Sunday, January 03, 2010

An eye on broadcast TV changes

Broadcast television may seem to have taken a back seat to online video, but 2010's shaping up to be a year of major shifts and changes in the traditional broadcasting world. In this thorough Associated Press analysis, it's noted early on that "the business model is unraveling" at the major networks and their local affiliates, thanks to cable television, online viewing and videos and the recession. The likely sacrifice: Free television signals, as the networks begin to experiment with versions of cable-style fees as soon as 2011 to replace, in part, their loss of advertising revenue.

And the losses are mounting. Pepsi just announced it will not advertise in this year's Super Bowl, for the first time in more than 20 years. Instead, it'll spend $20 million on a social-media campaign designed to support local organizations around the U.S. The Forrester blog for online marketers has this excellent description and analysis, and notes rightly that Pepsi isn't just creating an online set of pages or accounts, but using them for a specific marketing purpose--focusing on a marketing task, rather than merely counting fans and followers. Forrester calls this "another nail in the coffin of merely likable advertising," as audiences continue to respond to more engagement and involvement with brands. (In the case of the Pepsi campaign, people will be able to vote for local groups and Pepsi support of them--a tactic that's proven effective for Target and other companies on Facebook and elsewhere.) You'll see fewer companies with annual television ad budgets, it's suggested, and more use of social media for brand marketing.

You can see hints of these changes by looking back at the just-ended decade's worth of television, as NPR's Linda Holmes just did in this piece. Her take? We gained unscripted shows and DVRs and lost laugh-tracks, viewers, and the importance of the schedule, now that you can watch later on DVR or online. She does a good job describing the multi-headed trend we call "reality TV" and points up the growth of youth programming (via Disney Channel) as well as the demise of some once-inviolate assumptions about the TV box and what's in it.

That's the message I'm taking into the next decade: The assumptions are dwindling and it'll be a while before we can form new ones. Be sure you don't get caught with the usual assumptions about television, its audiences and what works until this trend shakes out further.

Related posts: People prefer TV for local news: Pew study

Online video: Where it's headed

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