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Why traditional TV is on the brink of extinction & what that means to a marketer

Today, I got to thinking about just how archaic and user unfriendly the current television model truly is. Here’s how the idea manifested itself:

I was getting ready to put my son down to sleep for the night (or “Nigh Nigh” as he calls it). As I laid there on the floor of his room singing the ABC song, I realized that I had forgotten to record the new Shark Week episode, which was airing at 9pm, and there was a good chance that I would not be done putting young Sebastian down in time to catch the beginning of the episode. What a potential bummer in the making, right?

Then I got to thinking, why should this be a potential bummer situation? Why isn’t every single television show immediately available for watching and rewatching at any moment after the original airing? On Demand is cool and all, but I’m talking about the ability to immediately (and permanently) access any show at any time after the original publication.

And while I’m at, how about giving me an easy way to search for them (e.g. Google for TV)?

Think about it for a second. Imagine if internet content worked in the way traditional TV works:

  • That would mean that this very blog post would only be available for viewing immediately after publication, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to access it via On Demand functionality (or if you remembered to record it).
  • It would also mean that any video posted to YouTube (like this freaky classic) would only be available upon publication and would be incredibly difficult to track down after its original airing date.

At this point you might be thinking to yourself, “but Hugo, TV is different! It’s not like other content channels.” Here’s the thing, though; that’s what proponents of the print establishment (e.g. newspapers and magazine) said when blogs and other forms of online journalism came on the scene. It was also what proponents of the music establishment said when MP3s, file sharing, and iTunes hit the scene.

And just as those interactive, internet-based technologies disrupted those two establishments, you can bet money that the same will happen to the current TV powers that be (e.g. television networks and cable providers). As the cost of producing and distributing “TV” (e.g. video) content continues to drop, independent TV channels will begin to grab substantial share of voice (maybe not one particular channel but the aggregate of all these niche channels) and entire independent networks will sprout up to house and distribute all of that independent channel content. Perhaps most importantly, TV (e.g. video) content will be compatible with web analytics (e.g. Omniture, Google Analytics, etc.) and it will be fully searchable (e.g. Google TV).

As a marketer, I feel that its my responsibility to do as much research as possible on the potential big-time players that will emerge as traditional TV transitions into online, internet TV. I also feel that its my responsibility to understand the fundamental elements that make for successful video content publishing, video distribution, video analytics and in-stream video advertising.


Because online TV/video in 2011 is what blogging was in 2001; It’s social, searchable, and measurable, but it’s not quite mainstream enough to challenge the status quo quite yet.

And this time around, as a marketer, I plan to be ahead of the curve as opposed to reacting to it.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://twitter.com/LifeofaDiabetic Chris Stocker

    As long as the advertising dollars are still there, traditional TV will not change. Currently, I can record a show, and if I don’t remember until the last second, I can record it from my phone. I may skip through the commercials, but the station still got paid.

    I agree that now is the time to get ahead of the ball because eventually the ad dollars will follow the viewer base, but I don’t think it will happen soon. Just like with direct mailing… it may be “old”, but it still works and works well. Hulu has been successful, so if you’re looking for a web startup, I think this is a hot area.

    • Anonymous

      “As long as the advertising dollars are still there, traditional TV will not change…” that’s what the print establishment said for year, while Google quietly took their ad foundation right out from under them by introducing measurable, action-focused ads and allowing independent publishers to cash in on them. Google TV ads and other similar forms of video/TV advertising will likely do the same to the traditional TV advertising model. Why would I pay an arm and a leg for TV spots with little to no hard analytics measurement attached when I can get similar reach (and actionable analytics) by advertising on fully online, interactive video/TV content?
      P.S. Thanks for chiming in, Chris.

  • http://twitter.com/dancristo Dan Cristo

    One of the beautiful things about being in the industry so long is the ability to recognize trends. I fully agree that just as print went the way of blogs, so will TV go the way of small, independent video content producers.

    Another trend that I’ve been on top of lately is content curating. Back in the early days of the internet, before Google was king, content was hand picked by users and organized via directories. Then Google came along with their fancy algorithms and changed all that.

    Today content is again hand curated for social platforms like Twitter, FB and G+. Soon, another will come along with fancy algorithms and change all that. That’s the curve that I plan on being in front of.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming in, Dan. Curation is essentially what traditional TV networks (broadcast and cable) do today. In the future, I see that as a big opportunity (e.g. curating online marketing video/TV content via something akin to “The Online Marketing” channel).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nicholas-Gallar/100002628076661 Nicholas Gallar

    One of the reasons why online TV is popular nowadays because it gives us entertainment anytime ad anywhere. Just like subscribing on TVhook, you could watch your favorite TV shows.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming in, Nicholas. We’re just now scratching the surface on what truly “online” TV will eventually be.

  • Andrew

    Love it! I’m cable free, but Hulu and Netflix still have a way to go.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming in, Andrew. Hulu and Netflix (and YouTube) are like the model T’s of what online TV will eventually be. They and other internet-based networks and constructs will make today’s TV model seem like a quaint little relic within a matter of years.

  • Ugosmith

    Cheers Hugo, another enlightening post.

    You are definitely on the right track, in the UK the BBC has the iPlayer and the concept is similar in that respect. An aired show becomes immediately (kind off!) available on iPlayer. The limitation however is always storage, it’s not cost effective at the moment especially if you consider the already established infrastructure for TV. However advertising dollars/pounds can be shifted to online- without much fuzz. A great example is ITV (another UK based channel) they will let you watch shows but will force you to watch ads in between. A good revenue stream for them and a clear indication of what is to come.

    It will be good to see who becomes the first succesful online TV channel.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for chiming in, Ugo! It’s always great to get insight and perspective from non-US markets. P.S. I think that storage/bandwidth won’t be a problem for long, because we all know that devices keep getting more and more storage bandwidth with ever iteration.

  • Anonymous

    Very interesting! Put into words what I have been thinking for a while. This time is certainly a period of discontinuity with many models, not just for content but also manufacturing etc being blown out of the water with technological innovations.

    I think that there is still a place for programmed content but on demand will definitely take over

    • Anonymous

      Glad you enjoyed the piece and thanks for chiming in! You’re absolutely right. We’re living in a time of unprecedented and incredibly rapid technological leaps.