TV. Nothing else matters. A rationale.

Picture: TV Live programming, as seen on Facebook recently. (Screenshot)

Entertainment, content, advertising, news, zeitgeist — like it or not, the broader concept of “Everything TV” has become the relevant go-to cultural memory and conscience storage of our time. With no end to this in sight. Don’t be fooled by changing platform formats.

TV is not dead. 
In fact, it’s more alive then probably anything else in the media world.

Sure, I know this statement is against most of the semi-official gospel heralded all over the place at media-conferences and in blog posts, articles, books etc. Here is why I think I am right nevertheless.

Note: Owed to the rich diversity of concepts around everything TV, I structure this in chapters.

Whats your definition?

Most of the time, ten people discussing “TV” together have about twenty different POVs while merely mentioning the word. Almost always without recognising their common misconceptions. This leads to unfortunate comparisons of systems and units. Even though, it is more important now then ever to be as specific as possible talking about media formats and content. Especially in these turbulent, fast-changing times, where only those who get the important details right can survive.

So, micro Wiki time: “Watching TV” can refer to:

  • looking at a TV-Set.
  • a leisure pursuit in general, not clarifying whats it’s all about content-wise.
  • watching a film or show sports event or game-/talk-/Reality-TV-Show on any form of screen.
  • watching any other kind of other specific programming provided by a TV-Channel or TV-Station of all sorts screens.

That’s why: be precise.

“They do not watch TV anymore” is often quoted when it comes to discussing a change in customer habits and how or why such change happens. Always followed up by a lot of chatter about “cord cutting”, “switching to social media”. “kids distracted by their cell phones” etc. etc. 
But I rarely see anyone looking at the details here. As, beyond the WIKI above, the word “TV” in question can refer to even more things additionally. For example: 
Linear TV — here, the statement would mean people just have given up on viewing things based on fixed schedules.

Getting rid of the TV-Set in your living room by switching to a smaller screen (like laptop, tablet etc. etc.)

No more watching of the programming that got TV a notoriously bad rep amongst some parts of society (Game-Shows, Afternoon-Talk-Shows, excessive News shows etc. etc.)

Cord cutting and switching to VOD / Pay-Per-View — Services like e.g. AmazonPrime or Online-Library-Watching from Public-Broadcasting-Libraries.

And: “Bäääääääääm!” — There you see: Viewing habits change, platforms change, but the over all love for TV-Style content is still very much alive. With the hours spent on content is on the rise year after year, again and again.

So let’s be careful with suggesting an entire industry might be in danger, just because the viewing formats change.

The aspect of viewing habits

Yes, linear TV is very much against any Zeitgeist right now. There are challenges for this model based on the age or interests of audience groups. But, then, right here, right now, it’s still a business model of remarkable size. And my guess is: In many niches, it will continue to be so for a whole lotta while longer. 
As after all, people love to be entertained and, as Facebook et al. are doing well with an endless stream of things showing up over and over again, I do not see why this can’t be the case at least for some forms of filmed / moving pictures content. Any form of LIVE-Content (Sports etc.) is out of the question here anyhow.

And with the rise of robotics, it will be easier and easier to broadcast / stream a fixed schedule for next to nothing. Plus already, the trailblazers of streaming, namely Netflix or Amazon, experiment with a limitation of certain contents, only releasing them step by step (eg. The Grand Tour).

“Its not about content, stupid.”

Viewing- and platform-habits are one thing. It’s content is what this game is all about. Peoples changing viewing habits say nothing about people giving up on the content itself.

So, attention please before saying “TV is finished”: As it is content production, where the core competence for most parts of the TV industry sits. Therefore this is what channels, studios and stations should focus on.

Still doubtful? Have a look at the picture above. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind looking at it? I bet you somehow associate it with “TV” — one way or the other, right? And doesn’t part of this association with the label “TV” come from the fact ABC7 is mentioned in the corner above? Thats my point!

It’s ABC7, who owns the footage coming from the helicopter, providing us this picture. Therefore, in colloquial, those who have a look at it will say “I’m watching TV.”

Despite the fact this is a screenshot from Facebook.
Yes Facebook. This where I watched this “TV”-programm.

Yes, people still love to watch TV-style-content.
Yes, people do not necessarily watch it on a TV-set anymore.
Therefore, even people that still watch TV might say “I do not watch that much TV anymore”.

Multi-platform, multi-territory — Yes, but in the end its only about just another platform. Again.

The TV industry comes for a relatively comfy spot. The benefices where relatively well distributed, power seemed distributed well between content creators, broadcasters and audiences. Not matter if you look back at the old systems in the US. Or anywhere else. The internet started to change all this and will change it even further. And for a while monetising from this system was a relatively predictable thing to do. 
But this is not the first time TV-Stations got challenged by constantly shifting platform tectonics. Home Video did so. Or digital recording did so — as it caused the multiplication of channels due to sinking costs of content production. Then there was Tivo and other HD-Recording devices. Pay-TV battles Free-TV and vice versa. Etc. etc. 
TV studios and channels survived all that as they will survive the rise of multi-platform and multi-territory. In the end it is — and every will be — about strong content brands only. Coming out of one big data stream. Call it cable, call it online, call it satellite, call it whatever we will call it in 5, 10, 20, 30, 50 years.

Back to the picture above for a sec. 9.3 K Live-views for an unscheduled boring police-stand-off somewhere in the beach cities of LA is not all that bad for one channel alone. Plus, remember, Facebooks LIVE-Product is just around one year old by today. There is plenty of room to grow left for this.

Prevailed: core business model

The TV business models are very much alive.

Pay-TV is bigger then ever. With Netflix and Amazon pushing hard for the model.

And the Free-TV model is in high demand as well: Eyeballs on content against advertising dollars. With YouTube or any other “free video” platform on the web is doing nothing else then applying the classic standard free TV business model: selling advertising.

The future: Focus on brands. Focus on content.

Most of the TV-industry feels disrupted by the internet because the players have decided to do so. Instead of just focussing on where their core competence sits: In providing great shows, films, news pieces, game shows etc. etc. — in other words: in providing great content and market it well.

Again, doubtful? Look for answers to the following questions: What made HBO what it is today? The mode of broadcast signal transmission? Or The Sopranos and Game Of Thrones? How did Netflix break into being a studio today? By the mode of transmitting it’s content? Same for Hulu. Or Amazon. 
 I’m also quite sure about all this, as the downplaying of ones own core competence is a wide spread disease within the media industry. And it’s always more easy to play the blame game rather then to keep up with the innovators of your times.

And, please, also look at it from a bird’s-eye view for a moment:

The summarised market cap of all relevant TV-Studios / TV-Channels / TV-Media companies combined surpasses in value by far what is seen commonly as TVs enemy: The triplet of Amazon (its media devision only!), Netflix and Facebook. So why is the media industry so scared by their power rather then to focus on its own strength? Because they own some platforms? Hm .. I do not think this makes much sense.

Unless you maybe want to believe that TV is dead?

But unless you want to die, I say: TV is alive. More then ever.

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