Dec 9, 2012

"TV" or "Video": A Rose By Any Other Name...

It is frequently debated nowadays whether “television” is still the right word for all the video entertainment we watch these days on a multitude of screens, given that so much of it comes from sources other than the main TV networks and is watched on devices other than a TV.

The suggestion is that we just start calling all this content “video.”

Logically it makes perfect sense. But logic and consumer behavior are rarely in sync.  in the mind of the consumer, the people using the product, the distinction is not as easily made. To them, “television” is high production, long-form video content, something that’s worthy of being watched up on the big screen, while “video” is of lower production value and, unless it involves one’s own pets or children, better viewed on a smaller, handheld device.

That, and television is always television, no matter where you watch it. Take in an episode of Seinfeld on your iPhone on the way home from work and you still tell people you were watching “television,” not “mobile video.”

And vice versa, if you were watching a YouTube video on your TV, you’d never think to call it “television.”

I just don’t seeing that changing any time soon: there just aren’t that many organizations with the resources to produce high end television series who also have the resources to distribute them in a way that ensures they earn back their investment. (e.g. AMC could produce Mad Men because they were taking the gamble that if the show succeeded, they’d make money in the way of higher annual fees from the MVPDs who carried the network. An independent YouTube channel has no such arrangements in place and needs to find an alternative business model.)

Which brings us around to the original point: even though it seems probable that a few of YouTube’s new channels will find that alternative business model and start producing high-quality television, viewers at home will not refer to the resulting high production quality, 30 or 60 minute programs as “video.”

They’ll still call it “TV.”

Because at that point they'll be only vaguely aware of where it came from, just where it went to.

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