Volumes have been written about the trouble the Web is causing for the newspaper industry, and much of it is true. The good news is that newspapers have been adapting to the changing media landscape for some time and have embraced convergence across print and online platforms.
Less has been written about the trouble the Web is causing the television industry, but those problems are mounting as recent research shows. How well television adapts to the challenge will determine the future of TV, the medium which former FCC Commissioner Newton Minow once dubbed “the vast wasteland.”
Viewers turn to Web
A story in the June 6 edition of the Canadian newspaper, The Vancouver Sun, reveals that 68 percent of people worldwide with access to the Internet admit to spending more time online than in front of their television sets. The poll was administered to 24,000 people from 23 different countries and was conducted by Ipsos, one of the world’s largest research companies, for Canada.com.
The results sound bad for television, but they may not be as dire as they initially look, according to Steve Mossop, president of Ipsos Reid. “The survey results are indicative of a trend,” Mossop told the Sun, “but I don’t think the TV is going anywhere. Growth rates are significant, but the full implications are still a number of years away.”
Web access an issue?
He added that 73 percent of the world’s population doesn’t even have Internet access. That may be true globally, but it’s not true in North America, Western Europe, or the population centers of Asia where nearly everyone has access to the Web. And it is these more advanced parts of the globe that drive media revenues.
Other experts offer a more severe assessment of the problems the Web is causing TV. One is Richard Cavell, a media and technology researcher at the University of British Columbia who told the Sun that, in simple terms, “It’s over. There is no TV anymore, because it has become the Internet.”
Despite a recent American survey that found television usage per capita to be up by several hours a year, Cavell said the unspoken part of that finding is that the increase in TV usage is on the Web as users download and stream TV programs online.
Good news, Dad
Good point, and it’s one I’ve found to be true among my college students. The days of college students (or more likely their dads) hauling up big-screen TVs to the dorm rooms are largely over. Mqny students don’teven have TV’s in their rooms, because they are watching TV over their laptops and – increasingly – on their i-Pods or i-Phones. These devices are more portable, and they don’t require cable hookups or fees.
That might not be too bad for the television production companies and distributing networks because people are still watching TV. But it is bad news for the companies manufacturing TV sets. More importantly for the television industry is the effect it may have on traditional TV advertising. If viewer numbers decrease for television programming and commercials, and if the advertising can’t make the jump as effectively to Web-based viewing, there may well be less advertising revenue for the television industry. And that, of course, has a snowballing effect on entertainment programming and on news and public affairs shows, too.
Classic TV on the Web
Recently I’ve joined the growing crowd in watching TV over the Web, and it works fairly well for guys like me who are more addicted to the older shows than the current ones. For example, a night is pretty much a total loss for me if I can’t catch at least one episode each of Seinfeld and Frasier. I can often find full episodes online (I just checked and several Frasier episodes are still on YouTube although who knows for how long) or at least get a multitude of clips of the most memorable moments of these two great shows. And over on AOL Television’s In2TV (http://television.aol.com/in2tv) you get a long list of intact classic TV shows to watch from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.
Nets stream shows to Web
It’s even possible to watch first-run episodes of current TV programs on your computer after they have been aired on traditional TV screens. And it isn’t some bootlegger streaming them, but the TV networks themselves. One such network site is www.nbc.com/video that allows you to watch full episodes online of shows like Chuck, 30 Rock, Heroes, and the rest of their current season program lineup. Much of this is made possible by the change from analog to digital transmission that television has undergone in recent years, capped by all stations broadcasting in digital starting a year ago on June 12.
Not only can we watch TV on our computers, however. Now we can also connect our computers to our TV’s and use our TV screen as our computer screen, typing in whatever we can access from the Web and having it show up on our big-screen TVs. Google TV is one such system that facilitates this.
An excerpt from Google TV’s May marketing pitch explains it this way:
“Google TV is a new experience for television that combines the TV that you already know with the freedom and power of the Internet. With Google Chrome built in, you can access all of your favorite websites and easily move between television and the web. This opens up your TV from a few hundred channels to millions of channels of entertainment across TV and the web. Your television is also no longer confined to showing just video. With the entire Internet in your living room, your TV becomes more than a TV — it can be a photo slideshow viewer, a gaming console, a music player and much more.”
Google is working with Sony, Logitech, and Intel to put Google TV inside of television sets, Blu-ray players and companion boxes. These devices are slated to go on sale in the fall in Best Buy stores around the country, Google says.
Stay tuned for the latest developments.