The mind of the typical consumer is much more fragmented than it ever was before, and as a result they are turning to more niche-targeted media for their entertainment and information. There have been many articles in the last few months discussing the whereabouts of 18- to 34-year-old males, and the answer seems to be they are relying on more targeted media. The general networks are no longer the aggregation of the mass audience that they once were, and cable is continuously generating the highest quality work that speaks to a specific target audience.
This model of many channels and targeted content is completely synergistic with the Internet. The Internet can be viewed as an aggregation of millions of targeted channels, much like the growing model for cable television. Even the larger portals, which are most similar to the typical network TV landscape, offer a wealth of targeted content and information that can be accessed directly without utilizing a centrally located entrance. As a matter of fact, search engines provide a service similar to that of a remote control. They provide the opportunity for the consumer to surf around the "channels" available to them and find content they are most interested in viewing, much like the Cable Guide on my TiVo at home.
As the quality of network programming continues to be supplanted by cable programming, the audience will continue to look for topics of interest to them individually. As the audience aggregation that network television once provided whittles away, it will be necessary for advertisers to utilize a mix of synergistic, targeted media to reach their audience. This means that cable television and Internet advertising provide the strongest opportunity to reach a targeted audience in a cross-media manner with both the power and emotion of television, as well as the interactivity and level of engagement from Internet placements.
"But what will we do with Network Television," you might ask?
Network television then becomes a flighted medium. Network TV does provide a large aggregate audience on the one-time, special events. Events such as the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards, the Grammy's and other large events will always offer an aggregate audience that provides broad-reach advertisers with the opportunity to speak to the masses. These events will probably become more expensive as they will be in the minority. As fragmentation continues, there will be fewer and fewer "Stunt Opps" to reach the mass audience. With media planners trying to work multiple touch points in order to reach an aggregate audience, these special events will become an even rarer commodity and demand for them will increase. Most other network TV programming will become less valuable until the networks start to focus on more targeted niche programming in order to attract the highest value consumers.
In either the year 2009 or 2010, I predict this change to have taken hold. Many would say that I might be correct, but that it is much further out than that. With the speed at which our industry changes and evolves, I can't imagine it takes any longer than this.
What do you think?