TV Everywhere

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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?


  1. Mitch,
    I’ve always enjoyed your perspective on TV and other “wash over me” media. Thanks for continuing down this road often.

  2. I second Joe’s comment and thanks.
    Other than special sporting events (championship games, mostly) and the fact that my wife likes Survivor, the TV schedule is completely irrelevant to us. Between Netflix and Amazon, we’re covered. We dumped cable years ago. We get our news on the radio and online.
    It would be interesting to dive into some of that viewership data and get a deeper understanding of viewing habits.

  3. As TV gets more ubiquitous, more interactive, and pushes beyond broadcasting content, will it even exist as a separate media anymore?
    For example:
    -Will there be TV programming that consists of User Generate Content? Can TV stations become curators like the rest of us?
    -Will TV by necessity find other ways of monetizing besides commercials?
    -Will programming be created in shorter segments to better fit in with the way it’s consumed? Instead of a once a week 30 minute show, what about a 10 minute show every day?
    – As TV becomes “Just things that happen on screens”, will people 5 years from now even understand the difference between TV and YouTube or TV and social networks?
    Fascinating to think about, thanks for starting the conversation, Mitch.

  4. TV has been evolving since the beginning of. . .well. . .TV. You’re right: From day 1 advertisers have been the lifeblood of television. No money = no shows. Just look at programs that are cancelled after five episodes. It wasn’t because no one was watching, it was because not enough people were watching to validate the rates advertisers were paying to promote during the program. – But even THAT metric is flawed.
    I think the biggest problem the TV executives have is trying to find the audience they no longer have control over. If you find out where people are, and you put advertising that resonates with them on that channel (or screen), then you can put content there.
    The other big problem is that TV executives don’t have control over the channels. At all. Youtube’s functionality has enable millions of people to, effectively, create their own channel with their own playlist. It used to be that TV execs, controlling the pipeline, could just call up the advertisers and tell them what they had for the media buyers. Now, advertisers are skipping the traditional channels to hunt for new audiences – YouTube, iTunes, and the like.
    I caution against lumping all screens together, though. Screens have different purposes in different locations. Many are not placed for the purpose of content, but for advertising only. If anything, that can distract the content providers because often people think every screen over 32″ is TV in a traditional sense. If the viewer doesn’t see content on it, the viewer believes “everything is just advertising these days.”
    And I certainly believe the influx of traditional TV channels (cable, digital cable, satellite) has watered down the quality. That’s the paradox of choice – too much.
    I think the biggest challenge for any screen content provider is to ensure s/he has the right content in the right place at the right time. That equation is nebulous, to say the least, but the holy grail if executed effectively.

  5. You learn something new everyday. I had no idea what TV’s original purpose was. I can see TV integrating with the internet very soon. I’m already starting to see little Twitter Tickers, facebook posts and such.
    What I find to be an interesting trend are the type of shows that the channels are producing, for instance the History Channel, as well as A&E used to be just that. Now look at those channels, these reality shows are like half hour Video Blogs. I see a lot of similarities with all our media today. Thanks – Chad

  6. ALso, let’s not forget that a lot of this change is due to increasing bandwidth capabilities.
    The fact that 3G is available in a lot of places has made a huge impact on the number of tTV viewers by non-traditional means.
    As this number increases, not just ads, but the show formats themselves will have to change. Just think about the fact that people in a lot of countries in Asia or Africa have never owned a PC, but have gone straight to mobile phones and the mobile internet. How to these people watch video and what do they expect out of it? It’s an interesting topic to explore.

  7. You know, when I read this I immediately thought of an article I read just yesterday on TechCrunch, about possible future of services like Netflix to save old cult TV series canceled by networks for lack of huge numbers (even if the actual number of viewers wasn’t bad at all overall). You can read the article here
    I believe that’s one way like another to find new sources of revenues from innovative TV services, one that acknowledges too the fact that TV as we know it is definitely changing, or better, needs to change.

  8. Whenever influential new-media marketing trendsetters discuss traditional TV, I always feel compelled to jump to the defense of my company’s primary medium. Traditional television is still the most-consumed of all media, and television viewership (and time spent viewing) continues to grow. As a result, TV remains the ultimate “reach” medium – nothing works better when the goal is to cast a wide net for potential customers.
    With that being said, it’s no longer enough for businesses to rely on television advertising to “make the phone ring” and/or “drive sales.” As a potential customers’ media day unfolds, it becomes more important to present those customers with the right kinds of opportunities that will push them closer to their purchasing decision. New media, including web, mobile devices, etc. are best for this.
    The TV audience may appear to be fragmenting into niches, but they’ve been saying this for 10 years or more. The truth is that traditional networks still vastly outdeliver the audiences of cable competitors every week. And, the are certain seminal experiences, like great sporting events and news moments, for which we all still gather around the television. TV everywhere won’t change that.

  9. Besides Interactive television, I love the fact of having the choice of when to see a program. Running to turn on your TV set at an exact time of the day is so 1990’s.

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