Here’s a thought with which to start the week: social media is what’s keeping the TV business in business. Nothing like a little provocation to start your day, right? So let me explain what I mean by that and then you can tell me why I’m full of it.
You’re probably aware that things have changed forever in the television business. While it hasn’t been a business driven primarily by ad revenues for some time (you don’t think most cable networks are in business due to the strength of their ad sales and audiences, do you?), what’s changed dramatically of late has been the growth of what I’ll call person as programmer. Obviously we’ve always had the chance to choose what we want to watch. What’s changed is now we can decide, for the most part, not only when we want to watch it but also on what device and from what source. Busy doing something during your favorite show’s air time? Not a problem. Your cable operator may have it on demand (usually for free) or it may be part of your Netflix or Hulu subscriptions. You can probably buy it in the iTunes store. And those are just some of the legal options – crossing over into torrent territory makes pretty much anything available all the time.
You’ll notice that for the most part, only the original airing carries the ads sold by the network. Of course, most of the time the networks get some revenue from the alternative channels either directly or indirectly by virtue of the cable operator paying for the on demand rights as part of the carriage fee.
So what the heck is “TV” anyway? Online content is, in my mind, as much TV as the other stuff, particularly if it’s ported to the primary screen in the house. What I think drives people to watch those original airings at the appointed time might just be social. Spend an afternoon watching college football and watch your Twitter feed, Facebook pages, and text in-box fill up with trash talk, tales of woe, and relief at a win. Those are the big guys – there are dozens of apps and sites that connect fans for joint sports viewing, and the social aspects of big events such as The Oscars, MTV Awards, and others almost outweigh the speeches.
I think that sports and big events will continue to drive live, simultaneous viewing. I think that the social viewing habits they foster are carried over on a smaller scale to regular programming, and I think these habits are what keep many people, especially younger people, tuning in together instead of binge watching later on their own schedules and away from the networks’ ads or maybe even altogether. That’s the genesis of my first sentence – it’s keeping the traditional guys in business to a certain extent.
That’s my take. Now, your take, please.