TV & Online: Convergence or Collision?

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In the digital tech space, we’re already seeing radical changes in television as it begins to converge more and more with the online world. Think about the massive transformation that TV has already gone through – starting with the humble video recorder to the range of connected satellite / cables boxes and gaming consoles – fundamental changes that TV is now more or less just a monitor. Not so very long ago, TV used to be considered the “lean back” medium and digital as “lean forward.” But, this no longer seems to apply as we increasingly use multiple connected devices to watch TV content and that large screen in the home is often hijacked by our game-playing teenagers. So, what’s going on? Is TV having an identity crisis or are we finally at a point of convergence or collision?

MediaMind recently held its annual Digital Experience Day (DED) 2011, a global summit series held in North America, Europe and Asia, that brought together leading industry leaders and experts to explore the consumer changes that are happening now. We explored the interactive and social experience that TV now provides. TV no longer offers a passive, social experience where one has to huddle around the same set and fight for the remote control. In fact, traditional ways of viewing television are now competing with the plethora of tablet devices on the market that keeps viewers entertained and occupied from just about anywhere they choose. But it’s not just about replacing the larger screen with smaller ones, we are increasingly bonded around quality content – from TV shows to interactive games – and utilizing Social Networks to fulfill those real-time experiences and discussions between multiple viewers scattered across numerous living spaces.

Recent research from Nielsen shows that the average US home with a cable subscription receives 130 channels and yet tunes in to only 18 channels. That means 86% of these channels are never watched, suggesting that channel surfing is dead; challenging costly cable subscription models. And yet, of the $500 billion in global advertising, TV advertising still takes the lion’s share. By 2015, it’s expected that 50% of Internet users will watch TV content through online connections.

But that’s not to say TV as we know it is dead; quite the opposite. TV has a quality and scale that digital has yet to achieve. We will always need linear video content, but we just won’t need to consume it in the same way that we used to. We are now in the beginning stages of the marriage between online and offline. And for this to work out successfully, TV planners need to understand how digital works and vice versa. We are already seeing agencies using an iGRP to buy reach across media channels to maximize cost-efficiencies. These agencies are hoping to have completely integrated media buying teams within 18 months.

It’s both a convergence and a collision. On one side, we have a chance to reset our thinking and talk about enhancing the branding mechanism by overlaying interactive experiences via a mobile device and measure TV content through real-time social discussions such as comments on Facebook and/or Twitter. Yet the danger is as we seek to measure TV in the way we do online, it runs the risk of squeezing TV advertising budgets to the likes of online DR forced to justify spend via call to action. There are interesting times ahead for the whole media community and it certainly was the hot topic of debate at DED as we debated through the challenges of moving towards app-driven Smart TVs.

This guest post was written by Dean Donaldson, Global Director of Media Innovation, MediaMind. Dean and I often meet at different international conferences and events to chat about the future of the web world. You can read my view on the DED2011 in the post The multiscreen world is evolving.

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