Let's Just Call Online Content What It Isn't!
As people who read sites like these a lot already know, the media business is filled with distinctions that are vagaries to the outside world. For handy example, it’s easy to actually explain the difference between “broadcasting” and “cable” and much harder to explain why the difference really makes much of a difference.
It is television.
What is that stuff on the Internet? I don’t think the general public knows that most of what they see on YouTube is called user generated content and a fraction of a fraction know that’s abbreviated as UGC. I don’t think that viewers knew “House of Cards” was the first online video series ever nominated for an Emmy as best drama, but they know, perhaps, it was the first time Netflix was nominated, and they know Netflix is something they get on their tablet or PC, but it shows movies and TV programs, like Turner Classic Movies or HBO.
It is television.
Which gets me to thinking: Ought not the online video and/or streaming video biz start calling itself “Internet TV” for marketing and definition purposes?
To dip back into the jargon pool for a second, the over-the-top or OTT biz is about to explode, and so are the sales of smart TVs, but the reason people will be buying in is so they can watch movies or entire seasons of TV programs, "on TV." That they are actually receiving that content from an online provider is very far in the background of their minds, or not there at all. They are, if you ask them to explain, watching content that they would otherwise be able to see if they went online, but that’s not how they think of it.
It’s kind of like TV.
And in the years to come, it’s going to be more like TV than it is the Internet. And within a decade, or less, it will be difficult for viewers to tell you the difference between a
comedy on CBS and TBS...or The Onion Network.
But officially, it's a mouthful. Here's how Roku defines itself on its Website: "Roku launched the first product designed to deliver movies from Netflix instantly on TV, using the power of the Internet. Since then, our best-selling Roku streaming players have become synonymous with amazing choice, control, and value in TV entertainment."
Nice. What is it?
This might be the same blur for advertisers, too. Even 20 years or so after the Internet use began becoming fairly commonplace, there’s advertising resistance to online video content, and not just because a lot of it is too weird and too uninhibited or too obscure. It’s because they don’t know how people get there—it’s that shopping center off the highway, but what’s it called? What’s the address? Once they’re dragged into a comfortable spot in the parking lot, it will be a lot easier to convince them how much better they can target their customers.
Connected TV devices are making that sales pitch easier. Globally, the number of TV sets connected to the Internet will reach 759 million by 2018 for 40 countries covered in the Connected TV Forecasts report from Digital TV Research, up from 115 million at end-2010 and the 307 million expected. This translates to 26.8% of global TV sets by 2018, up from only 5.1% at end-2010 and 12.4% by the end of 2013.
According to a story on AdvancedTelevision.com, “Chromecast and similar products are likely to have a considerable impact. The global total of connected TV sets via streaming/retail set-top boxes will reach 126 million in 2018, up from only 4 million in 2010. The 34 million expected by end-2013 is double the 2012 total.” (It’s hard to realize that is still not a gigantic number. It is a gigantic increase, however.)
People in the biz probably are too close to it to understand the difficulty consumers have describing what it is they’re watching online, or want to be watching on a connected device. It might speed things along if the online biz referred to itself in a way consumers do. The old broadcasting line was that “People don’t watch networks. They watch programs.” Updated for a more hooked up world, people don’t watch platforms. They want to watch TV.