The Future of Television May Be Only One Screen

You know that the definition of television is changing when a Future of Television conference is hosted by a company called Digital Media Wire. This event was part of the NY Games Conference, indicating to me that all content, no matter how it is delivered and used by the consumer, is part of the new and complex television ecosystem.

What is television today? I have explored this question in previous articles. But the Future of Television conference further expanded the definition in terms of content, distribution, monetization and venue viewing opportunities. The big takeaway for me was that television seems to have finally crossed the digital Rubicon, transitioning from the “delivery box” to a veritable state of mind, a programming option where no screen is primary. What is television today and what are the challenges to the current business model? Here are my ten top takeaways, from the conference, not in any particular order:



1.     There are marked generational differences in television usage. For Time Warner’s Joan Gilman, the definition of television has two answers: a professional and a personal one. At work it is program content: the creative. At home with her kids, it is hardware-based. They spend less time on the primary household screen but consume large amounts of content on second screens.

2.     Don’t talk about the “second screen” -- there is only one screen. Among Millennials, the first screen of choice may not be the television set. It might be the tablet or mobile. Is there really a “second screen” anymore? Isn’t just “The Screen”?  Meredith’s Laura Rowley notes her kids say that all you need for television is WiFi. And according to Craig Palmer of Wikia, “If you use the second screen, it is the first screen for you.”

3.     More programming sources expand consumption; time is flexible and expandable. Will there be more competition for viewers’ time, since all of this new content -- from Netflix, Yahoo, AOL, YouTube and other sources -- needs to fit within the time that the average viewer allots for television entertainment? Not necessarily. “Video is invading other spheres of life.” says Rowley. “Our site All Recipes… can be downloaded via mobile in the grocery store. So we are expanding the hours used for entertainment. We offer a solution for consumers and insert a video in their day [where they] didn't have a video before. In this way we are redefining TV, with consumers consuming video in new places and in new ways.”

4.     Measurement is (still) the big challenge. No matter how you define television, new sources of content make no impact unless you can measure them all properly and completely. Measurement has not kept up with the way content is being delivered, and the concept of rating may not be as relevant today as it was in previous years. CPM may be less of an issue if actual behavior is measured in terms of reach and frequency. Anthony Wood of Roku explained that there are many sources of viewership not currently measured by Nielsen, including Hulu Plus. How can you monetize it if you can’t measure it? A big step forward is asset-identification coding that facilitates automatic content recognition across all screens. But everything is still in process, with no industry standard as of yet.  Here is a link to a video of that panel.

5.     The borders may soon be shifting. While the virtual MSO may still be in development, it does have the potential to upend the business model and change the viewing landscape. Think of it as TV without borders.

6.     Storytelling trumps technology -- but give technology its due. Even with all the new and ever-expanding range of viewing platforms, nothing is as important as being able to offer great and compelling content, as long as it is in context. Shane Rahmani of Electus says that the core of success is great storytelling -- but “what works on linear might not work on YouTube, and it should be form -factor appropriate.”

7.     New programming (and advertising) experimentations. Nick Demartino of Theatrics summed it up: “We are at the beginning of an unprecedented time of programming experimentation. We are evolving from the tyranny of the 22-minute sitcom.” But predicting the end of the 22-minute sitcom and 30-second spot may be premature.. Some formats are better for digital and can be adapted from linear. Rich Cusick of Yahoo offered this insight: “Buzzy moments have resonance and can be inexpensive to produce. We took a (longer) program segment and found users only wanted to view the buzzy moments that they cared about. We edited it down to 3 minutes and increased viewing.”

8.     But old programming has a great value, too. Magisto’s Reid Genauer spoke of “decades worth of content with no place to live today.” His company is experimenting to bring that content back into the social dialogue. He says, “Our videos get the same number of views per month as an episode of ‘Breaking Bad.’”

