Online video is the new TV. Poor old Philo T. Farnsworth. He must be rolling in his grave with all the news about the “demise of TV.” Since visual entertainment is now available literally anywhere, given the right connection and device, who needs to rot in a La-Z-Boy in front of the Zenith console?
Lots of people, actually. And that’s my point. I’m not defending the Time Warners and DirecTVs of the world–their greed and self-interest is substantial and well-documented. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. After all, without TV, where would Hulu, iTunes, YouTube and even Netflix get the bulk of their content? Who’s generating all this worthwhile entertainment, anyway? You know as well as I do that 90% of the “content” on YouTube is unwatchable narcissism.
Yes, a sliver of the population has such defined and narrow viewing habits (and technological savvy) that they can subsist on internet viewing alone, but the vast majority of the country is still tube-loyal. Take me, for example. I don’t watch a LOT of TV (maybe 60-90 min/day), but scroll through my DVR and you’ll quickly see that the stuff I watch is eclectic and largely unavailable online. I’ve got PBS miniseries, History Channel documentaries, travel shows, “Primeval” from BBC America, the entire last season of “Lost” and a recent Spongebob marathon stacked up on there. And even if all 200 hours (it’s shameful, I know) of it WERE available online, it would be Quite the Hassle (setup/wiring/downloading/streaming/buffering, etc.). And the viewing experience on my searing hot laptop or in the swivel chair in my home office just can’t match the bliss of the aforementioned La-Z-Boy and a Logitech universal remote.
I don’t mind TV getting a run for its (and my) money, though, just as cable forced the networks to respond in the 80s. But for now, more people still tune in to any given episode of “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” than even the most-viewed offering from inexplicable YouTube sensation Fred. And for that reason, corporate America, don’t turn your back on that flatscreen just yet. For all the fawning over social media, podcasting, viral marketing and webinars, one well-executed TV spot will get the word out faster and to more people. Yes, I know it’s “one way” communication. Yes, I know it’s not a “dialogue.” But we’re not asking for feedback or a comment string–the only response we want to trigger is a purchase.
What brought all this on? Nostalgia, partly. Recalling the “good old days” of writing and producing McDonald’s TV spots back in Chicago, back when media planners merely had to juggle TV, radio, outdoor and print. Plus the more time I spent setting up our YouTube channel today, the more indignant I felt at TV’s ongoing loss of stature.
Here at Strategic Insights, we’re not clinging to our Victrolas and 8-tracks and recommending through misty eyes that our clients dump their entire budgets into the Yellow Pages–we embrace all manner of media, classic and emerging. Hey, if it reaches an audience, we’ll throw in in the mix where appropriate. But if you really want to reach your target, you have to know where they are. And these days, on Sunday nights at 8pm, this particular consumer is bathed in the comforting glow of his Hitachi, catching Merlin with his boys.
And you know what? We even watch most of the commercials.
Update: Oddly enough, my DVR skipped “Merlin” last Sunday. What would I have done without Hulu? And the predictions of TV’s demise continue.