Is broadcast television about to experience a renaissance? In terms of masterful storytelling, incredible production values and cultural endurance — no, probably not.
Despite a lot of really wonderful shows of late, the economics of reality programming will continue to perpetuate that genre blight for quite some time to come, so fans of the “real housewives” franchise can relax. But in the sense of “nyah, nyah, DVRs and the Internet didn’t kill us” – yeah, I think so. And the amazing thing is that the smallest screens and their tablet big brothers are the ones that are going to enable this.
Whether it’s Direct TV’s NFL Sunday Ticket, HBO Go or Turner’s “TV Everywhere” push, your favorite shows and the commercials that may or may not come with them are about to be available to you pretty much anytime wherever you are in a way that Slingbox could never quite pull off.
With Nielsen capturing both time and space-shifted viewership AND assigning ratings credit, you’ve got a recipe for success that spares the cable and broadcast networks the agony of dealing with the digital revolution that nearly cost them everything. The benchmark for success will remain rooted in the same system that has served them for the past six decades.
Success even in the tablet and mobile space will be reduced to simply the quantifiable number of individuals who had the “opportunity to see” an ad. So now those amazing little devices aren’t cannibalizing viewership but rather contributing to it. Broadcasters are happy. Device manufacturers are happy with new content channels driving demand and reliance upon their products.
Even non-broadcast publishers will be happy because the accountability bar (measurement and success metrics) on these devices will be set about as low as it could possibly be while still completely satisfying the biggest ad spenders in the business. Agencies are happy because they don’t have to invest in earnest attempts to defend or improve upon a given media plan relative to its delivery against specific business objectives.
Who loses? Well, viewers lose because they’re still subjected to advertising (which honestly, as an advertiser, is totally fine with me), plus whether they know it or not, they’re likely paying a premium for the privilege of remote viewing — either to their cable or satellite provider, their mobile carrier or both. The carriers lose because of the bandwidth strain this could put on their already strained networks, and due to the general blame pattern in their space of: carrier first, device second (unless it’s an Apple device, which by law must remain blameless), and personal behavior last.
Finally, advertisers lose on two fronts: now a commercial exposure on a 2×2-inch screen carries the same weight as on a 60” LED panel with THX surround sound (caveat emptor if you’re looking for impact). This is a more subtle issue, but the basic gist is that impact doesn’t matter, which strengthens the argument for the continued misuse of GRPs as a level set across media types, regardless of format differences. These combined issues, in turn, point to the probability that the nascent field of measurement and accountability in the mobile space could get sidelined for a while. I guess just having the opportunity to see an ad will have to be good enough for now.
Bottom line? TV wins! Hurray for TV! I love TV!
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