9.     TV Everywhere is a temporary advantage for MSOs, at best.When asked if TVE is working for MSOs, Steve Ronson of A+E equivocated. I would answer that question as, “it depends, not so much and maybe. It may help MVPDs to some extent but the problem is in its execution.” Karen Cahn of AOL called TVE “A band aid solution” since consumers want content and don’t really care about the delivery provider. But Craig Palmer of Wikia feels that the “traditional model will go away since kids don’t feel the need to be subscribers.” And what about delivery via IPTV?

10.  Celebrity participation helps drive appeal. It was agreed that celebrity involvement helps in attracting audience and attention. Still, the definition of celebrity is fungible. AOL’s Cahn said, “Influencers don't have to be a household name but they can influence popularity.”  Will everyone be able to get their 15 minutes of fame more easily?

10 comments about "The Future of Television May Be Only One Screen".
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  1. Peter Schankowitz from Joe Digital, Inc., October 2, 2013 at 2:17 p.m.

    Excellent, detailed analysis. Screens don't matter as much as recognition of modern consumption and the new model of production and distribution that is evolving. It's all just content.

  2. Peter Benjamin from MyOffices, October 2, 2013 at 2:35 p.m.

    The Old players are nervous. As the possibility of the Tv becoming a mobile screen platform takes away their power. The ability to know where your customers are and also when they view your content is the holy grail. is offering a chance to see a glimpse of the future today.

  3. Edmund Singleton from Winstion Communications, October 3, 2013 at 11:32 a.m.

    I welcome this new age of television of 'my tv', where and when I want it not when you are willing to give it...just one point, can I have it on a clean screen...

  4. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, October 3, 2013 at 10:01 p.m.

    If I watch my living-room TV but simultaneously watch associated content on the iPad on my lap, then the iPad is my second screen, refuting takeaway #2. If I watch TV on my iPad because my usual TV set is unavailable, then, yes, it's just one screen, but that is not what second-screen means. A second-screen is defined as the simultaneous use of two or more screens, when there's a primary screen and a second screen.

  5. Charlene Weisler from Writer, Media Consultant:, October 4, 2013 at 12:43 a.m.

    I think the early definition of second screen was based on simultaneous usage but it seems to have evolved to viewing on a "non linear TV" platform at any time.

  6. Romain Drosne from Plinkers, October 4, 2013 at 1:53 a.m.

    To me, this analysis is very interesting but start from a wrong basis coming from a more and more common vocabulary

    People speaks about Second Screen to speak about the rise of use of tablets or smartphones.

    But second screen concept has been invented to speak about the idea of companion screen.
    No matter what is the second or first or third screen.
    The content now come through any devices. So speaking about second screen doesn't mean we are wondering about what screen is dominant or companion. What only matters is simply the fact that People now use 2 screens at the same time and look for multitasking and sometime additional and related content.

  7. Romain Drosne from Plinkers, October 4, 2013 at 2:07 a.m.

    Which means actually i totally agree with the post from charlene just above and that i didn't see before pushing on "send" ;)

  8. Romain Drosne from Plinkers, October 4, 2013 at 2:15 a.m.

    Consequently the problem is that on such a powerful and recognized website. Doing such kind of vocabulary abuse bring some vocabulary confusion. It's the same than confusing "Smart TV" and connectedTV.
    By convention/habits speaking about SmartTv is dealing with the new kind of TV device connected to internet as Connected TV deals with the idea of ecosystem including : SmartTVs, Set top Boxes, Game Consoles, and Second Screen idea!

  9. Charlene Weisler from Writer, Media Consultant:, October 4, 2013 at 10:43 a.m.

    Terms and definitions in this media ecosystem are expanding and changing every day as I have discovered while compiling CIMMs Lexicon. Some definitions may change over time morphing into a new generally accepted meaning that is slightly different from its original intent.

  10. Peter Schankowitz from Joe Digital, Inc., October 4, 2013 at 1:37 p.m.

    Right now, "second screen" may primarily be about co or augmented viewing, but that is rapidly evolving and kind of misses the point. As I mentioned, the screen is irrelevant with respect to the key point that content is content, that the traditional production and distribution pyramid is widening at the top, and that the old system that at least I grew up with, will be unrecognizable in short order. My point is content is content, and with these changes in both production and consumption, it's going to be interesting.

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