Multi-tasking key as modern media consumption evolves
The Atlantic’s headline didn’t equivocate: “Cable TV is doomed,” it blared, concluding that the Federal Communications Commission’s ambitious broadband plans will “accelerate the demise of cable television as the standard method of consuming television.”Lord knows, media history has been filled with “killer apps” — as in new applications and devices that kill off existing ones, whether it was the eight-track giving way to the cassette or the DVD player supplanting the VCR. Based on that logic, cable news’ days are clearly numbered, which explains why a savvy company like Comcast was so determined to find a content-producing acquisition — first chasing Disney, then NBC Universal. Predicating one’s fortunes on a guy crawling around under the house installing wires — or on the roof hooking up a satellite dish, for that matter — seems silly when the same payload can be delivered without all the fuss. And yet… Modern media consumption keeps evolving in unprecedented and unforeseen ways, with an emphasis on multitasking — using various forms at once — defying any traditional formula. And with younger generations even more immersed in the notion of go-anywhere, watch-anytime video, their behavior and expectations are so unlike what we’ve known before, it’s hardly safe to assume they’ll adhere to past patterns. Just consider these interesting but, when viewed together, potentially confusing studies issued this month:
- Knowledge Networks reports that Internet usage to watch full TV episodes has tripled since 2006 among those age 13 to 54 in the U.S., based on a panel of 1,900 web users. At first blush, that’s terrible news for cable, satellite and telco distributors. Except that subscriptions via those avenues has never been higher.
- Nielsen’s latest three-screen report found that during the fourth quarter of 2009, simultaneous use of the web and TV use rose 35% compared to the previous quarter. Moreover, almost three-fifths of respondents said they surf the web while watching TV at least once a month. As Nielsen media product leader Matt O’Grady noted in the company’s analysis, “something quite different” is happening from initial fears that the Internet and mobile video would “slowly cannibalize traditional TV viewing.” This year, in fact, has witnessed TV viewership surges for big events like the Super Bowl, Oscars and Grammys. In other words, perusing YouTube videos of adorable pets and just-missed cable news snafus is complementing the TV experience, not replacing it.
- ESPN announced plans for an exhaustive multiplatform research campaign, starting with the World Cup, seeking to measure every conceivable media outlet — not just TV and the web, but radio, mobile and print — and cross-referencing them with advertiser effects and purchasing habits. It’s an interesting proposition, mostly because it reminds us how little we know, even now, as to precisely how all these moving parts fit together.