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The future of TV

Kyle Montero
The future of TV Kyle Montero

Naturally, digital marketing is chock-full of predictions. Wrapping your head around the future makes it easier to move forward. But predictions can be problematic. "The death of TV" has been uttered throughout the industry for years. The phrase is now outdated and redundant, and marketers who adopt this oversimplified forecast should start predicting the demise of their careers. TV is not on its death path because viewers continue to provide its lifeblood. And, according to Nielsen, North American TV ad investment increased by 13.6 percent in the third quarter of 2012, making "television advertising the favored media through which to communicate with consumers."

Rather than show signs of its own demise, TV appears more than capable of evolving into something new with the help of internet-related activities. Audience fragmentation is not a bad thing when consumers are sharing the content they love across devices, revolutionizing the way marketers can engage with their audience. In order to keep pace with change, marketers must ditch their traditional TV playbook to meet the demands of a future beyond the main screen. Seth Haberman, founder and CEO of Visible World, discussed the power of video and detailed a future beyond what's possible today during his keynote address at the iMedia Video Summit in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

According to Haberman, "Man is a storytelling animal. We are wired to narrative." Because stories have a fixed ending, audiences are able to submit to the narrative without the need to interject their own thinking. As a result, viewers empathize greatly with the story, connecting on a deep, meaningful level. Consequently, Haberman explained, advertisers have to remember that their marketing content can "destroy the emotional connection" between the story and the viewer. Because of this strong bond, video continues to dominate, with consumers viewing "144 hours and 54 minutes of video per month." 

Haberman also discussed the issue of audience fragmentation -- mainly, that there are many more devices than we could have ever imagined. One of the things this has caused is a dramatic decline in ratings. However, fragmentation has two faces."Each time we know that someone is watching with their device on a train, that little bit of information can help us market an ad at them; it can help us reach them," said Haberman. As a result, there are those in the industry that believe we don't need mass media. We can make the transition to a very fragmented world because technology will "knit it back together."

According to Haberman, this is not the case because "there is just too much value in mass reach today. There are too many companies whose products are oriented for being sold on TV that it just outweighs any opportunity for targeting." In addition, TV is fighting back by focusing on sports and live programming (to maintain consistent, large audiences), bundling the linear and non-linear (to put together what fragmentation drove apart), and rebalancing advertising and subscription. 

Haberman then addressed the question of why advertisers pay more for larger shows: "Why should a viewer of the Super Bowl cost more money than a viewer of 'Burn Notice?'" The answer is found by examining the "three-degree rule."

"We are influenced by our friends, our friends' friends, and our friends' friends' friends," Haberman said. "Anything further than three degrees and our networks become unstable." So, the larger shows create more opportunities for conversations because mass TV audiences are no longer linear -- they are connected. The value of a mass audience is in the mass connections it creates.

Haberman concluded his presentation by addressing nature versus nurture. If everyone was isolated, would we like the things we like today? According to Haberman, it is human nature to like something more because our friends like it. When you factor in a fragmented world, individuals are able to discover exactly what they like while being influenced by their connections. Clearly, audience fragmentation is not the death of TV.

To summarize his presentation, Haberman urged marketers to "be careful when using narrative," making sure their messages are not disruptive. He explained that "just aggregating audiences will not replace large mass programs and the connections they generate."

Kyle Montero is associate editor of iMedia Connection.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Kyle Montero


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