What's A Television?

It's come to this. A Time Warner Cable executive recently said, "I don't know what a TV is anymore. It's kind of an anachronistic term."

With the recent announcements by Time Warner Cable and Cablevision that they will launch iPad apps to stream (some of) their cable television offerings to subscribers, three questions immediately came to mind.

First, how, if at all, do current carriage agreements address the possibility of iPad distribution? Second, how will iPad viewing be measured and ratings allocated? Third, before this turns into another classic case of industry parties negotiating with each other over how to divide presumed incremental revenue, here's the most important question: What does the consumer think regarding the value created by this new capability?

Over a decade ago we saw this same movie. Several progressive executives created something called the Addressable Advertising Coalition. Its intent was to take advantage of new capabilities in data collection and application for targeted content distribution, including commercial content (i.e. advertising).



Sound familiar?

AAC became quite the hit, quickly attracting the leading programmers, distributors, set top box makers, advertisers and agencies. We met, we talked, we had panel discussions. Every voice was represented except one, the consumer for whom these new capabilities would be created. Each of the parties was impressive, successful, powerful in their market space within the industry. Each came with a business model and an agenda of inertia which, as Sir Isaac Newton once observed, resisted change.

What happened then, and what cannot happen now, is that we presume again that the future of this MediaTech industry is ours alone to determine, that the only legitimate discussion is among ourselves regarding the disposition of riches to those with the best negotiating skills. This time we have to first understand the consumer, and the consumer value of what we are creating, as they see it.

We have too little priority for consumer research in this industry. We've forgotten, or maybe never understood as well as other parts of the marketing community, that this game is won by deeply understanding the target audience, understanding the real competition for that audience, and that value creation, as they perceive it, is the goal.

If that means altering our thinking about the relationships we have with other parties in the industry, adjusting our approach to legacy business models, examining our priorities regarding investment in consumer insight, then let's get started. That's the kind of discussion we need to have, the kind of leadership we need to display.

It's great to be able to create function, capability and new services. But unless we define winning like Charlie Sheen does, we have to place equal focus on asking the consumer what he thinks, what she will pay for, and how much.

If you agree, don't wait for someone else to do something. Lead the way.

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