Just turn off the TV

Miller, Burnett: The future is online

AOL chairman-CEO Jonathan Miller and reality guru Mark Burnett sounded the death knell for commercial TV as we know it at the Mip TV mart Tuesday.

“Video consumption is exploding online, and on-demand is going to be the dominant way to consume content,” said Miller in a bullish keynote speech to TV folk.

The Internet honcho — who said he last attended a Cannes TV mart in 1996 to buy and sell shows for Nickelodeon — dazzled attendees with the numbers involved in last year’s global Webcast of the Live 8 rock concerts held around the world, AOL’s seminal media event.

Event drew “viewsers” — a combination of the words viewer and (Internet) user — in 160 countries, he said, and there were 90 million video streams in the 45 days after the event.

“It was the starting gun that showed the Internet is a mass entertainment medium, very different from TV, because people could watch any of the concerts going on around the world,” Miller said.

The topper went on to give a demo of AOL’s recently launched In2TV, which provides free ad-supported content, mostly TV shows from Warner Bros.’ back catalog. “We are creating a new model for television distribution,” he declared.

TV execs shifted nervously in their seats as Burnett, inventor of “The Apprentice,” “Rock Star” and upcoming Internet-based format “Gold Rush,” predicted the rapid decline of today’s commercial broadcasting model, with companies sinking their ad budgets into AOL, MSN and Yahoo!, which he called “the networks of the future.”

“I bet at the end of May, the season will be flat, and next year and the year after, it will go down a bit and then a bit more,” Burnett said. “My kids don’t know what a TV network is anymore. They watch one channel — TiVo.

“It’s quite frightening to look ahead. Today there are 12 million TiVo-type devices in use. In five years time there’ll be 70 million. So 60% of people are not watching the ads. There is a big problem coming. And if advertisers aren’t buying ads on my TV shows, I’m in big trouble.”

Burnett advised producers to think Internet like him.

“I’m not a TV producer anymore, I’m a content producer,” Burnett said, revealing some details about his upcoming “Gold Rush,” in which trucks will come out of Fort Knox laden with gold to be buried at secret sites. Players will try to locate and unearth it, helped by clues dropped on the Internet.

“Gold Rush” is a “game changer. We’re going to galvanize the world,” he predicted before heading off to a party in Cannes with entertainment by “Rock Star” runner-up Mig and Dave Navarro.

TV biz bashes, at least, remain reassuringly the same.