Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Death of the TV Business

Great article in Advertising Age called: Sorry, There's No Way to Save the TV Business by Henry Blodget that really reminds us that history tends to repeat itself. Technological change affects businesses and one needs to look no further than the businesses before it to see what will eventually happen to them. Need examples...what the web did to the music industry it is doing to the DVD and video business. The same holds true for distribution.

The article looks at the changing business of newspaper subscription and correctly argues that broadband will do the same to upend the apple cart for cable TV subscription. "After saying all this same stuff for years, the newspaper industry figured out the hard way that, eventually, reality intrudes. You can't stuff the genie back in the bottle. And in the next five to 10 years, the TV industry will figure this out, too." What essentially have been barriers to entry that prevent consumers from seeking content elsewhere, have been lowered such that consumers don't necessarily need to pay as much for their entertainment dollar. "With an internet connection anywhere in the world, you will soon be able to get to almost anything. And not just to your computer -- to your TV."

The death of the TV business is not as the author points out, a question of if; but rather, a question of when. A must read article.

What You Want, When You Want It

Viewers like their On-Demand and the growth rate for usage is staggering. According to Rentrak, "Video-on-demand orders increased 21% last year, with operators processing 3.8 billion VOD orders in 2008 excluding adult programming." And I wouldn't be surprised to hear that DVR growth is also rising at a very health rate. Consumers care about how they use their time and prefer the immediacy of VOD. In less than a decade, VOD has become well accepted and liked.

There was a time though where consumers were hesitant about using VOD on their remote. There seemed to be a concern that any button pressed would result in a purchase. It took a little time to train the consumer that Free On Demand programming was actually free. That is not the case today. According to last year's findings, "91% were free VOD, while 6% were subscription and 3% were transactional." Over time, that fear has dissipated.

And there is still room for more usage and higher growth rates. The VOD features through the set top box are still clunky and laborious to work through. It still takes too many clicks to find what you are looking for and the search feature is prehistoric compared to the web. We like to describe that process of going in and out of categories as "tree and branches." You meander up and back from click to click to go deeper and deeper into categories and occasionally jump out and start from the beginning in order to find your preferred video. Once a new search function is developed, this current process will be quickly forgotten. To me, it is what continues to hold back the further growth and appeal for VOD. But I am assured, a change is a comin!