The current state of the television industry can be compared to the idiom, “Is the glass half empty or half full? The pessimistic view is that the end is nigh and television is on a steady decline with internet technology as its biggest threat. But there are many who take the optimistic “glass half full” approach and are looking for opportunities for television online.
Television’s once unassailable mass media dominance has been significantly reduced in recent years as networks have been squeezed by falling rates and the fragmentation their once loyal audiences.
Viewers can now choose between a growing number of digital channels, subscription TV and internet downloads of their favourite programs. They can skip the ads using personal video recorders like FoxtelIQ and TiVo, or once gain by downloading the programs.
And that’s not to mention the multitude of other devices competing for viewers attention, especially as new generations are being raised glued to mobile devices and 2 minute videos on YouTube.
The sun has set on television’s glory years and many in the industry lament its steady demise. These are dire times.
Or are they?
The other view is that we could be entering a new period of opportunity for the television industry, especially by getting into bed with one of the industries main threats….the Internet.
Increasingly, we will see more sport broadcast live online. Already in the USA ESPN broadcasts thousands of hours of live sport online via their ESPN360 service. They consider it a full-fledged TV network that is delivered through the Internet. ESPN360 is covering 3500 live events this year and have more than 25 rights deals with various sports.
ESPN’s philosophy is that people want to watch sport wherever they are. Rather than limiting consumers to television, ESPN believe in “best-available screens”, providing viewers with more options. Its working, because ESPN360 no has 24 million subscribers.
Here in Australia we are beginning to see the industry exploring these new opportunities.
ABC has enjoyed solid success with their iView offering, allowing viewers to catch up on key programs. By the end of 2009 the fledgling iView service had racked up some interesting statistics.
ABC iView had more than 6m views between April and November 2009, with an average of about 600,000 visits to iView per month. In November, there were 286,000 visitors and 1.054 million visits to ABC iView. And video downloads of ABC content had amounted to 7 million.
Hybrid Television Services is a new division of the Seven Network. Their aim is to create new distribution and advertising strategies for Seven to continue earning revenue by filling the screens in Australia’s homes.
Hybrid has been using a system called Content and Services Platform Asia (CASPA) to organise video content into genres and then deliver via TiVo. The viewer selects the program they want then can choose to pay for it themselves or have it “paid for” by a relevant sponsor. If it is sponsor “funded” then the viewer accepts advertising at the start and end of the program.
Sponsors also have the potential to create their own programming, Ie cooking lessons by a food manufacturer or retailer, that the viewer can then choose as the relationship moves broadcasting to a more direct relationship.
Hybrid see potential in moving into other mobile and gaming devices with this technology as they can deliver CASPA to any internet connected device, beyond Australia and into Asia.
Elsewhere, former executives and broadcast talent are seeing potential in servicing the fragmented niches.
evoTV is a new internet-based station, run by former TV executives, aimed at time poor business professionals “Where business and finance meets reality TV, branded content and entertainment”. They deliver high quality business content in close consultation with the community of viewer they serve. Furthermore, this online station is already profitable.
Increasingly it seems that many in the television industry are seeing the internet as their potential salvation rather than the enemy. As IPTV moves towards reality in Australia we should see the industry embracing innovative new ways to deliver content, marketing messages and engage audiences…wherever they may be.
Maybe the television glass is half full after all.