Getting the TV industry’s attention!

Getting the TV industry’s attention!
I know that my friends in the TV business are tired of the doom and gloom prophecies, but the handwriting is so clearly on the wall that it demands repeating. One of the clearest warnings yet comes today from Tim Hanlon, the New Media guy at ad giant, Starcom MediaVest Group. It’s a “must read” from somebody who really knows what he’s talking about. He says television is on the verge of a nervous breakdown and that part of the blame is the way we try to account for viewing.

Local people meters, portable people meters and the inclusion of DVR data into today’s 5,000 home national samples are nice, small steps forward. But they are mere Band-Aids compared to the radical surgery the TV industry needs in the coming years. In 2007, when DVRs reach 30% of U.S. HHs and VOD is available in every digital cable home, are we still going to be counting on consumers to fill out paper diaries and push 1980s-era pushbuttons to accurately measure their fast-moving video consumption habits? And spend billions of marketer dollars based on it?

If we do, the ad-supported television business is doomed.

Hanlon’s spot on in calling for an entirely new system of measuring audiences, and I agree with him that consumers alone can’t bear the burden of programming production and distribution costs. That’s advertising’s important role, and there has always been a silent agreement about this between networks and viewers. That television has breached that contract is evident when one considers the reality that one-third of prime-time television is now commercials and other promotional material. So an archaic audience measurement system is only a part of the overall problem.

I also want to add that what’s happening in this industry is a lesson in Postmodern economics, because — as Hanlon so brilliantly points out — the disruptive technologies that are impacting the business ALL empower the end user. TV is a top-down industry in an evolving bottom-up marketplace. The farther one steps away from the trees, the more clearly one can see this particular forest.

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