Commentary

What's Television's Next Business Model?

Despite all these new media opportunities, sometimes it feels like we are back inside the Internet bubble. Like shuffling cards in a deck. Hearts, we go for audience and brand awareness. Spades, we focus on ROI. Add mobile into the mix, and the ability to build an audience across multiple devices never seemed so easy. Akin to the bubble years, "audience" today seems to validate every new technology even when there is no obvious business model.

However, this is an unsettling time for those on the TV side of the media equation. The Internet folks are getting all the attention and all the valuation, while television media planning has quietly fallen out of fashion. This digital group think has been over a decade in the making. But as interactive television gains critical mass this year, maybe we should begin to look at each TV show as a stand-alone "Web property."

Contrary to what some new-media folks believe, television still aggregates an audience and still has a business model (albeit an aging one). Each TV program represents distinct audiences that come together to sample relevant content.

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It's hard to find TV content today that does not contain Web site addresses, Twitter mentions, and text-based messages throughout. It's accepted that even with these "light" reference points, as it stands now TV's long-term prospects pale in comparison to those of the Internet, mostly because TV content still has no direct-response mechanism.

Blending Internet elements into TV content makes for a seamless experience - and, in my opinion, is tomorrow's preferred business model. When I watch TV it feels, and looks, as if we're already headed in this direction. What we are missing, though -- in addition to some critical technology deployments -- is a unified direction for the industry on planning for, and measuring, TV click responses.

Set-top-box measurement is but a tiny piece of the puzzle, one that will become increasingly challenged as time-shifted behavior grows. On the other hand, today TV programming is filled with Internet reference points that can prompt viewers to interact. I think if TV programmers forward these opt-in TV click responses to an Internet Web site -- where consumers can follow up on their "clickable" moments -- that should be the natural direction for both media. Within a few years we might see scores of companies created that could provide a new revenue stream to both cablers and broadcasters, while at the same time also offering unique TV click solutions directly to programmers and advertisers.

In my opinion, Internet video might just remain a great secondary viewing source to broadcast and cable. I can imagine one day soon clicking my remote control and moving a television news story, or advertisement, to my laptop.

It's clear to me that the future of television planning will be response-driven. However, until we can develop cross-platform metrics, additional new business models for television will be nearly impossible to establish. In addition, when we do establish the rules for cross-platform measurement, I think we will see tremendous synergies unlocked for agencies that had the foresight to consolidate their traditional and new-media businesses.

8 comments about "What's Television's Next Business Model?".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, March 17, 2010 at 1:29 p.m.

    The internet make be secondary for you, but for young viewers it's primary. Why watch TV when you can catch the highlights online (and spend the captured time connecting with social media, and turning on the browser's ad-blocker), Not a bright future for TV, as they age and we all die off.

  2. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., March 17, 2010 at 1:31 p.m.

    The word synergy scares me. For some reason I associate it with another term that's always meant financial disaster - partner. Whenever I hear "There's a lot of sysnergies between our compnaies, let's partner to take advance of marketplace opportunities" - I know I'm about to get screwed.

  3. Massimo Martinotti from Mia, March 17, 2010 at 1:38 p.m.

    I believe that the new business model will be based on transmedia storytelling. With stories so large that they cannot fit in one single medium. In these projects every medium or platform adds to the narrative its peculiar features. Transmedia stories can appeal to a broad variety of communities.

  4. Chris Quirin from NY Interconnect, March 17, 2010 at 3:18 p.m.

    Cablevision has already created interactive television.
    Interact with consumers through the cable remote. We have deployed compelling interactive television and enhanced advertising applications.

    These graphically rich, interactive platforms will provide an interactive advertising environment that can accommodate advertiser product and service offerings, inventory availability, store locations, and direct response capabilities
    With 64+ networks (and growing) of popular programming to target any demographic need, and a reach of more than 3.5 million households, you can’t cover the New York DMA without us. No one else offers you the ability to target all or different parts of this audience with a media buy customized to fit your demographic and geographic needs.
    Whatever your customers are watching -- sports, drama, classic movies, comedy, music or news – the New York Interconnect has it covered….
    Innovative, cutting edge technologies provide our advertisers with exciting new ways to enhance relationships with consumers. Paired with :30 second commercials that can be focused on geographic or demographic targets, advertising with NYI is now an even more powerful way to reach your customer.

  5. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., March 17, 2010 at 4:18 p.m.

    "NY Interconnect - Interact with customers through the cable remote"? Showing ads on cable is not interacting - it's showing ads on cable. And the SHAMELESS PLUG of the WEEK award goes to CHRIS from NY Interconnect! This weeks winner wins a Funk and Wagnels Dictionary so he can look up the term "interactive" and not confuse it with "showing ads on cable".

  6. Dave Mcilroy from PlayFullScreen, March 17, 2010 at 4:20 p.m.

    The CD forever changed the music industry and TiVo or similar PVRs have done the same for TV. With appointment television being essentially irrelevant what does interaction mean? I would share an experience with my social network after the fact but it's unlikely that I would set my calendar to chat while the TV program airs in real time. So this might mean that Cable and Network TV become relegated to a delivery platform. The interface is familiar, predictable and when I want a passive experience it makes perfect sense because I can channel surf. I would not be compelled to engage with online interaction associated with a TV viewing experience unless it were perhaps a few times out of curiosity.

    I don't envy those in the television industry, it must be like pushing a soggy noddle through a key hole. What I do believe is required, is the absence of hubris on the part of the executives in charge. Just because they once controlled everything in their midst does not mean they always will. TV isn't too big to fail and there does not seem to be any appetite for a bail out. So their ultimate survival might come from the web and may look different than anything we have seen before.

  7. Elise Brown from Elise Brown PR, March 17, 2010 at 5:27 p.m.

    May look something like Shovio.com - live, truly interactive Internet video broadcasting.

  8. David Kaye from WriteHereAndNow, March 21, 2010 at 8:48 p.m.

    Creating new back channels from "clickable" tv moments is a rich concept. Cable providers and producers of programs and ads get: 1. Direct measurement superior to ratings and resistant to timeshifting, 2. A direct response followup loop with actionable links.

    Plus, as we have learned with Twitter, a world of possibilities is opened by a new back channel stream of reference points!

    You make a great point, that each TV program aggregates a distinct audience. And you mention TV programmers forwarding the click responses to a web site where viewers can follow up. I can imagine empowering and inspiring such audiences with a click-driven social networking app. By having an opt-in Twitter interface (the way Foursquare's "check-ins" can automate tweets), the app's "click-ins" could automate draft tweets containing context and links.

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