What Is The Future Of Television?

What is the future of television?

That question was hotly debated at the recent New York Media Festival conference in New York City. Arguably, the most impactful changes were "major shifts in video consumption,” according to Ned Sherman, counsel/director, Manatt Digital and founder, Digital Media Wire.

Cord-cutting, once dismissed by industry experts, appears to be accelerating. eMarketer reported that in 2017 there were 22.2 million U.S. adults cutting the cord, "up +33% in this year alone," Sherman noted.

On an even more ominous note, the percentage of cord-nevers also rose (+5.8%) to 34.4 million. 

Will these cord-nevers eventually succumb to the siren call of traditionally accessed TV? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, the business of TV must respond to the current landscape as it evolves.

Here are some predictions for the future of TV:

Facilitating content across platforms will have to become pro-forma. As viewership moves across platforms, the ability to easily offer content cross-platform becomes vital to satisfying consumer demands.



Tom Shelburne, director of operations, Vizrt, noted that “TV is at a crossroads and needs a reboot.” His company enables content to be published anywhere on multiple platforms at the same time.

Generation Z-focused companies such as Awesomesness TV have designed their business model on the TV shift, according to Rebecca Glashow, the company’s head of worldwide distribution, awesomenesstv.

While legacy networks might be handcuffed by contractual obligations that limit cross-platform content rights, her company has established a business model appropriate for their target audience that is multiplatform at its core.

Quality, unique content are table stakes. No matter how easy you make the distribution of content, if that content fails to engage the audience, your efforts will be for naught. Floris Bauer, co-founder and president, Gunpowder and Sky, advised that “TV needs to innovate, decline or die.”

Still there is a certain amount of self-censorship according to Paul Potenzone, senior vice president/Content Director at Digitas Studios, DigitasLBi. “You need conflict in content to make it interesting,” he posited, “and big companies are too careful with shareholders.”

Creating compelling content is not only expensive, often involving trial and error, it is time-consuming. But the risk of not focusing on the development of unique content is greater than spending time, money and creative capital on it and risking failure. As Mike Vorhaus, president, Magid Advisors, concluded, “unique content is table stakes.”

Small is nimble, and yet bigger may be better. There are three challenges that place stress on smaller networks: increased competition, the cost of doing business and the fight for distribution. While the fight for distribution may be ameliorated with the vastness of the IP that enables nimble smaller networks to expand their distribution, the first two challenges may see the demise of many smaller niche networks, according to some.

Glashow noted: “The cable bundle has only ten brands that mean something. The rest was born to fill in the channel offerings. She sees the death of smaller networks because there is not enough investment in them.

There is no absolute path for television network success in the coming years. But the best advice of the day was from Peter Phillips, former executive vice president/general manager, interactive and distribution, Marvel Entertainment, who concluded, “Experiment and be willing to fail.”

6 comments about "What Is The Future Of Television?".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, October 19, 2017 at 11:46 a.m.

    Barry Diller has figured it out. Here's the link:

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 19, 2017 at 12:04 p.m.

    Same old "predictions" and scarry gloom and doom stuff we keep hearing over and over again. As these trends develop TV content suppliers, advertisers and time sellers will simply adapt to keep the "spice" flowing. End of story.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 19, 2017 at 1:06 p.m.

    So I watched Diller's comments and all he's saying is that Netflix and Amazon are "unbeatable"----presumably referring to primetime entertainment content on the broadcast TV networks, but never being clear about what battleground  these "giants" are unbeatable in. Actually Netflix and Amazon are competing as much with eachother as the broadcast TV networks for audiences and it is unlikely that they will ever have the types or breadth of content to motivate the average consumer to swich more than a modest fraction of his/her total viewing time to their offerings. All in all, I didn't get much from this discussion. Moreover, there's a lot more to TV than primetime entertainment shows on the broadcast networks---a lot more.

  4. Charlene Weisler from Writer, Media Consultant: replied, October 19, 2017 at 2:52 p.m.

    I don't think anyone will go out of business but I do think there will be a bit of pain as legacy media adapts to the new ad tech world. Think of how print has had to retrench and then adapt. And is print back to where they were before? Not yet.

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 19, 2017 at 6:11 p.m.

    Charlene, I tend to agree with you about "legacy TV" types having some hard lessons to learn about digital before they can effectively adapt to it. We might also note that the digital "side" is facing similar issues as it appempts to intrude on to traditional TV turfs in both the time buying and, more recently, the "original content" arenas. It has been made amply clear that "programmatic" buying as practised, sometimes disastrously, in digital doesn't fly in "linear", though this is not to say current TV time buying and selling behavior is perfect---far from it. And as the digital "big boys" start investing those huge sums on program content, thinking that this will lure large amounts of TV ad dollars, they will have some really difficult issues to deal with.

  6. John Grono from GAP Research, October 20, 2017 at 7:29 a.m.

    Wow.   'Cord-nevers' rose +5.8% in a year.   Neat trick to outpace population growth.

    Once you have been 'corded' you can't revert to being a 'cord never'.   Rogue sample maybe?   Unclear question in the survey?   Probably just sampling variance that is being reported as a fact - an impossible fact at that.

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