It's All TV, Isn't It: A Rumination

I’m a TV guy, and proud of it. I enjoy horizontally watching a slew of my favorite professionally produced TV programs, surfing the electronic program guide, neurotically scanning my personal video recordings selections to ascertain future storage capacity, and fast-forwarding through advertising messages (though less so, recently) to see if I can accurately time the activation of “the play button” with the final second of the last commercial position in the pod preceding program content. And, selfishly, I admit, I rejoice in the $66 billion spent on TV advertising annually; remain unaffected by naysayers’ pronouncements about TV, the dying medium, and the 30-second commercial, a relic of the neo-Paleolithic media age. I eagerly await the ubiquitous deployment of advanced TV applications in the televisual realm: addressability (with interactive extensions), telescoping, intuitive navigation (encompassing all content, all the time, on-demand) and TV programmatic pragmatism coupled with more meaningful, manageable “big data.”

That’s me. So here is my question to you: Why the continued TV and digital video divide, though agencies religiously profess the shuttering of silos? A rumination or two:

Video Streaming Designation

At its inception, why did the online agency professionals insist on calling the video viewing experience in the broadband arena “video streaming?” Why didn’t they refer to it as television?” After all, TV is defined by Webster -- haven’t checked Wikipedia -- as “the transmission of video images.” In my opinion, had they utilized the timeworthy appellation, they would have more readily gained access to a greater share of the $66+ billion in TV ad revenue, made my job and that of other digital transitionists easier, and accelerated bridging the gulf between the two media to mutually share in the ability of the fundamental sight, sound and motion attributes of the video experience to engage the consumer.

TV Programmatic Nomenclature

I posit that had the media community -- traditional and digital -- gleaned lessons from its divisive video streaming christening experience, the digerati might have chosen a less complex nomenclature for TV programmatic, one that was not built upon the collision of foundations endemic to traditional TV and digital video.  The term “programmatic” in the digital sense is derived from a computeree’s concept of programming software and/or hardware: i.e., algorithmic conversations between 0s and 1s. To the contrary, the concept of “program” in the TV universe relates to context, as expressed in the dialogue and action within a set timeframe between animate objects, with terrestrial plots imposed for effect.  Both concepts heavily ensconced in their heritage. Both camps having difficulty extricating themselves from the past.

Cultural Obstruction

Historically, part of the cultural obstruction between the two communities lies in the line of demarcation drawn by the online community that unceremoniously labeled the traditional media community as “offline” -- kind of like the tail wagging the dog, albeit a very long, but nonetheless considerably smaller tail. Broadband video generates upwards of $4+ billion in the U.S. in ad spend compared to TV’s $66 billion. Not a pleasant way to encourage a fellowship between mature and burgeoning advertising sectors -- particularly when the mature/traditional community, via the media planner/account director, is often still the gatekeeper to allocation of ad budgets by medium.

The other half of the dilemma seems to reside in the traditional community’s need to disproportionately silo ad budgets to different distribution platforms, even when they fall within the same consumer experience. As an example, when a television viewer in New York City watches Channel 7 (an ABC station) via an over-the-air signal, we call it “broadcast.” Pretty simple. However, when a cable subscriber watches Channel 7, do we define the viewing experience as broadcast or cable? And when a satellite customer views Channel 7, is the experience broadcast, cable or satellite? And let’s not forget other platforms that contribute to this miasmic discussion: broadband publishers, mobile, telecos, apps, over-the-top devices, streaming video services, gaming consoles and of course, antenna-farmed Aereo -- oops, they are a cable system. Right.

I think that a positive step in encouraging a synergistic relationship between the two video cultures is best accomplished by at least delineating on paper real and imaginary differences:

 

 

In closing, I would argue that to the consumer, it is all the same experience. It’s television. And if we, the ad community, both mature and burgeoning, are going to successfully engage the viewer of video -- whether it is via traditional television, broadband, over-the-top devices, streaming video services and/or mobile -- we must view it as TV as well, and utilize each platform’s individual attributes and applications to enhance our messaging capabilities in the service of our client’s goals.

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8 comments about "It's All TV, Isn't It: A Rumination".
  1. David Cooperstein from Simulmedia , July 25, 2014 at 11:15 a.m.
    Well done Mitch!
  2. Leonard Zachary from EquityStep , July 25, 2014 at 11:30 a.m.
    This where the tetonic plates of broadcast TV and digital video meet the road: Broadcast retransmission fees and cable carriage rights are a product of a Congress based business model- laws lobbied by the Broadcast industry and therefore NOT FREE MARKET and certainly NOT COMPETITIVE. Further the upfront ad money pays for the "premium content". Less upfront money = less premium content. Digital on the other hand is completely FREE MARKET and COMPETITIVE. Why are consumers forced to pay for PayTV bundles? Why are consumers forced to pay for content they don't want because PayTV refuses to offer a la carte? That is why Netflix has 50M subscribers and counting. If PayTV and Broadcast do not want to be regulated, then the laws on cable carriage and retransmission fees must be abolished. These elements need to be reconciled into your analysis. Respectfully submitted
  3. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston , July 25, 2014 at 11:42 a.m.
    TV is what you can ask your grandmother if she watched. She has cable and that's about it. Everything else is seldom seen by the audience with the most time to consume it.
  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , July 25, 2014 at 6:49 p.m.
    Who benefits and who profits ? At the end of the line, you will know why the schism.
  5. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC , July 26, 2014 at 1:47 p.m.
    Valuable reflection ! Principled, Practical and Farsighted !! Could be a classic !!! As always, a quality exposition by Mitch Oscar. Thank you very much, Mitch & MediaPost. Onwards & upwards. The comments so far are rich. Hope the commentary keeps on coming for this rumination.
  6. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia , July 27, 2014 at 2:36 p.m.
    Great stuff Mitch. You're right on target about the need for clarity and broader understanding of the real and imaginary differences between TV and broadband video.
  7. Kevin Barry from Barry Marketing & Media , July 28, 2014 at 2:16 p.m.
    The term "video streaming" reminds me of the term "IP telephony". The latter was what the cable industry stupidly called making calls using your home's cable modem connection. "IP telephony" completely and accurately described what was occuring technically, but was pure navel-gazing and meant nothing to the consumer. Some genius came up with the phrase "cable phone". Now many people don't even know the difference, but get their phone service from their cable provider. In the same way, "video streaming" was inside pool. Would have been much smarter to think of it from the consumer's perspective and focus on the user and not the technology.
  8. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc , August 6, 2014 at 3:40 p.m.
    Interesting piece, but some of the definitions/comparisons are confusing. Regarding TV, "share of viewership' is the percent of TV homes that are watching a particular program at a particular time, relative to the percent of TV homes watching any channel at the same time. This is not the same as "percent of households watching a TV channel". As for viewers- per- set, it's not a percentage of the home's residents who are watching but the number of person's watching. Regarding sample size, if you include Rentrak as one of the two TV rating services---which is rather premature----then you have to give TV credit for Rentrak's huge sample base. Are the Nielsen and comScore panels that measure broadband video audiences really of "infinite" magnitude? Aside from quibbling about definitions, I am surprised to see that the word "engagement" is listed as the broadband video counterpart to TV audience measurement ( "homes using TV", "share of viewership", "measurement" ). Don't you have to know approximately how many people you are potentially reaching before you attempt to gauge their "engagement"? It strikes me that most of the differences between TV and broadband video, listed above, are not particularly striking. You negotiate a buy based on some form of audience measurements and ad costs, and you get a certain number of "impressions". As a result, a certain proportion of the "audience" you have paid for watches your commercial and may react to it in some manner. Seems rather simple to me.