TV is dead. TV still king. News at 11.

I taught an undergraduate seminar on broadcasting policy a couple of years ago. I began the proceedings with one of my cheap attention-getters. “Broadcasting is dead. So what are we going to do for the rest of the year?”

The question wasn’t entirely rhetorical then and still isn’t today. In this post, I’m going to look at three very different points of view on the state of television: from the forecasters at New York’s leading media investment bank; the firm that founded market research; and the irrepressible Brady Gilchrist, Richard Stursberg’s new media nemesis.

Media investment bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson has an impressive record for its long-term forecasts in consumer and B2B media. In its 2009 Mid-Term Forecast, released in February, VSS looked at 20 communications industry segments and found that the two worst performers in 2009 (measured by “media spend”) will be newpaper publishing, contracting by 16.2%, and broadcast television, contracting by 9.0%. No surprise on item one, with all the recent news about newspapers disappearing in major markets like San Fransisco, especially as newspapers were already posting negative growth of 13.5% in 2008.

Broadcast TV is more of a shocker, partly because TV growth stayed almost flat in 2008 (dropping 0.5%). As always, this kind of decline is meaningful only when you look at how other media channels have been doing over the same period. Badly. VSS claims that ad spending across all media will drop 7.4% this year, the first 2-year decline in 75 years. Even the big growth segment, Pure-Play Internet & Mobile Services (aka digital media), is now expected to grow at a much slower rate in 2009 than VSS forecast last August. They’ve revised their forecast down from 15.5% to 9.1%.

As the wag said, there are no facts in the future. But it’s hard to argue with the two main reasons offered by VSS for their numbers. Traditional media segments are facing i) competitors that offer “stronger proof-of-performance and ROI metrics at lower price points”… and ii) fragmentation of consumers and brand strategies across “multiple venues and platforms.” 

But elsewhere in New York, other big names in media measurement are putting out a very different message. Last Thursday (March 26), the Council for Research Excellence (CRE) released the results of its “pioneering” Video Consumer Mapping Study – a year-long effort costing US$3.5 million. Although the CRE is funded by The Nielsen Company, it operates independently – and Nielsen is now a $5 billion operation with interests in every conceivable facet of both old and new media.

Mediaweek headlines its article on the new study “TV Still King” – and opens with a sardonic reference to “all the fuss over new media.” The study found, as Mediaweek puts it, that “advertising on TV is alive and well,” and viewers are exposed to an average of 72 minutes a day of TV ads and promos. The study also found that – in the US at least – consumers spend a measly two minutes a day watching free TV on the Internet and not even a full minute watching mobile video. Meanwhile, those VSS forecasts estimate mobile content will grow by 34.2% in 2009. Holy wireless ARPU, Batman! The carriers have their work cut out for them this year.

Over at TV Week, where you might expect enthusiasm over, well, TV, the headline was “TV Still on Top.” They point out that when you do the 3-screen analysis, it turns out 99% of all video consumption happens on traditional TVs.

Both the VSS and CRE efforts noted here are confined to American TV. In Canada, we have a whole other set of headaches developing out of misbegotten attempts to fix what’s wrong with the old media, instead of encouraging what’s right with the new media. In his “doo-doo” comment on my previous post, Stursberg summed up the old media school of thought thusly: “If the old media crash and burn, there will be very little for all those cool new apps to manipulate. And then people will say to new media: why bother.”

And now Richard’s nemesis from the IN09 panel, Brady Gilchrist, gets his kick at the can, new media style, in the presentation below. Next week my students will have the good fortune to rub elbows with Brady right in the classroom. Afterwards, look for a debriefing here on whether television is still dead.

2 thoughts on “TV is dead. TV still king. News at 11.

  1. TV is dead. TV is alive. Let’s say for argument’s sake it’s somewhere in between. Regardless of which end of the spectrum is correct, it’s clear broadcast television is changing. In order to keep advertisers, and thus revenue, what will broadcasters do? Lower ad prices? Or perhaps as advertisers make the switch to more profitable options for their buck (think Budweiser on MTV.ca), will ads become more and more market-specific to the audiences still tuning into traditional broadcast media? I think it would be useful to see not only how many people are tuning into TV versus the Internet – but WHY they tune into broadcast television as opposed to the Internet.

  2. Traditional media is dependent on advertising revenue and alters its content to please the advertisers. In new media, content is created freely without having to bow to any particular corporation’s agenda. It is not a discussion of content and originality, but of $$$$. Brady Gilchrist is right: old models need to be thrown out as media evolves from its old form to the new. I am not worried however, I’m certain once broadcasting companies figure out how to make billions of dollars online they will give it their seal of approval.

    Pssst. Stursberg, maybe you should move your stocks into app development.

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