Wednesday, April 20, 2011

TV Tomorrow, Today

Earlier this year an AdAge study gave grist to my intuition that TV will continue to be unstoppable in our lifetime. TV is the only medium touched by the Web that isn’t crushed by it – it rolls it in, integrating technology and absorbing and colonizing new media as it’s introduced. As a device, a format and a host (of news/sport/drama/entertainment, gaming, social media, web, advertising), TV is here to stay.

Even as television and the Internet merge, what we have always known as television will continue as a vital cultural, political and entertainment medium. Whether you’re watching television on a TV or pc or tablet or mobile, whether live or downloaded, it’ll still be television. YouTube streamed 8.5 billion videos in January alone. Is this television? You betcha!

The distinctions are in fact immaterial, and the language needs to shift. We call it sisomo – sight, sound and motion – and whether it’s high tech CSI from Jerry Bruckheimer or a journalist on a webcam from Tahrir Square in Cairo or a student giving a book review from his dorm, it’s all sisomo.

Last month Netflix helped to dissolve the boundaries further. Netflix is an on-demand online video streaming service that has spent $100m on a yet to be made series called House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey. YouTube is thought to be preparing to spend a similar amount on commissioning content. Those are big moves into original material, betting on the reality that consumers don’t care who delivers their sisomo, as long as they can get it when they want it.

Sure all of this is a shot across the bow of the TV networks. The content wars are heating up, which is great news for sisomo lovers everywhere. But the winners won’t be determined by delivery channel. Inspired, compulsive story telling will be what wins the day.

As consumers we’ll reward those who tell the best stories by paying in several ways – for the device, the connection, the rental, the subscription, the pay-per-view, agreeing to receive advertising or selling access to advertisers, paying credit card fees or buying currencies for playing games.

Even then, competition will bring pricing to equilibrium and (as I’ve written before) only two questions will matter in judging television and where we choose to watch and participate: Will they want to see it again? Will they want to share it? And as participation deepens you can add: Will they want to improve it?