TV Evolves Before Our Eyes
From the October Zeitgeist…
As Octavius once said of the Roman Empire, so now says the TV industry and the advertising that supports it: we expand or we die.
In the US, the once niche and piffling cable networks now command a much larger slice of the advertising pie, and in terms of quality, their output speaks volumes; Mad Men, The Sopranos, Sex and the City and Dexter; these same shows are rewarded at the annual gush‐fest that is the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. In the UK, the BBC is defending attacks on its unique position in the marketplace as a Public Service Broadcaster. It’s licence fee revenues mean it is moving relatively easily through the recession compared to its moribund rivals. ITV is desperately trying to find someone crazy/stupid enough to take control of the network and Channel 4 is angling for a slice of the BBC’s licence fee to help support it’s own PSB commitments. Sky meanwhile, under the stewardship of heir apparent James Murdoch, is resilient. It is having little trouble courting advertisers as the little personal liquidity that exists is sunk into home comforts like HDTV.
The crowded and volatile marketplace in both countries has led to audience fragmentation, but some are convinced there is not yet saturation. Variety wrote recently about the US push to broadcast TV to devices over ad‐supported mobile DTV; creating a “world where travelers waiting in an airport lounge will watch golf live on their laptops, or homemakers who have to dash out… won’t miss the last 10 minutes of Oprah because they can catch the end… on their cell phones”. 70 TV stations will soon be making their broadcasts available to the country’s 270m mobiles, providing another way for advertisers to create more impressions and reach more eyeballs.
Last month, Culture secretary Ben Bradshaw announced the end to the ban of product placement on commercial TV. The ban was somewhat arbitrary since imported US and Euro shows flagrantly display their wares already. The FT believes benefits to broadcasters are “hazy…a lot of the [money] would simply be transfers from traditional spot advertising”; they also might be tightly regulated, discouraging use. Advertisers though are really more fearful of no one watching their product. DVR penetration continues: most people tend to fast‐forward the ads. US networks are now trying to blur the lines even more between entertainment and advert; American Idol now inserts auditions in the middle of ad breaks.