Set Your Dial: TV Won't Die, It Will Adjust

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of TV’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

In whatever form — broadcasting’s Big Four, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, or Jeff Katzenberg’s NewTV — television is alive and well.

Yes, cord-cutting is a reality. The viewing habits of millennials and Gen Z differ from baby boomers. Still, Americans watch a lot of linear TV.  Even putting popular sitcoms or dramas aside, live sports draws millions of viewers.

The billion-dollar fight for eyeballs surpasses Google and Facebook. Per Nielsen, adults spent 45 minutes/day on social networks and 25 minutes watching video on mobile.

TV? That earned 4 hours and 46 minutes/day – up 21 minutes from February.

Also, for advertisers, linear TV remains a key source for pushing products. Netflix doesn’t have ads. Premium YouTube doesn’t, either.  To compete, rivals will have to devise a less expensive alternative to the 30-second spot. (Traditional TV is creating various options, as well.)

True, the medium, in content and ownership, is changing — all in a fight to survive.

Earlier this month, shareholders from Disney and 21st Century Fox approved Disney’s $71 billion purchase of Fox’s film and television assets.  Many analysts assumed the deal was to shore up Disney’s competition with powerhouse Netflix.

To keep subscribers, Netflix depends on engaging content. Disney wants to stop the supply on its end. By keeping Fox’s inventory, it will keep its cross-demo audiences. If Disney wants to stream Fox shows, it will do so on its own subscription VOD services.

Separately, movie-wise, Disney can proceed with Fox’s four “Avatar” sequels, which boast mass appeal.  And which will, inevitably, reappear on TV.

This is not to suggest there isn’t cause for concern. Experts forecast a 64% increase in cord-cutters in the next three years. But it’s also true television provides a certain kind of escapism. Viewers watch news, shows or sports without searching.

Conversely, one can spent 20 minutes just trying to decide what to watch on digital.

Video killed the radio star, but TV is harder to kill than print.

7 comments about "Set Your Dial: TV Won't Die, It Will Adjust".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, August 31, 2018 at 10:26 a.m.

    Advertising was the only way for people to learn about products and services in the days before Google search, just as Sears was a necessity before Amazon. Consumers never really wanted commerce pushed on them any more than viewers ever wanted to watch without searching for something better. Humans are not passive vessels. As reasoning beings, they eventually tire of packaged, programmed TV when there are other options. Imagine if someone told you what you could eat and when. The only reason linear TV is not dead, aside from day-and-date events, is that not everyone has a portable broadband connection yet.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 31, 2018 at 12:56 p.m.

    The main reason why "linear TV" has survived, Douglas is the fact that it offers a far greater diversity of program content that alternative venues and there are a lot of people out there who like this and want the flexibility this affords them. Also, your basic premise---that everyone hates commercials---is simply not born out by the research.

  3. Judson Beck from Nexstar, August 31, 2018 at 2:27 p.m.

    some good points, but why do you equate cord cutting with a threat to television?  We are all putting a lot of money into upgrading and maintaining a gorgeous OTA signal...much better than what viewers get from cable or satellite and of course, it's free.  Cord cutting does not likely mean loss of viewers for broadcasters. 

  4. Scott Howard from SCLOHO, September 2, 2018 at 1:03 p.m.

    We are in a battle of changes that go beyond what the article mentions.  The term Television used to refer to local broadcast TV stations who survived and thrived by selling advertising to local businesses. Programming included a mix of local and network shows.  Television now seems to include anything that you watch on a screen and the battle is going to affect local broadcast TV stations.  On one side are those that watch programs on their own timetable via on-demand services that DO NOT INCLUDE LOCAL ADS.  This hurts the local TV stations.  The flip side is people cutting the cord and reverting to OTA to reduce their monthly bills.  The question will come down to which one wins... will local broadcast viewership (complete with local ads) grow? or will the the on demand trend (featuring no local ad revenue) grow?

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 3, 2018 at 5:56 p.m.

    Scott, I agree with you that the issue is still in doubt. But just a point. It was the TV networks, not the stations, who led the way regarding many programming initiatives, getting Nielsen operational to meassure audiences, opening up new time slots like the early mornings and late evenings, etc. so TV is not just about stations, its very, very much about networks, including the many cable channels and syndicators. National TV ad spending is larger that local market ad spending so let's not leave the big boys out of the qame.

  6. Scott Howard from SCLOHO replied, September 3, 2018 at 6:19 p.m.

    True, the national ad spending may be larger overall, but as a local broadcaster myself, on the radio side, there is a local purpose to broadcast TV and radio.  Local newspapers have been hurting for quite some time which means less local news staff due to smaller operating budgets due to smaller ad revenue.

    Television viewing shifts will happen no matter what, and I am concerned about the fate of local TV content, is more of my point.   Even when I worked in a top 10 media market (Detroit) the local media was just as (perhaps more) important as the national.

  7. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 3, 2018 at 6:51 p.m.

    Scott, as I recall, the local sales manager at most major market TV stations was far more important than the national sales guy who relied heavily on reps to collect business. I think that this is still true today

    Returning to the point, the battle that is raging between the digital school and the "linear TV" folks  is being fought out very aggressively on the national stage with the TV networks and many advertisers finally becoming aware of digital media's many shorcomings. It took years for them to wise up but the result has been several fairly upbeat "upfronts" despite predictions of TV's demise. I wonder how aggressively the stations have been in educating local-regional advertisers about the "wild west" situation that exists in digital media? I should add that the likely outcome will be that both "sides" will adapt, and eventaully meld together, so it won't be an "either-or" matter.

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