14 December 2009

TV is dead -- long live TV

It's fashionable in marketing to declare the death of TV. The problem is, people keep watching TV, so we can hardly say the medium is dead.

The latest news on this front was reported the other day in a New York Times article titled "TV Still Has a Hold on Teenagers". The basis of the report was a Forrester study of media use by European teenagers that found them using TV more than any other medium. The Internet and other media are used less.

Also noteworthy is the apparent conclusion that all media do not add up to 100% of a teen's waking hours. In a startling recognition of human nature, a Forrester analyst is quoted saying "real-world social interaction with friends remain important for online teens."
How, then, do they seem to use so much media? Multitasking. As noted here before, our research shows this time and again.

To be sure, TV's business model is under threat. On one extreme, Fox considered cancelling the popular series "24" because production costs exceed ad revenue; on the other extreme, NBC's Jay Leno Show will make a profit even though low audience numbers mean low ad revenue because production costs are so low.

TV will be different in the future; it has to be. We already have so many ways to reach consumers via TV, and there are many more TV-like media available, such as pre-roll and digital out-of-home. The next decade will bring twice as many changes, and we'll all still be watching, just like the baby on The Tubes' album cover pictured above.


  1. Someone on LinkedIn responded to this post by writing: "...It seems to me that mass media especially with the area of Television is dying off save global mass appeal events such as Olympics, Superbowl, World Cup etc. My question is, how long do you reckon TV will last? Will it die off or will it have to evolve into something totally different to keep the appeal it had years ago?

    My reply was as follows:

    It's already evolving, and will continue to evolve. Ever since technology permitted the first moving pictures on a screen, there has been demand for content and that will not change. The screens, however, will continue to change, whether it's cable, Hulu.com, or some dystopian future where programming is beamed right into your head. TV as we know it will change beyond recognition, and someday the term "TV" may die, but people will still watch moving pictures on a screen.

  2. TV is more vital to consumers now than it has ever been. To a degree, it's lost vitality in the ad community for reasons entirely unrelated to the medium's effectiveness.

    It's use has been abused. New ad talent and agencies have sought to separate themselves with an "anti-TV" ethos. Technologists make massive money on IPO's not by endorsing TV, but claiming they have a TV killer app. And even client's win politically by claiming it's demise --- even while they lose in advertising impact.

    We can return to facts in a thorough review found in the Journal of Ad Research's June issue (insights about all media including TV). This research shows that TV viewership is constant to slightly up. Several large campaign databases show an increase in effectiveness in the past 4 years. DVR impact appears non-existent. (Their conclusion is that DVR's only allow consumers to automate their prior behavior relative to advertising.)

    Sadly, though, to the detriment of their clients, ad agencies are following the tech lemmings off the cliff by denying TV's amazing resilience. Per this research: "TV will remain the primary fast and vast approach to communication for the forseeable future" ... and I'd add even beyond.)

    Here's my DRTV guy's summary of that research as published in Response Magazine. http://tiny.cc/TVImpact

  3. I don't think TV will ever die...it will just change.

    There is a nice free online TV portal called Openvision http://www.ovntv.com it only works for PC right now but it is like 100+ channels and movies.

    I gave up on TV a long time ago....

    Jaymes Leavitt

    BTW- That's a great Tubes album cover!

  4. Thanks for posting. I agree that this model is constantly evolving which is both exciting and scary to a guy who sells commercials. The Networks can find a way to adapt...but what about the local stations? How will they survive?

  5. These are all fantastic comments; thanks for posting. Here are some responses to you all. Check out today's post, which continues the topic of how TV can be effective: http://admajoremblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/tv-is-popular-medium-but-how-does-it.html
    DOUG: Great research; thank you for sharing it with us. I am a big fan of DRTV and we have plans to make big use of it for one our clients' products next year.
    JAYMES: Totally agree. People will continue to watch moving pictures on a screen.
    DAVID: This is a tough one. First of all, I'm not so sure the networks can adapt -- some will and some won't. The local stations have it tough. To me, the key has always been - and will continue to be - their willingness and ability to connect with local audiences. If they can provide something relevant locally, they will succeed locally. Those who are content to just be conduits for network programming will get replaced by other technology.