January 11, 2016

What Replaces Television?

The ad industry and the trade press can’t seem to understand that TV industry internals are not the same as consumer behavior.

They keep pointing to changes in the industry as evidence of the “death of television” or the “free fall in TV viewership.”

Yes, network share of viewership has declined. Yes, individual program ratings are going down.

But no, TV is not dying and viewership is not in free fall. Here's a chart from the website FiveThirtyEight:

Consumers are watching about as much TV as ever. And they don't care how it’s delivered to them.

As far as they’re concerned, whether they are watching video delivered over the air, through a cable, via an app, from a satellite, or on the web is about as interesting as whether their underwear gets to Walmart by train, truck or boat. As long as it’s there when they need it they couldn’t give a flying shit how it gets there.

Delivery systems are of no interest to consumers. All it is to them is confusion. They don’t care what pipe it comes through. They’ll get the pipe that gives them the best choice at the lowest price.

Every time I post a piece about TV, I get comments saying, "Yeah, people are watching TV, but they're not watching live TV, they're watching Netflix or YouTube or Amazon Prime, or...."


Popularity of "non-linear" TV is certainly growing, but it doesn't come close to live TV. I'm in a chart-making mood today, so here's a chart that shows what people are watching on their TVs. 

The data comes from Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group, one of the most respected analysts of the media business.
In 2008 I went unhinged on this blog and made a bizarre statement. I wrote, “television is the web’s killer app.” Turns out I was right. 70% of all web traffic is now streaming video.

Dave Pell put it best, “We’ve replaced television with television.”

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