Television has come a long way since the days of 13 channels presented in boxed CRTs in living rooms across the country. Even in the last decade, TV has morphed from a provider-driven to a consumer-driven enterprise. The big disrupter has been the internet. With the rise of virtually unlimited access to programming, the web has turned programming and they way it’s viewed inside out. Broadcasters and operators have come to the realization (finally) that content is king–but so is the how and when of presentation.
Consumers Deciding What, When & Where
Thanks to the internet, consumers can now decide not only what to watch, but when and where to watch it. The web is now awash in content, delivered to iPads, iPhones, laptops and to 3D virtual mobile theater headphones like the Moon. Never before has there been such a plethora of choices for entertainment untethered by time and place. Consumers are now free to watch sports, drama, news and a virtual cornucopia of YouTube videos. Popular TV dramas, once interrupted by week-long waits and a barrage of commercials can now be binge watched by eager fans. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, House of Cards, Sex and the City are now available anywhere, anytime for mass consumption. What’s more, editorial and commentary are virtually instantaneous—no need to wait for physical print to provide analysis. The same holds true for consumer feedback, which is now more immediate and egalitarian.
Improvise, Adapt or Succumb
Once relegated to an offbeat fringe element, operators now regard “cord cutters,” as a clear and present danger to profits. Augmented by “cord abstainers,” this new breed of viewers has grown to become an existential threat. These two groups refuse to submit to “packaged TV” and instead have embraced the freedom afforded them through such outlets as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and the dozen or so newbies currently enjoying mushrooming awareness via the internet. The initial raison d’être for cable subscription was to catch that world-class soccer game, super bowl or big title fight. Or to watch compelling high-end content like Game of Thrones. What cable operators have learned is to add another carrot. Cable connection fees now allow subscribers to access applications that permit these high-end channels to be viewed via the internet. Which means anyone with a smartphone, iPad or laptop at the airport, train station or park can watch Game of Thrones or a Super Bowl game—right on the spot.
The Age of Social TV
With the explosion of social media during the last decade, there’s now almost no limit to the reach of this multi-tentacle entertainment hydra. Piggyback high value entertainment and you have an enormous growing audience of consumers. As if that weren’t enough, the power of social TV can now be leveraged by the full interactive potential of the web. Plug in Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and an ever-expanding list of tablet applications, and you have the added draw of ratings feedback. In many instances, social TV enables instant “dialogs” between viewers, actors and characters. It doesn’t take of leap of imagination to see that some applications may soon permit users to affect or influence actual programming.
There’s little doubt that the internet has shaken the television industry to its very core. Top-notch programming like House of Cards, Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad will continue to draw viewers. And viewers will follow the characters and storylines regardless of how they’re presented. The upside the internet provides is that now viewers can decide where and when, taking network timeslots and commercials out of the equation.
Will social TV affect programming? It may be too soon to tell. But one thing is sure: if program creators (writers, directors and show runners) put their ears to the internet ground and listen to the feedback generated by millions of viewers, programming may just rise to a higher, more entertaining level.