I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of television lately as changes are charging ahead faster than we can keep up – or are they?
Three events have triggered this for me: 1, Every game of the NCAA Tournament will be broadcast this week (whether on CBS, TBS, TNT or, heavens to betsy, TruTV), the announcement that Netflix will start original programming (a show developed by “The Social Network” director David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey) and the introduction of a Time Warner Cable app in which you can watch TV on the iPad.
The old foggie in me thinks this is too much. The NCAA Tournament is becoming dangerously close to losing its cache because the scarcity is now gone (much like the NBA), for example.
But, in reality, it’s the right amount. The providers are catching up to viewers. For at least the last five years (and maybe longer), consumers have demanded having the control of choice instead of the providers making the choice. It used to be that you could only watch a TV program at a certain time. You could only watch a movie at a specific times and locations.
Now, it’s all controlled by the viewer. Apple, and its introduction of the iPod, changed everything. (Although, the introduction of the Internet also had something to do with it.) At that point, consumers could control their music – when and what, unlike listening to a radio station. I remember hearing a pitch for Sirius radio that was positioned against the iPod, saying you had so many choices on Sirius that you didn’t need an iPod.
Boy, was that stupid. The advantage of the iPod – other than its mobility – is that we choose the songs.
The same thing is happening in TV. The market is demanding that we must have access to all NCAA Tournament games. (Because we could view them on the Internet, anyway.) Netflix, the current leader in streaming video with 63% of the market, threatens every TV network (including HBO, FX, AMC and the rest) by offering original programming we can watch at any time and more easily. And the Time Warner app, while similar to other providers’ apps and limited in scope, demonstrates that we are not too far along from watching TV solely from a device sitting in our laps.
As a gadget nut, I welcome those days. I’m also interested that the providers are joining the fray, although the cable companies may be entering it too late. The Time Warner app is merely a dip in the pool. You have to be at home to watch and the number of channels are limited. That means the more aggressive providers, like Netflix, will pass them by.
The lesson: Listen to your audience, or they may just find a way around you. That is, of course, defined as market trends, but it also means you must be willing to adapt to change, including the changes that are existing within the customer, to survive. It’s the reason why so many companies and brands – Blockbuster? Kodak? – are becoming as extinct as the rabbit ears on the top of a TV set.