Predicting the future is hard, and Luke is not the only one to make these predictions. Indeed, when we started MetaBroadcast back in 2007 I used to hold similar views, only with a more aggressive timescale! Since then, my views have mellowed. You can put that down to experience, or to age. Or maybe reading lots of the Ad Contrarian blog, where Bob Hoffman has been checking in on the so called Death of TV for the last decade. Not heeding my own warnings about predicting the future, I’m going to try to give some reasons why Luke’s prophecy may not come true:
few technologies ever fully go away
Technologies rarely fully replace their predecessors. We have radio and TV, we have mobile and fixed line phones, we have digital music and records, we have phones/tablets and PCs, we have messaging apps and email. In each case, the predecessors shrink in importance, but they keep a niche, eg radio in the car, fixed line phones, PCs and email for work, records for hipsters. So, it’s not a question of whether TV will die, it’s a question of whether TV will be a historic curiosity of nostalgic value, or continue to be a major force.
it’s pretty good
Fundamentally, linear TV still gives a lot of people what they want. You turn it on, it shows you stuff that’s been picked by professionals for that time of day. Let’s face it, most of us really aren’t that interesting, and like broadly the same entertaining stuff as everyone else. If you are different, you’re certainly an edge case. Sure, occasionally you miss stuff. Now we have DVRs and catchup to fix that problem.
fixed schedules are a feature
We’ve noticed that VoD viewing start times peak on the hour and the half hour. It makes sense. People are planning a time to sit down and watch a show. For many people, having that time dictated to you is not a big issue.
live is good
The biggest shows on TV are live events. Think the World Cup Final, the Olympics, the Superbowl, major news stories, big televised gigs, royal weddings, the X Factor and The Voice, even the premiere of a major show, or a big plot development in a soap. Fundamentally we like to be part of the same thing as lots of other people. Maybe not all the time, but quite often. Sometimes in person, and sometimes via messaging or social media. Linear TV is a natural fit for live events.
even facebook think live is good
So it must be good! In fact it almost sounds like Mark Zuckerberg invented live video. It’s one thing to post a photo in your timeline, it’s another thing to stream a video of something cool you’re getting up to. It just has that much more power if it’s live.
age has less to do with it
Sure, linear TV skews towards the old, but long term studies show that every generation goes through a low period in live TV watching during their twenties and early thirties. Each generation comes out the other end, in many cases with children of their own, finding that TV is a good and convenient source of entertainment. I’ve seen several such studied, but can’t find a reference right now. I’ll update this post if I find it.
people are motivated to keep it good
TV remains a massive industry and, despite the success of Netflix, the classic linear business model remains the biggest game in town. The industry has a pretty good record of fixing issues proactively. In the last 30 years we’ve seen the spread of subscription TV to increase choice, more premium sport, more shiny floor shows and other made for TV events, a trend towards factual entertainment, the DVR, catchup, and a big focus on kids TV as a nanny. There’s more incremental innovations to come, especially as audiences start to slip. This means any drop is likely to be slower and smaller than many would predict.
and the prediction?
My view is that viewing of traditional TV channels will drop substantially over the next decade, but they will still be a big part of our lives. The big question is one of UX, rather than audience needs or technology. With good incremental innovation, TV based around linear channels can remain relevant for at least the next few decades.
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