Tag Archives: media & advertising

A New Dark Age?

Are you watching less TV than you used to? If the answer to that is “yes” then you’re not alone. Oh sure, you’re probably spending a lot more time in front of a screen, but when I ask that question I’m asking about cable network programming delivered live or watched via DVR within 3 days. That measurement, by the way, is known in the business as C3 ratings and there is not a lot of good news. Michael Nathanson, a senior analyst with MoffettNathanson LLC issued an analysis of recent data and this lede from the International Business Times sums it up nicely:

The biggest American horror story on cable last year, didn’t come from FX — it came from Nielsen. Ratings across national cable television networks tumbled 9 percent in 2014, triple the decline seen in 2013 and more than quadruple the 2 percent decline seen in 2012. To call it a crisis would be an understatement. If the trend continues, TV could be heading for a new dark ages.

Why the dark ages analogy?  You’re seeing it in the news.  Cable operators pay these networks a lot of money each month (OK, you’re right – WE pay…) but if no one is watching maybe losing those networks from their systems isn’t a big deal.  That sort of explains the stories you read about networks going dark on some systems (as I’m writing this Verizon just turned off the Weather Channel and Dish turned off Fox News for a few weeks)over what those fees might be.  Without a hue and cry from consumers who appear to be moving on to alternatives, the networks have no leverage.

While some in the industry are complaining yet again about faulty measurement methods, the reality is that people are shifting their viewing habits away from live, linear programing.  Even sports, which is supposed to be immune to this, suffered a 5% decline. You’re probably aware that HBO, NBC and CBS are launching their own streaming services. That sort of move might hasten the demise of business model that has fed TV networks with licensing fees as the cable and satellite distributors focus more on their broadband ISP businesses and less on TV.  After all, if they can distribute the programming services for free via their internet side, why pay?

Hopefully this is good news for those of us who pay for this stuff.  What do you think?

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Filed under Reality checks, What's Going On

The Early Warning System Is Going Off

There’s always a scene in movies about some epic disaster during which an early warning system goes off.  A young scientist believes a comet will hit the Earth but the older scientists tell him he’s nuts.  A tsunami monitor goes off when there are calm seas and the woman watching it disregards the information.  You know the drill.  As the audience, we know that disaster is coming but those who have the information are blissfully unaware until disaster strikes.millennials-broadcast

I thought of that as I read a couple of articles the other day.  The first is from the good folks at Poynter who reported on some research the NY Times did.  Quite an eye-catching headline:

Thirty-four percent of millennials surveyed watch mostly online video or no broadcast television, new research from The New York Times says.

Now granted, the study was among 4,000 current users of online video so one could argue, like the woman watching the calm sea, that the sample is skewed.  The again, given the high percentage of young folks that are online video watchers, I’d listen.  After all, cord cutting is no longer dismissed as the rantings of some early adopter lunatics.  There are numbers that prove it’s for real, especially since we’re not talking about “cord-nevers” – young people who never had cable TV – just a broadband connection for streaming.  As one report had it:

While 3.2 million new U.S. households were set up in the last three years, the paid-TV industry only added 250,000 subscriptions in that same period.

Not so good.  And if that’s not a loud enough alarm, here comes the near-miss fireball from out of the sky that gets everyone’s attention, courtesy of our neighbors in the Great White North:

The Canadian government will soon require cable and satellite television providers to make it easier for customers to buy only the channels they want rather than pay for bundles, the country’s industry minister said on Sunday.

“We don’t think it’s right for Canadians to have to pay for bundled television channels that they don’t watch. We want to unbundle television channels and allow Canadians to pick and pay the specific television channels that they want”

Sound familiar?  It should, since it’s the same fight that’s been brewing here for several years and which intensifies each time your cable or satellite bill goes up.  Cable executive are rightly scared that their penetration into the household base will fall, making subscriber revenues drop and ad sales impossible.

Young people tuning out in droves.  The fundamental business model under attack.  Have we reached the end of the TV world?  Not yet.  But in my mind the early warning systems are howling.  What do you think?

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Filed under digital media, Reality checks


Business took me away for a hotel stay last evening. As you might know, Rancho Deluxe, better known as the home office, is located in a pretty quiet suburban town. Some random deer sneezing is about as loud as it gets in terms of external noise.  Living in a city is different and last night’s stay reminded me of when we lived in Manhattan. It’s rarely quiet.

Car horn symbol

(Photo credit: net_efekt)

The sound that seems to dominate is that of horns. Car horns, truck horns, construction horns. All day and most of the night, their incessant sound can drive you nuts until you learn to ignore it. Which is, of course, the business point.

Too many brands use their marketing messages much as a driver uses a horn. Think about how you use your car’s horn.  There are the friendly little taps to let someone know you’re there and to come out to the car.  There are the intense, lean-on-that-sucker blasts to tell the moron texting that the light has changed and to get moving.   Despite its simplicity, the horn can send a lot of different messages, all of which are intrusive and attention-getting.

Marketing is like that too.  Some brands are still treating their audiences like the line of traffic in front of them.  They blast away even when it’s obvious that the horn will do no good.  How do you react when a driver does that to you?  I don’t react well.  Than again, you learn to ignore it.

Consumers have learned to ignore car horn marketing.  The harder you slam away, the less chance you have to get them to pay attention.  Using car horn tactics in channels such as social media can do way more harm than just the apathy caused by ignoring your messages.  Your inept marketing can be held up for ridicule, much like the dope that’s too busy reading his email to drive.

Horns can be lifesavers – alerting another driver you’re behind them as they back up or making sure a pedestrian is aware you’re coming, for example.  If they’re abused, however, they’re just so much noise and serve no purpose.  We need to make sure that our marketing doesn’t fall into that trap.

You with me?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Uncategorized