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Let’s finally kill the word “television” — it’s quaint and obsolete
Streaming/time-shifting digitally won. Your TV is now simply another computer screen. Let's deprecate that word, as it no longer makes sense.
I have been making the case that cable TV has been obsolete for a long time. With the exception of sports, the notion of a dumb pipe is over / has already been disrupted and it is arrogant of an industry that you need to view content on their timetable when it is easily made available on-demand. All the technology has been here for ages and we’re all willing to pay. If we can’t, in many cases works held to an arbitrary viewing window are never seen. There’s infinite choice, so we move on and don’t feel like we’re missing a thing. FOMO in markets is real, but content FOMO is now likely a thing of the past.
Further, time-shifting is the new default and it is user hostile to force people to view things in a way you deem fit, especially when consumers are willing to pay for an experience that they prefer. This has become standard in my own media habits for nearly 20 years now (I never cut cable, I simply never even paid for a subscription after I left my parent’s house 20 years ago). Save for a few livestreamed tech industry events & debates – I’m not sure there’s anything left I consider important enough to view on someone else’s timetable.
And why should we have to? There is a high cost of now associated with doing anything on someone else’s schedule. Your time is the most precious resource you have and in a world with more content than you can possibly consume in one lifetime, it’s not just what you view, it’s when you view it that matters. This is a pillar of the attention economy.
Google Play, YouTube, Amazon Instant, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix and similar services understand this well. A trend here especially interesting is the investment in, production and release of a single series at once. It respects consumers and the current technology available as opposed to the old guard still attempting to hold your attention hostage for 30-minute timeslots to feed views spray and pray, likely irrelevant (and frequently ignored) advertisements from major brands still clinging to a world ruled by cable. Not to mention it is also far better to ‘pay for what you consume’ and view on demand as opposed to subsidizing a bunch of channels you do not wish to receive and be forced to view on some executive’s arbitrary viewing window.
Timeshifting as the default is not only a harbinger of things to come, it’s also a current divide of connected, technology-savvy audiences vs. those who still live in a world running on other people’s schedules. It goes beyond “cable cutting” which is a funny analogy to me because it infers my generation actually paid for it at one time. Many of us never did.
With this, I submit, any new TV is not a “TV” at all in the traditional sense. It’s now just a large monitor/screen.
At what point does it become a TV, when (non-smart) TVs or TVs without digital devices are being phased out. There are also no more “TV shows.” It’s just a series of episodes of a narrative and story with a title and genre viewable on any desired screen (mobile, laptop, living room screen) perhaps only still seen as a TV show to aging studio execs and their cohorts. Old fashioned linear TV’s reign as media king is not only dead, it’s been gathering dust for years now.
Which is why when I see graphics like the below it irks me somewhat that we’re breaking out “internet” and “TV,” especially given the number of households that have now cut traditional cable TV entirely. I get what they’re saying, but “TV” is so broad. Basically all this means is you are using the internet on one screen (likely smaller, but that is not assured) and in all likelihood if you are under 40 watching something else from the internet (not via linear cable) on another. It’s internet the whole way down…
Or this chart, which buckets all various traditional Cable under TV as well as modern streaming platforms under TV but again … TV is no longer the appropriate descriptor.
I’m bothered by these because the labels and keys are misleading: “Household TV time” is just not accurate. Did they mean stream to large screen monitor? Or, stream to device larger than some arbitrarily chosen number like 45 inches? And what if I stream to my computer, but my monitor used with my computer is larger than one of my “TVs?” What if I use my TV to broadcast my computer, is it still a “TV” or is it now a digital, wireless projector?
All of this is besides the point: in a world where you are using the internet to stream content to a large screen, that screen is functioning closer to a computer monitor than a traditional TV. New TVs even have upgradable operating systems, USB ports, etc. So we must change our definitions and thinking. I submit that everything is now simply a screen, as desired content is generally viewable in all formats and sizes a user wishes. While some will continue to still insist on using this dated, dusty word - I propose it is now only applicable to, say, an old 20” RCA with rabbit ear antennas like Neo and Morpheus are looking at below (note, even in a 1999 movie this is used as a metaphor to show the “old” world, of course the Matrix was ahead of its time).
No screen in your house even fits the definitions of what a TV set is any longer
Let’s dive in deeper: what exactly is a TV set, or Television? According to Wikipedia:
A television set, also called a television receiver, television, TV set, TV, or “telly” (UK), is a device that combines a tuner, display, and speakers for the purpose of viewing television.
According to Merriam Webster:
1: an electronic system of transmitting transient images of fixed or moving objects together with sound over a wire or through space by apparatus that converts light and sound into electrical waves and reconverts them into visible light rays and audible sound
2: a television receiving set
3a: the television broadcasting industry
3b: television as a medium of communication
A modern large screen fits none of these descriptions. All of our TVs are processing digital data from web servers, not light and sound reconverted. And the way content is now distributed (the only ways that matter: à la carte purchase or via on-demand streaming) also does not fit these definitions.
Of course since part of the previous gen model still holding on to, what is it 70B in spend on TV ads, they are going to continue to call it TV (to sell very expensive ads they have spent decades convincing previous gen CMOs to pay a lot for). But it hasn’t been that in a long time: there are simply sports, movies, episodic shows and other forms of entertainment, news and content. And it’s all able to be time-shifted in any way we choose, on any device we choose. So, none of it is “TV” by the technical or traditional definitions nor is it created, distributed or consumed in the same way it previously was.
The only people who really still think of TV as TV are those who still live an in analog world, to everyone else it’s already a quaint notion. Especially when TV ads are ignored, irrelevant and skipped. It’s a dying word only propped up by the very people benefitting from it. To everyone else, it’s over. Digital won. Your TV is now simply another, larger computer screen (and also likely a computer).
Note from Adam: this post may seem pedantic if you are not a marketer, but for those of us in the industry being precise with language is actually very important for a number of reasons: impacts survey methodologies, how we build systems/analytics implementations, how we label reports to stakeholders, etc.