Looking Back

MAY 17, 2009 - It's been about a year since MediaPost officially changed the name of the TV Board to the Video Board (and also began publishing it on Sundays) and I find myself waxing nostalgic for the simple pleasure of kicking back and watching the cool medium of television. The name change no doubt was necessary, but who would have thought when we launched this discussion board of industry thought leaders back in 2006 that television would go the way of the telegraph and become one of the few mass media to actually become extinct?

The turning point came 18 months ago when Google acquired Gemstar TV Guide and merged the universal remote control with its Universal Search service, once and for all ending the need for channel surfing or dial flipping. Old habits die hard. My right thumb still twitches with phantom muscle memory every time I pick up my Apple iRemote to change the channel -- er, video screen platform -- even though the nifty new device relies solely on a retinal interface. And I'll never get used to those Eyebuds. I don't care how freakin' cool they look, they keep falling out.



Now that the nation's broadcasters have all finally converted to digital spectrum there is actually no need for broadcast, cable or even satellite TV. Google's server farms simply spider the content directly from the master control systems of local stations, and the satellite uplinks of networks reroute video programming to the screen of a user's choice. The debate over "live only" vs. "live plus" ratings ended with the demise of the major broadcast networks, and even I am amazed that no one saw that coming -- except Geico, which picked up an option on the "Cavemen" show -- now the nation's most-downloaded, according to Microsoft//NetRatings -- when ABC canceled it after only four episodes.

While I miss the writings of the original TV Board team -- Jack Myers, Mitch Oscar, and Mike Bloxham -- I'm pleased to see their Marx Brothers project (guess who plays Harpo?) has moved from Off-Broadway and is being developed as a multi-platform property by another former board member, Lydia Liozides, now head of development at the Interpublic Group of Talent Agencies. Don't get me wrong, the new Video Board contributors are great, but I hate having to fill in for Ken Auletta at the last minute when he blows another deadline. And don't even get me started about Malcolm Gladwell.

All these changes, sadly, could have been anticipated if only I hadn't waited two years to actually read Steven J. Fredericks' "StrAdegy: Advertising In The Digital Age," the book written by the WPP/Nielsen chief back when he was still running a unit of TNS. It was the title that fooled me. I thought it was just another book about the challenges facing the ad industry. I didn't realize it was really a guidebook for the future of media content and consumption. Also, Fredericks got his timing wrong. He was right about how people would ultimately use media, but his "Consumer: 2015" scenario happened far sooner than anyone might have guessed.

"They live most of their media lives on multiple screens and sort content into three parts: video, text and audio," Fredericks prophesized. "The device on which the information arrives is irrelevant because they toggle back and forth among them all throughout the day. Video plays a key part of the entertainment world, although these consumers consider the notion of 'appointment television' to be quaint at best. These consumer manage their TV viewing through home technology systems."

Oops, gotta go now. I've got some incoming text replies on the last minute fill-in I did for Jonah Bloom's Saturday Riff.

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