TV Isn’t Dead – It’s Evolving and Evolving Quickly

Wall Street research firm Pacific Crest released a report last week that highlights the slow erosion of cable subscribers and the death toll for TV. I’m not sure I agree with the hysteria that TV is dying, but I do believe that TV is in the midst of a massive transformation from the analog linear programming engagement model to a digital, on-demand engagement model.

This transformation is scary for video content owners that have underinvested in digital content distribution, and likely even more unnerving for multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs). Cable companies like Comcast watch hundreds of thousands of subscribers abandon them month after month. However, the modest erosion of today isn’t a massive threat, as TV is still the easiest way to reach consumers consistently with an engaging message at scale.

larry-alan-graph-1We’ve discussed the need for standardization before. One of the biggest things holding digital video back – primarily desktop video – from capturing larger brand budgets is the lack of the 100 percent share-of-voice experience that a brand gets with TV. It’s no wonder that when a brand is embedded within a small video player on a page and is competing for attention with display ads, content, and images, the brand has concerns over the experience and the associated results.

Enter CTV and mobile video. Generally, brands buying media in these experiences get the same benefit of TV with 100 percent share-of-voice, a full screen experience, plus the added benefit of a more engaged user. The consumer is actively involved in accessing the content and therefore, is more likely to watch to completion. With 100 percent share-of-voice, there is the added benefit of guaranteed viewability. This is a requirement that all brands are placing on their media.


There isn’t an immediate threat to linear TV’s scale, but we have heard from Disney, Viacom, and others a concern over the reduction in cable subscriptions, along with a need to go directly to consumers. While evaluating the current trends, the linear abandonment is counterbalanced with the rise of OTT services like Netflix, Crackle, and Roku over the next three to five years. This represents the consumer shift or direct adoption of digital on-demand programming among younger, Millennial audiences. This shift will be amplified by new mobile offerings from the likes of Verizon, ATT and Dish.

The best and most-recognized content owners and programs such as The Walking Dead or True Detective should take comfort in the deep desire of consumers to consume high quality content representing an exciting opportunity. TV isn’t dying; it’s just moving to a new box: to any screen a consumer can hold or hang on a wall, anywhere.

This opportunity is a clear challenge for media owners, as they have always relied on the cable company to manage the consumer relationship outside of Tune-In marketing. Now, they must evolve their organization to be more consumer focused to consider location – not just households – to build or license systems, apps or partners, and to distribute and think holistically about advertising and engagement with brands.

Are the media owners ready to make this transformation? Or are they going to wait too long like many of their peers in magazine and newspapers, allowing the digital distributors to take over? Or, maybe it’s already happened? What do you think?

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