Broadcast TVs Demise More Fiction Than Fact

Considering I am in the online video industry, some may say I am crazy for not wanting to follow the bandwagon that wants to shout from the top of their lungs that TV is all but dead. Yes, I get the impact online video is having on traditional broadcasters on many fronts, but when folks like the NY Times publish articles proclaiming that "TV is becoming obsolete", then the industry is setting everyone’s expectations incorrectly. TV is anything but obsolete.

Online video is having a huge impact on the way content is created, marketed and consumed, but distributing video online is not replacing traditional broadcast programming. I know some are under the impression that one day your computer will become your TV, but that’s not going to happen and we all know the Internet can’t even support those kind of numbers when it comes to viewers all watching a show at the same time. For all the talk of the writers strike and some of the data that has been put out saying that more people have gone online for videos, that does not change the fact that most of the content on TV is not available on the Internet.

I have over 60 season passes in TiVo. Going through all of them yesterday, more than 90% of the shows I watch are not available online anywhere. And the ones that are, like content from CBS and NBC, do not show up right after they are broadcast and typically take days if not longer to appear on the web. And in the case of something like 60 Minutes, one story alone is chopped up into 10 different video segments on their website and encoded at a pretty low bitrate. And sports, well forget that. No NFL games are available on-demand the next day online and while the MLB games are, it requires a subscription.

The demise of the TV is overrated and many in the industry keep saying the same thing as if they have to say it just to be cool. I keep hearing people in our space says things like "I don’t even need a TV anymore, I’ll just watch all my video online". Or, "there was nothing on TV last night so I went online to watch video". Nothing on TV? I don’t know about you but I have hundreds of channels and can always find something to watch. I don’t have hundreds of channels on the web of professionally produced content. It reminds me of the time when people in the industry had to use the word "convergence" or "broadband" in every single sentence they used as they were convinced that others would think that since they used those words they must "get it".

No one is throwing out their TV. And those who don’t watch TV, probably never really did to begin with, as opposed to people who want to use them as an example and say that online video is the reason. The TV is not going anywhere and way too often in our society people want to talk about one thing replacing another, instead of being a compliment to it. The TV did not replace the radio. Internet video is not going to replace the TV. P2P delivery is not going to replace all CDN delivery. These things are all complements to one another. We should see the TV for what it is, just another way to get different kinds of content for various viewing experiences.

  • Good insights, thank you.
    I sure hope that nobody is predicting the “demise” of broadcast, that would be stupid. Heck, AM radio is still popular in lots of rural areas due to its long broadcast range.
    Although I would agree that the new wave of consumer level web video technology that we’ve seen in the past few years has significantly increased the pace of web video adoption. I believe one of those technologies to be the release of FlashPlayer w/ Flash Video Support because it meant every webpage could have video that anyone could play in their browser w/out messing w/ codec’s. I also believe RSS has provided another framework which has vastly increased the rate of web video adoption.
    While I’m impressed by the growth rates for web video content, I wouldn’t ever think that it would replace broadcast. Especially since HD over rabbit ears looks awesome 🙂
    Travis Stoliker

  • Its pretty sad to watch the media try to apply sensationalist reporting tactics to a measurable phenomenon like technology- yet media will always continue to do just that. Anecdotes and sound bytes win the day.
    I think that a more astute insight than ‘TV is dead’ would be ‘new people entering the youth age demographic consume less broadcast TV than the preceding generation’ and how that trend will affect TV in the future.
    But that requires too much analysis for an NYT article so we probably won’t see it in that venue.

  • Dan, I’m not sure that internet video consumption is to TV what TV was to radio. I think it’s more like speaking films to silent films, walkman to radio, mp3 to walkman, iphone to mp3, etc. – simply brings in something powerful and enchanting: community features, stumbling upon (in a wider scale than a hundred channels could provide stumbling – increasing ‘stumblability’ through the highest number of topics, keywords and ratings, comments), etc. The demise is going to be gradual, but it is a definite demise, I think.
    2 keywords: Choice & Quality:
    TV means narrow choice and good quality. Online video means wide choice and – mostly – bad quality.
    But quality is moving to online: still struggling with low quality home movies, pirate versions, etc. But every major TV is trying to make good deals for the internet. And sort of learn the online lingo.
    TV is now defined as a method – a method of selecting channels, programs. TV is not a stand-alone entity any more. It’s a method of choice for good quality videos in major topics. And this method is not needed any more. Not this way. TV choice is controlled by a couple of TV professionals, boards, and rough unreliable stats (viewer rates) – theoretically reflected in program edits.
    Internet ‘TV’ is, in this interpretation, another type of choice: no boards, no restricted editors? Yes, boards, and editors PLUS friends, fans, the mass votes, views, & comments – immediately available stats for the Viewers, not for the TV editorial boards. Admittedly, there is still no ideal solution for community-based navigation combined by professional editorial choices – joost could have had it, but missed the point.
    OK, I could go on and on.

  • Nice relevant post Dan. It’s good follow up to your July 19, 2007 post:
    While I agree that niche markets for online-only viewer experiences are opening up, I think we’re seeing viewing habits that have really changed with the advent of social networking.
    I also think that traditional broadcast TV has the real audience numbers, a strong brand loyalty to network TV programming, an easier to use interface, an efficient content delivery system, and of course the incredible quality of Hi-Def content.
    “Planet Earth” in 1080i looks amazing on my HDTV. Tell me where I can see that quality on the web and I’ll help spread the word.

  • Shelon Padmore

    IP TV is the future. No question about it.
    – Shelon Padmore