TV Is Not Dying. It Just Moved.

by Luckie Rethink Tank

Ahh, the Negative Nellies and naysayers are at it again. First it was magazines and newspapers, now TV is the next “old school” medium that is dying a slow, irreversible death. And this is no mere illusion as we are seeing a lot of the techies and hipsters cutting the cable on traditional TV service. This audience is moving online to network sites (,, etc.) and true digital viewing sites – free sites like: Hulu, Joost, Veoh, and Crackle as well as pay sites like: iTunes, Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand and CinemaNow. Clearly the computer has become an attractive, important second TV screen for many.

They may be onto something as recent research from SNL Kagan shows that traditional TV service providers (cable, satellite and/or teleco) in the U.S. lost 335,000 subscribers over the past two quarters – the first decline in decades. Sure the economy has played some role in this decline, but so have all those techies and hipsters, who the rest of us eventually will follow.

But look-out, these traditional TV service providers are fighting back and looking ahead. They have realized that the battle is no longer taking place just on the couch or computer screen, but everywhere a mobile device can go. iPhones, iPads, ITouches, smart phones, tablets and ereaders are all fair game in making sure TV viewers can see what they want, when they want and most importantly, where they want.

While every online viewing site worth a look has already created, or is in the process of creating a mobile device viewing app, many of the traditional TV service providers are not far behind. Verizon FiOS, Cablevision, Comcast, DirecTV and Dish TV all have functioning products (or products in the works) that will allow landline cable/satellite subscribers to take their subscriptions with them via their personal portable viewing devices.

One of the advantages the traditional service providers can offer through their new services is the ability to download entertainment content to user’s devices and then view that content without needing Internet access. This is something that is more of a problem for the Wi-Fi dependent devices (iPads and tablets) and free streaming services (Hulu, Joost, Veoh, etc.).

So while the TV as a physical viewing device may be on the decline, the viewership of TV programming certainly is not. VCRs and DVRs introduced marketers to the idea of time-shifting (watching shows when the viewer wanted). The new reality for marketers is place-shifting (watching shows where viewers want). Finding viewers on the living room couch is no longer a safe bet.

As marketers breathe a little sigh of relief that TV viewing is not as much a dying dinosaur as it might appear, they will need to start thinking about it from a “viewing anywhere” standpoint.

Much like shopper marketing has taught us that shoppers buying the same products at different stores (i.e. Walmart and Target) may require different in-store messaging, so too must marketers consider different messaging for someone watching TV on a TV versus a computer, versus a smart phone, versus a tablet, etc. And not just the placement of the messaging itself within these devices, but how captive is the audience – are they watching free-streaming shows where the trade-off is watching a 30 second ad every 15 minutes or will a DVR-like device start to play a role on mobile viewing devices as well? There is still much to learn and consider and it will be a whole lot more challenging than simply buying a :30 spot during Prime Time.

To their credit, TV and video content providers have figured out that the name of the customer satisfaction game is convenience. What will be interesting to watch in the coming year is how marketers and advertisers adapt their messaging to fit into this new viewing convenience.

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