Sunday, June 19, 2011

"There's no such thing as TV anymore"

The television cable industry is struggling with the same rapid changing dynamics as all other branches of media are.  The way consumers want to subscribe to, access and use media is changing so rapidly and in so many directions it can only be compared to trying to nail Jello to a tree.  Some of the comments coming from the Nationa Cable Show clearly demonstrate how the leaders of what we still consider to be "cable television" have hammers in hand and a dollop of Jello ready to make the attempt.  They just can't quite figure how to get it accomplished.

Perhaps the most telling comment was the shortest, from Time-Warner CEO Glenn Britt: "There's no such thing as TV anymore."  How true!  He says there are now, in the minds of most consumers, only "video devices."  Case in point: how many of you use that big screen in the den just to watch over-the-air TV?  And where else do you watch what might be classified as "video?"

This goes directly to my contention that regardless the medium, users want to be able to access their media in a variety of ways.  Few are exclusive to one.  We want to watch movies on our TV sets, on our iPads, on our computers, on our smart phones, and, yes, in theaters down at the mall.  We like to read books on our computers, on our smart phones, on our Nooks or Kindles and, yes, on paper, bound, with a cover.

This is still baffling to traditional broadcasters, cable operators, movie studios, book publishers and others who have seen their businesses remain relatively the same for decades.  Centuries in the case of book publishing.  But now, suddenly, everything is topsy-turvy.  Traditional business models that enriched them don't work anymore.

Those who cannot understand that they are no longer in the "TV," "radio," "movie theater," or "book publishing" business are in real trouble.  Those who understand that they are in the "content" business and that they need to be able to deliver that content in whatever ways people want to consume it will be the ones that prosper.  Whatever ways and forms.  Radio with video.  Books with dynamic web links.  Audio with pictures.  Magazines that talk and move.  Video games with printed backstory.  Movies that allow you to "chat" with the characters.

And wow!  The implications of all this to the business of advertising is staggering!  People not only want all this stellar content coming at them in a variety of ways but they also want it cheap, cheap, cheap.  Cheap content distribution has almost always been possible because of the support of advertising.  Advertising planned, priced, and paid for based on the numbers of eyeballs or ears that consumed it.  Numbers determined by ratings measurement.

All that is changing just as quickly and dynamically as everything else associated with media.  If there is no such thing as TV anymore, then how do TV advertisers get their message to folks?  If I listen to radio in a wide variety of ways, how can advertisers assure I hear their sales pitch enough times to make it effective?

And believe me when I tell you that nobody can measure media usage the way media is now being used. 

It's a wild scenario, my friend, filled with drama, intrigue, and unexpected plot changes!  And I can't wait to see how the story develops.

Don Keith N4KC

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