The Unknown Future of TV

Updated: Jan 3

Written by: Megan McDowell


With online viewing, the creation of YouTube stars, and streaming services such as Netflix, the tv industry is in a state of flux with advertising money being rerouted.


New Blood in Media

This week there was an article published on Forbes.com written by Sean Cunningham the President and CEO of the Video Advertising Bureau. The reason it peaked my interest was because I had just been watching an interview with Casey Neistat who is a famous video blogger with 2.8 million Youtube subscribers, discuss the future of television and video. The article by Sean Cunningham is a direct opposite take on what Casey Neistat had been talking about. I wondered which one was true. Cunningham’s article looked at actual numbers regarding TV viewership and whether it is as much of a dinosaur as everyone is saying. He starts the article with the popular notion, “digital is going to make TV obsolete,” and that in certain circles, primarily Millennials, like to say such things as, “I don’t watch TV anymore.” But he wonders if this is really true? Cunningham examines numbers, and while his numbers prove that TV is still the reigning champ, the numbers don’t really speak of future changes and trends. Being in the market research business for so long, we notice that big data is similar to this article. It tells us what’s going on, but only with qualitative data can you position yourself for the future, and we have found that the best form of qualitative data is ongoing dialogue such as those found in qualitative research for online communities.


Facebook and Viewers

The comparison Cunningham uses is Facebook and the Super Bowl. Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg has been infamous for repeating that “We have the Super Bowl every day on Facebook Mobile.” Cunningham states that it has been repeated so many times that it has become truth in certain circles. Cunningham writes that comparing Internet and TV audiences is very difficult since they are gauged in different ways. Facebook boasts that at any given minute they have an audience of 4 million people, which according to Cunningham would rank it as the 161st largest TV show.


Cunningham goes on to address three common myths about TV, which show where the numbers are at but need further investigation into where TV is headed. While it may be fine to state that everything is okay, the deeper truth is that there are massive changes taking place and a company needs to know what these changes are in consumption so that they can be better prepared for the future.


These are the myths according to Cunningham:

Myth 1 – TV is dying.

The numbers show that at any given moment 95% of people watching a video are watching a TV and that there are twice as many people watching TV as those on their computer or mobile device. Cunningham goes on to state that, “we’re actually in the platinum age of TV. There are more great shows than ever, and more kinds of people are engaging with TV content every way they can.”


Myth 2 – Millennials don’t watch TV.

The actual numbers don’t support this myth, says Cunningham. When broken down, Millennials spend 88% of their video watching time on TV with an average of 5 hours a day. ABC had reports that this large segment of millennial viewers had dropped. But research of this group’s viewing habits, showed that the digital viewing of shows amongst this group had actually grown.


Myth  3 –  That cable cutting is decreasing TV consumption.

The article goes on to state that 80% of adults prefer subscription TV content rather than streaming predominantly TV content.  Cunningham argues that it is more a case of subscription TV plus streaming provides the customer more choice. Cunningham states, “It gives viewers’ flexibility, programmers’ distribution, networks revenue, and marketers (ultimately) new engagement options.”


The discussion has been that online watching is growing. Yahoo reportedly grabbed headlines last year when they live-streamed an NFL game. When the numbers were compared to a typical NFL telecast, the online was less than a quarter of views compared to TV. Cunningham goes on to state that YouTube has claimed more people watch Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien on their service than broadcast TV but when the numbers are compared, YouTube is actually only 10% of the telecasts in total. These numbers affect advertising awareness, and campaigns. The senior VP for American Express told Advertising Age, “When we run a heavy TV schedule, we see a lift in sales and product awareness. We need to run two weeks of digital to get the reach of one day of broadcast.”


A contrasting view to that of Cunningham would be YouTube sensation Casey Neistat, and his interview on the future trends of video consumption. Casey had previously had a show with HBO and later said that he had no interest in doing network television, stating that his new YouTube channel allowed him greater interaction with his viewers, and the freedom to do his show the way he wanted, without the bureaucratic challenges involved in a TV show. In his interview he talks about the differences found in YouTube subscribers and TV. While televisions are turned on each day in millions of homes across the country, many of the viewers are being spoon fed the content, whereas a typical subscriber who goes to Casey’s channel on YouTube is making a conscious choice to watch that material. While the numbers Cunningham uses make the case that TV is in its “Platinum” age, it does not acknowledge the differences in how viewers, especially Millennials, are choosing the materials they watch.


But Why?

With big data we see this contradiction, companies are looking at stats and hard numbers without the backstory of why certain decisions are being made. While individuals may be choosing the specific item or service, it does not tell you their desire for something different, and that desire could be felt among a large majority of your potential audience. Until you realize the desire or need through qualitative research through market research online communities, you can’t capitalize on a future trend or service. MROC’s allow you to gather your customers in one place and find out on a regular basis what they are looking for, and what they are growing tired of.


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