Good TV programming has never existed only on TV. It has always been a part of our lives beyond the broadcast schedule. We've talked about it, read about it in print, heard about it on the radio, bought the merchandise (books, T-shirts, games, DVDs etc.) and of course, in more recent times, we've interacted with related content on the Web.
With the continuing proliferation of screens capable of running video in one form or another and as broadband penetration continues apace, we've seen the extension of TV-originated content onto those other platforms accelerate markedly -- and there is little to suggest it will slow down now.
There is the user-generated content produced as homage, parody or assault on the original that appears on the likes of Youtube, but there is also, of course, the "legitimate" content made available by the rights holders -- be they the broadcast networks, cable companies or the original producers -- which ranges from full program episodes to additional Web- or mobile-only content.
The best and most successful of this content arises from programs that are in their original form so compelling that they draw an audience not content to watch, but hungry to go beyond the passive and commune with others in chat rooms, in virtual environments, to post videos, download additional content and so on. You name it, and if the program creates a deep enough sense of involvement, (which is, after all, the currency of all interaction), then a decent creative execution backed up by a smooth user experience will answer that desire for further interaction.
The programming for which these extensions work best are what I think of as Ripple-Effect TV. These are the programs that you hear people talking about; the ones that show up in the blogosphere most often. With Ripple-Effect TV, the first broadcast is like the stone dropping in the water. The biggest splash happens at the point of impact, but thereafter the ring of concentric circles fans out to create the Ripple-Effect that shows itself across a range of platforms, bringing with it further opportunities to harness the audiences' sense of involvement, to allow that audience to develop itself into a community and to satisfy its desires (and monetize the process).
The challenge for TV companies as the gatekeepers of those program equities is to work out which practices, organizational structures, partnerships -- and, ultimately, metrics -- they will need to make a part of their daily lives to ensure ongoing success. As Bob Wright of NBCU told FT.com at Davos this week "We are trying to understand how we organize our content generation to fit those forms [emerging platforms]." He's not alone. Every major player is working hard to crack the code without missing any potential opportunities or falling behind the competition.
Indeed, there is so much cross-platform activity now, that one thing is very clear: There really are no more TV companies. They no longer exist. Sure, there are companies that have huge investments in TV and that generate huge amounts of their very-significant revenues from TV. But show me any one of them that is NOT actively pursuing audience and revenue building opportunities on emerging platforms, and I'll show you a decidedly endangered species that will shortly be no more.
Of course, no such company exists (nor for that matter is there any serious radio or print player that is solely focused on its medium of origin), but still we cling to the notion that they do. We endlessly debate the demise of the 30-second spot and even the demise of TV itself, but if we are seeing the end of anything, it's surely the TV company in its historic form.
Don't get me wrong. It seems to me that what we have historically called TV is anything but sickly. It's morphing into something much bigger than the past limits of technology have allowed it to be. And it's the TV companies that are obviously best positioned to take advantage of that. Who knows? Those staid old TV companies that "just don't get it" could even be making their moves to dominate video and program-related content on the Web. Too far-fetched?