Traditional TV Viewing Was Surprisingly Healthy in 2010

This morning’s New York Times reports on the 2010 Nielsen wrap up. And the summary? “TV Viewing Continues to Edge Up” (click for link).

In fact, TV prognosticators, programmers and ad practitioners today have to sort out the contradiction between:

(a) the venture funded hype about internet TV,
(b) the legitimate possibility that some kind of internet distribution could harm the TV business,
(c) the good consumer value that might be created with various kinds of internet distribution, and
(d) the continuing health of traditional TV. (Beyond the Times, last week we received this solid report about cable subs from Time Warner.)

TV clearly will be changing. But will it be destructive change like has happened to newspapers? I doubt it.

TV is a very healthy industry – there’s lots of money and lots of vital new things happening. Consumers are basically quite satisfied with TV (though they definitely like time delay and getting movies on demand). But making TV even more healthy is the fact that it is already driven by aggregators – people whose job it is to seek out good programming and bring it together in a coherent form for consumption.

But what about Netflix? Gotta love the growth of movies on-demand and without discs. But I don’t see that as a threat to traditional TV viewing. Instead, mobile TV, movie streaming, the highly theoretical YouTube channels and other new options may only serve to increase total TV viewing time without dropping standard viewing of TV programming. (This has already been shown the result of mobile TV viewing.)

Perhaps what’s missing in all this discussion is a solid understanding that the wide mass of people AREN’T techies who live for achieving new things online. After a very long day of work, kids, and community, the mass of the population wants their TV to (a) be simple to use; (b) let them lean back instead of sit forward, (c) sometimes be stimulating and demanding and (d) but most of the time fill 2-3 hours with entertainment that’s not too much work.

So now I’m going out on a limb with my risk-taking prediction for TV in 2011: it will be neither as stagnant nor as extreme as reports might suggest – with the end result of TV combining with the internet being evolutionary change and not the disruption that tech anarchists seem to seek.

No wonder we only rarely hear about the truth – it’s such a let down when compared with the grand theories of change.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett

About Doug Garnett
Doug Garnett is an expert introducing innovative consumer products and services to market while driving higher return on innovation investment. His career has been spent in innovation and he is the president of Protonik, LLC - an innovation consultancy focused on marketing and innovation. Prior to founding Protonik, he was founder and CEO of ad agency Atomic Direct.

2 Responses to Traditional TV Viewing Was Surprisingly Healthy in 2010

  1. Marci says:

    Hi Doug,

    Happy New Year. Love your column. Again, yes, after a long day, all people want to do is kick back. Too bad there are like 999 channels on regular cable vision with not a lot to watch and too many commercials. Specially with the kids. Thank goodness for Netflix, it has brought us together as a family with lots of good, old and new, movies AND TV shows to watch. As for regular TV, the kids still watch it and say “I want that”, at every toy commercial. Of course there are still some good cave-man commercials out there on Football nights, creaytivity hasn’t totally rolled over and died. I had Tivo at one time with the Ex and loved it. Looking forward to TV integration with computer – that will be total control. And just like the coolest thing for radio – Pandora – (iphone which hooks up to my Bose radio for commercial-less free radio), I look forward to same thing for TV. Yes I know the commercials are coming. Gotta pay for the stuff some how…..

    Best for a happy and prosperous new year.

    • Doug Garnett says:

      Thanks for the notes. The right thing to do with TV is probably to keep exactly the same commercial structure. There’s a challenging study out last year showing that when consumers watched programming with and without commercials, they enjoyed that WITH commercials more. Huh?

      My guess is that for all our dis-like, truth is that we get from commercials what we should. Awareness of products we’re interested in, learning about new issues, reminders that things are out there. And, it’s just become easier and easier to skip them.

      We don’t use the movie options much. At my house we have Netflix, HBO, OnDemand, and what we’ve got on TiVO (often HBO time delayed). But, family dynamics don’t allow much time. My older and younger sons don’t watch much of the same. And after the evening with children is finished, my wife and I usually have about 45 minutes in an evening – time to fit in an hour of watching. And a movie split over two nights just doesn’t work for me.

      But maybe that’s the beauty of where we’re evolving. If we can maintain the economics, then we’ll be able to evolve to a very wide range of viewing styles. My in-laws are massive Netflix fans – but they’re empty nesters. Still in the thick of it, something different works for us.

      Best & thanks for the comments.


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