It's All TV, Isn't It: A Rumination

I’m a TV guy, and proud of it. I enjoy horizontally watching a slew of my favorite professionally produced TV programs, surfing the electronic program guide, neurotically scanning my personal video recordings selections to ascertain future storage capacity, and fast-forwarding through advertising messages (though less so, recently) to see if I can accurately time the activation of “the play button” with the final second of the last commercial position in the pod preceding program content. And, selfishly, I admit, I rejoice in the $66 billion spent on TV advertising annually; remain unaffected by naysayers’ pronouncements about TV, the dying medium, and the 30-second commercial, a relic of the neo-Paleolithic media age. I eagerly await the ubiquitous deployment of advanced TV applications in the televisual realm: addressability (with interactive extensions), telescoping, intuitive navigation (encompassing all content, all the time, on-demand) and TV programmatic pragmatism coupled with more meaningful, manageable “big data.”



That’s me. So here is my question to you: Why the continued TV and digital video divide, though agencies religiously profess the shuttering of silos? A rumination or two:

Video Streaming Designation

At its inception, why did the online agency professionals insist on calling the video viewing experience in the broadband arena “video streaming?” Why didn’t they refer to it as television?” After all, TV is defined by Webster -- haven’t checked Wikipedia -- as “the transmission of video images.” In my opinion, had they utilized the timeworthy appellation, they would have more readily gained access to a greater share of the $66+ billion in TV ad revenue, made my job and that of other digital transitionists easier, and accelerated bridging the gulf between the two media to mutually share in the ability of the fundamental sight, sound and motion attributes of the video experience to engage the consumer.

TV Programmatic Nomenclature

I posit that had the media community -- traditional and digital -- gleaned lessons from its divisive video streaming christening experience, the digerati might have chosen a less complex nomenclature for TV programmatic, one that was not built upon the collision of foundations endemic to traditional TV and digital video.  The term “programmatic” in the digital sense is derived from a computeree’s concept of programming software and/or hardware: i.e., algorithmic conversations between 0s and 1s. To the contrary, the concept of “program” in the TV universe relates to context, as expressed in the dialogue and action within a set timeframe between animate objects, with terrestrial plots imposed for effect.  Both concepts heavily ensconced in their heritage. Both camps having difficulty extricating themselves from the past.

Cultural Obstruction

Historically, part of the cultural obstruction between the two communities lies in the line of demarcation drawn by the online community that unceremoniously labeled the traditional media community as “offline” -- kind of like the tail wagging the dog, albeit a very long, but nonetheless considerably smaller tail. Broadband video generates upwards of $4+ billion in the U.S. in ad spend compared to TV’s $66 billion. Not a pleasant way to encourage a fellowship between mature and burgeoning advertising sectors -- particularly when the mature/traditional community, via the media planner/account director, is often still the gatekeeper to allocation of ad budgets by medium.

The other half of the dilemma seems to reside in the traditional community’s need to disproportionately silo ad budgets to different distribution platforms, even when they fall within the same consumer experience. As an example, when a television viewer in New York City watches Channel 7 (an ABC station) via an over-the-air signal, we call it “broadcast.” Pretty simple. However, when a cable subscriber watches Channel 7, do we define the viewing experience as broadcast or cable? And when a satellite customer views Channel 7, is the experience broadcast, cable or satellite? And let’s not forget other platforms that contribute to this miasmic discussion: broadband publishers, mobile, telecos, apps, over-the-top devices, streaming video services, gaming consoles and of course, antenna-farmed Aereo -- oops, they are a cable system. Right.

I think that a positive step in encouraging a synergistic relationship between the two video cultures is best accomplished by at least delineating on paper real and imaginary differences:



In closing, I would argue that to the consumer, it is all the same experience. It’s television. And if we, the ad community, both mature and burgeoning, are going to successfully engage the viewer of video -- whether it is via traditional television, broadband, over-the-top devices, streaming video services and/or mobile -- we must view it as TV as well, and utilize each platform’s individual attributes and applications to enhance our messaging capabilities in the service of our client’s goals.

Editor's Note: This post was first published last year.

3 comments about "It's All TV, Isn't It: A Rumination".
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  1. Chris Pizzurro from Canoe, July 2, 2015 at 4:51 p.m.

    Great delineation of the real and imaginary differences Mitch. Perhaps this year more folks will utilize it. I know I see it in my day-to-day,

  2. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, July 3, 2015 at 9:52 a.m.

    Mitch your table doesnt make the case. It's about the user experience. Just like what separated Blackberry from the iPhone was the user experience. Television is a one way and curated medium. Video streaming is the opposite, two way and user controlled. A Cross device experience is not Television. The only rationale to the "Television" label for Broadband Video is the urgency to keep that $66B pie which has looked pricier the past 15 years where more money has been buying less Audience, and further the Major Broadcasters are now engaged in massive Audience Fragmentation distributing content through various OTT apps not realizing they are undermining the Foundation Element of Television which is Audience Aggregation within a Closed System.. 

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 5, 2015 at 10:04 a.m.

    I'm having a bit of trouble with the table, also, Mitch. No matter what one calls it people are either watching something via broadband or they aren't. You can be engaged by any content---TV or broadband---so this is not a unique feature of broadband. The implication in making this distinction---and I'm not accusing you of making it----is that broadband content is "engaging" while TV's content is not. That's nonsense.

    Also, when it comes to measuring audience, the fact that this does not seem to exist, as yet, for broadband does not make it different from TV----broadband is merely a media platform that is in its infancy. If broadband ever expands to the point where it becomes significant, some sort of rating system will be put in place and it won't be an infinite one but a finite one, using some sort of panel with a fixed sample size. Regarding audience definitions, here, too, there is nothing mysterious about broadband. If the audience of a broadband service or some form of content yields so many viewers, broken down by demos---per a rating service---- then it's not brain surgery to calculate ratings, rating points, CPMs, etc. for all of the audience or any part, thereoff.

    In other words, why make it so complicated? The two are both forms of TV, which happen to reach their audiences via different means?

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