On a recent flight to New York I had a chance to catch up on my reading, and a statistic in one magazine's cover story hit me like a load of bricks: The median age of prime-time television viewers is nearing 51 years old.
I had to read it three times. 51 the median? This means that more than half of all prime-time viewers are outside of the golden demographic of 18-49. The medium that has long been synonymous with massive reach is quickly becoming the most efficient way to reach lots of old people!
Surprisingly, this shift has not been gradual -- it's been most pronounced over the past five years. In fact, the median age of prime-time viewers has increased by a year every year since 2005. This means that the rate at which young people are turning away from TV is greater than the rate at which old people are dying. Think about that one for just a second.
So what does this mean for traditional content owners?
First, it means they are losing. They are losing their audience, which will ultimately translate into losing their revenue and relevance. If they do not commit to developing a meaningful audience off television, they will begin to lose their market capitalization.
Second, it means that Google and Apple are winning. Companies that own video consumption platforms that don't involve TV -- YouTube, iPhone, iPad, etc. -- are going to continue to take share from the networks that primarily reach older people. Young people are not watching less video, they are just watching less television. This nuance is more than important, it is the future of media.
Third, it means technology is king. Content ownership may be competitive advantage, but it is a bad business model. That sound of static white noise on a broadcast channel has been replaced by the silent, but absolute and inevitable, destruction of the traditional media business and profit model. Cisco predicts that by 2013 90% of all Web traffic will be generated by video, and it is unlikely that broadcasters will ever make more money from their content than they did in the peak year of 2008.
So, in light of all this, what's an advertiser to do? The audience has moved online, so it's time for the budgets to follow. Advertisers can no longer use lack of standards, measurement or cost of media execution as pretext for avoiding online advertising. The world has changed and, unless they want to advertise body spray to seniors, it is time for advertisers to do the same.