In the midst of the chatter of the decline of “traditional media”, it’s fair to ask whether TV is fading as the powerful medium it once was.
The simple answer is: No. TV/Video is changing but it’s as strong as ever.
The TV industry did have serious ad revenue issues in 2009, as did virtually every aspect of the media world. However, TV as an industry is still moving forward and, but just as the rest of the world, is significantly changing. The changes can help create an exciting future for the industry, but a far different one than the past.
In terms of viewing, big event, live TV is actually flourishing. Last Fall’s Emmys drew 9% more viewers than the previous year, Golden Globes 14% more, Grammys 35% more, and the recent Academy Awards were 14% above the previous year in viewers. Furthermore, the latest Super Bowl, with 106.5 Million viewers, was the single most watched television program ever. The explosion of social media shines an even brighter light on “Buzz-worthy” events and drives interest.
Furthermore continued increased DVR penetration (now up to 35% of American homes) makes time-shifted viewing--albeit with less valuable ad impact--of selected, mostly prime time, programming a bonus. In addition HDTV (and 3D in the offing) enhances the TV experience making TV watching a more pleasurable sensory experience.
The reality is that video continues to be strong- with the Average American watching almost 35 hours of TV each week, 2 hours of time shifted TV and now 22 minutes of online video (and growing), and even a few minutes of mobile video.
However, one of the many things that are changing is the dominance of heavy prime-time viewership of “the broadcast networks”. Leading prime-time programs of yesteryear—All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Cosby etc. regularly achieved ratings of 20 or greater, whereas today’s ratings leaders often achieve single digit ratings. This is merely a continuation of an ongoing trend. The same is true for network news, where the role of the “Evening News” to deliver big audiences has greatly diminished to less than half the levels of thirty years ago. Even late night for all its recent Leno/Conan drama, is far diminished.
What does this mean for an advertiser? Creating a message that stands out is needed more than ever. Obviously this was always the case, but you have smaller audiences in most programming and many more ways to avoid ads you want to. Furthermore, audience segmentation is critically important—more than ever. Again, with the exception of big event programming audience penetration is far more modest, making targeting critical.
Is TV dying? No. Video did not kill the radio star and the internet did not kill TV. The future is an interesting one but different than the past.