The modern media lexicon is littered with ever-new acronyms that share little relevance to the ways consumers watch content and make it ever more difficult for busy media execs to keep up to date with the latest jargon.
The current system is archaic, confusing and stems from a desire for snappy acronyms and an attempt to crowbar digital formats into what was the existing linear vernacular. The result is a system divorced from reality, with often illogical definitions.
The acronym jumble is due to several constructs being haphazardly applied to different viewing formats. Whether or not video is paid or free, available on-demand or linearly, how the signal is delivered and if it has ads are all descriptors that can be included within an acronym.
This has led to ad-supported VOD from Pay TV operators not being included as AVOD, SVODs such as Hulu and Quibi also being AVODs, services being both FAST and AVOD and the recent phenomenon of creating a new term, PVOD, which technically falls under TVOD and sounds almost the same.
None of this considers the viewer. For years, media research projects have struggled with how difficult it is to describe VMVPD services such as Sling TV and AT&T TV Now in consumer-friendly terms. The difficulty seems farcical when, for a consumer, the only difference between a VMVPD and an MVPD is that the signal for the channel is coming via their Wi-Fi (typically delivered by cable) rather than direct from cable.
Old media hasn’t had its finger on the consumer pulse for quite a while, with acronym mania just one sign. It began with the downplaying of VOD as a viable viewing experience for MVPD subscribers in the late 2000s, with networks preferring subscribers watch the greater ad-load live. Current examples include constantly increasing the price of a TV subscription as more and more decide to cancel or launching Netflix competitors without being able to watch a whole season at once, one of the key reasons for Netflix’s success.
In contrast to the current acronym hodgepodge, there should be a return to simplicity. Not only will this make things easier for beleaguered execs, but choosing one construct — in this case, paid status — as the uniform defining category means the end of situations where the opposite of an SVOD is an AVOD (except, of course, for when it’s both).
Note that this idea does away with the distinction of whether a service is ad supported or not. The construct is currently arbitrarily applied, as MVPDs, VMVPDs and VOD are all ad supported, too. Best to do away with it and focus instead first on paid status, format and then source.
Reclassifying would also help put an end to siloed thinking. Currently, the linear streaming market is slowly attracting TV network livestreams from smaller networks such as beIN Xtra and Bloomberg Television, as well as diginets like Dabl. Part of this is likely due to the confused definition (being linear in nature, these services are FAST but not AVOD). Labeling as linear streaming may make it easier for execs to see the benefits of such an approach.
The value of the old system has diminished as more and more acronyms are introduced. Jettisoning these in favor of easy-to-understand descriptions likely won’t occur despite our advocacy, but the next time a new confusing jumble of letters is introduced — a likely bet is PAST, for premium ad-supported streaming — the theme of simplification should be recalled.