just let the TV airwaves waft over them. But, it’s clear that how we watch TV is changing radically, which means many things: the types of shows we watch will change and the way we are advertised to will change as well. Along with that will come many new networks, channels and yes, even new platforms for television.
Will you be watching?