Mar 4, 2009

TV Is Dead! Long Live TV!


When we say “TV is dead” we don’t mean no one’s watching it. People are watching more TV. But TV itself isn’t just dying, it’s dead, And has been for quite a while.

How can that be?

Because when we media and marketing types talk about “TV” we’re talking about a closed system of three (four if you count PBS) networks that broadcast live video content and that system began its death spiral with the expansion of cable networks in the early 1990s. And while many people are obviously still tuning in to watch NBC at 8 PM, the days when you could count on the vast majority of American households to be parked in front of one of those three networks on a nightly basis are long gone.

I’ve often written about how social media is a behavior, rather than a series of websites. And so is TV. But here, the behavior is watching long-form video content. And that’s increasing, not decreasing.

Why? Because we have more places to watch it. We can watch “TV” (or long form video content) on our DVRs. On Hulu and TV.com. On various network and series websites. On iTunes. Even on DVD.

People still like watching long form video content. When done well, it’s both entertaining and relaxing. And while the occasional misguided soul still talks about how we’re going to be interacting with our video programming, clicking to buy clothing from the characters on Law & Order rather than actually following the plot, or ignoring long-form video content altogether, that’s just not happening. Like Peter Sellers’ Chauncy Gardener in Being There, most of us just like to watch. And the fact that we’ve got more places to watch just means we’re watching more.

Now how to sell advertising in this new environment and how much to charge for it is a riddle that still needs to be figured out.

But the behavior itself? That’s here to stay. (As is the name: we seem comfortable enough referring to all of this long-form video content as "TV" even if we're watching it on our iPhones.)

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