My kids are often quite happy to watch TV online, especially if someone else has dibs on the big screen HDTV and their other option is the 32” Sony Trinitron in the basement. And I’ve noticed that they don’t make much of a distinction between the two screens anymore: the laptop is just one more place to watch TV, and it doesn't suck because watching TV can be combined with checking email and NBA scores.
This is, I am quite certain, the wave of the future, where TV, rather than being dead or archaic, is just another thing you do online. People like watching TV. It’s a behavior that goes back thousands of years, probably back to the first variety shows with singing and dancing and music back in our cave dweller days.
And so when TV is just another part of the internet, how does that affect marketing? Hulu offers us a clue: free programming comes with built in commercials. The site tells you just how long the commercial block is and counts out the time. That concession alone makes sitting through a spot or two that much more tolerable. Add geographic and demographic targeting and you may even want to watch it.
TV-on-the-internet will enable transmedia advertising. That is, if we’re smart about it. So rather than expecting someone to click through to a product site before we find out who the killer really is, we might have a list of the show’s four advertisers during the final credits, so that if we saw something that intrigued us, we can learn more. We’ll also have more product placement in shows and tie-ins with online promotions for the actual shows themselves, since TV networks will have to advertise themselves a lot harder. (Without the “walled garden” of the cable box, it becomes a lot harder to find the Floor Refinishing Network.)
We may finally see the death of banners, too, as the dearth of click-through and availability of cheap and easy television access convinces marketers that there are more effective ways to annoy us.
TV-on-the-internet will enable some very cool news and sports sites, where long-form programming mixes with blogs, chat, Twitter, photography and print reporting to create a more complete experience.
And as we saw with the CNN/Facebook feed during the inauguration, the ability to bring our friends into the viewing process is going to prove quite popular, especially during events with equal amounts of drama and downtime (major league sports, entertainment industry award shows, reality shows.)
The biggest difference, looking ahead from 2009, is that TV will no longer be perceived as a separate medium, one to be alternately scorned and abused or praised and glorified, depending on which floor of the agency you happen to be sitting on.
It may not seem like much, but the effects will be breathtaking.