TV: The Centre of Our Universe

This blog, which was originally published in MediaTel, was written by Rhys McLachlan in response to a column written by Dominic Mills, who suggests “digital zealots shut up about the demise of TV.”

In the early 1500s, the renowned Polish academic, Nicolaus Copernicus, had the temerity to suggest that the Earth was not in fact the centre of the known universe, and, contrary to popular opinion, it was highly probable that the Earth orbited the Sun.

For this outrageous thinking, Copernicus was ridiculed, and indeed some insisted that a stake burning was in order. Nobody likes a party pooper who challenges and disrupts the current convention.

It was increasingly with Copernicus in mind that I read the opening statements in Dominic Mills’ otherwise excellent article on the continued robust health for good ol’ TV.

According to Mills, ‘useful idiots’ abound; ‘zealots’ using their digital soapboxes to declare the end of TV as we know it. But that’s not how I see it.

As a technologist fond of pushing an evangelical agenda regarding the changes in media distribution and consumption, I was perplexed by Mills’ insistence that there is a movement, a collective, of digital fanatics heralding the death of TV.

I think we can safely box up the recent statements from Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, and Apple’s Tim Cook, as clearly they have vested interests of their own to promote. But Hastings and Cook aside, who are these modern day digital preachers reading the last rites of TV? Who is it that is declaring the death of TV?

Mills’ belligerent and quite vociferous slap-down of these folks feels heavy-handed and exaggerated; an angry charge at an empty windmill. As it relates to the UK TV market, few with true knowledge of the industry would suggest anything other than a prognosis for further, mid-term, good health.

That said, change is coming, as other key markets are already starting to indicate. While TV is likely to remain front and centre here in the UK, the truth is that it’s going to have to adapt to the new realities of consumer consumption.

In North America, continental Europe and down to APAC, we’re already seeing major shifts in video consumption habits, as technology has facilitated a multi-device approach to video viewing that is having a demonstrable impact on linear TV viewing.

Furthermore, cord-cutting is a reality, and the more progressive cable networks are meeting this challenge head-on by providing unwired access to their platforms, where linear streaming and catch-up VOD are supported by IP networks and, as such, these viewers are excluded from TV viewing panels.

Run a 1+ coverage report for key audience segments, in any EMEA market, and the evidence is there in black and white: there is a substantial and significant decline in TV viewing at the gross reach level.

To simply focus on a phantom enemy and consolidate around today’s good fortune is to ignore the very real change that is imminent - and exciting - for consumers and advertisers alike.

Mills contends: “Radio did not wipe out outdoor; TV did not wipe out radio or cinema; newspapers (sorry, newsbrands) did not wipe out magazines.”

This is an accurate observation, but one that fails to acknowledge that the internet - a technology, not a media - is rewriting (has re-written) the rules for all of them.

Classifieds anybody…? Local press…? Yellow pages…?

Let’s be clear, TV is still king. It remains the pre-eminent entertainment and marketing channel, and that’s why we’re all lining up for a slice of the action.

As digital specialists, we don’t sit in our product roadmap sessions thinking of engineering ‘TV killer’ products; rather we actively pursue a vision that is centred on turbo-charging TV by providing technology and integrations that will complement TV with the best that the digital world can offer.

This is what we do, this is where we are focused. And this is where we are seeing the most success: in engaging directly in the provision of technology, data-optimisation, converged planning and management platforms for major broadcast platforms and major TV-focused clients.

A newer, smarter dinosaur didn’t eat the smaller dinosaurs and thereby create an extinction event; a great comet came along and made a mess of everything.

If the dinosaurs had the benefit of Copernicus’ orbital thinking, then they may have seen the comet approaching.

TV’s not going extinct; it has seen the comet approaching and is adapting very well to accommodate its arrival.

This isn’t about the death of TV; this is about TV reimagined.

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