Sunday, December 21, 2014

Will Television Be Dead By 2030?

Netflix made a claim this month that broadcast television will be gone in 15 years.  My reaction went from “impossible” to “maybe” to “how do we prepare for that?”

Streaming or downloadable TV is on the rise.  Netflix, Amazon and other companies have been creating original content that can be downloaded to a device of your choice, from a smartphone, iPad, laptop and desktop to a television set.  You could spend all day watching video via YouTube as well.  Is this what will replace TV?

Television will not disappear.  Every form of media that’s come out to the public has remained, but its relevance has eroded.  Print, the oldest form, including books, magazines, and newspapers are still around.  So is radio, television, and the Internet.  Same for movie theaters, musical concerts, plays, and dance. 

But things change.

None of these things are quite as significant as they used to be, in part, because they compete with one another.  There are more producers of content, more forms of content, and ways to communicate than ever before.  But nothing goes away completely. 

For instance, Comedy Central and late-night television shows have not replaced going to a comedy club.  Watching Peter Pan on TV doesn’t stop others from seeing it acted out on a live stage. Watching big-screen movie with other fans has not been replaced by video on demand.  People still read The New York Times and People magazine.  But there’s no question that each industry and format has suffered a loss of paying customers.

Now Netflix believes that multi-billion-dollar brands like The Today Show, Fox, ESPN, or 60 Minutes are just going to fade away?  I don’t think so.

People do experience TV differently than they used to. First, the quality of network TV and cable has decreased, but the pay-per-view channels are still fantastic.  Second, many people don’t watch things as they air, but rather, they DVR things to skip commercials, download on demand when it’s convenient for them, or use their TV set to stream a movie from Netflix, watch amateur videos they found online, or tune in to free and paid webinars.

Still, at the core of it, people want good content from reliable, respectable brands that presumably use professional editing, production, and trained staff to create a quality presentation.  Plus there are live events worth watching from sports and news to daily entertainment like David Letterman or Jon Stewart.  There will always be television in that there will be scheduled and unscheduled video content available to be viewed at home on a big screen.  But people will also watch on mobile devices and the choice of content will explode.

But TV needs its anchor or foundation of channels that have standards in place to ensure a show meets certain production values.  Further, we need producers and editors to filter and cleanup what is shown.  We don’t want amateur night every day.  It’s nice to have the option to view new talent or unsanctioned content, but I still want my Law & Order: SVU, Homeland, Mad Men, Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the Mets, etc.

Those who “run” TV today will still be players in the medium, but newer players like Amazon and Netflix no doubt will play a bigger role.  TV has evolved many times.  The 80s was the explosion of cable, the 90s was pay-per-view and pay channels like Showtime, the 2000s was Blockbuster-Netflix transition, 2010s is DVR, streaming, and now original non-network content from Netflix, Amazon, etc.  The 2020’s will look different as well.

Content, in all of its formats and ways of deliverability, is alive.  In fact, we have a lot of content.  What we need is better quality content, a global editor/librarian to track, catalog and review it, and a way for certain standards to be adopted by anyone creating content.

Some content moves from medium to medium.  For instance, Superman went from comic books to television to movies to remade TV and new movies. A concept can live on in all formats – plays, blogs, books, etc.  So anything that gets created in one format, could be translated into others, thus a single creation may get more exposure than ever before.  On the other hand, a new TV show or book may get buried by the avalanche of competition within its own medium and against the collective body of content out there in all forms.

The future content creator has many opportunities and obstacles awaiting him.  He went from having to impress an agent or a producer or publisher to now having to impress investors and consumers in order to launch content.  He or she will do so with millions of information sources to compete from. 

The future of the media will come down to how it can be consumed by new consumers.  Parts of the world aren’t wired for anything.  At least 15% of the world is physically dark digitally, due to a lack of power towers.  If you get them on board, you just found one billion readers, listeners, and viewers.

Next, find people who will pay for content.  Plenty of people pirate, cable, buy black market content for cheap, or just take advantage of what they can legitimately get for free online or the library.  If we can convert some freeloaders, we’ll add hundreds of millions of consumers.

The next issue is global.  Each nation seeks to export content and have it translated so others will buy it beyond its borders.  The US creates and exports a lot of content.  We’ll need to do more of that while places like India and China will continue to develop their own content and then to export it to us.

Lastly, literacy, at least for books, newspapers, and magazines is an issue.  One in eleven American adults are illiterate.  We could generate more content sales if we can just get people to read.

TV won’t be dead in 2030.  By then there will no doubt be new power influencers and media brands, new ways to share content, and new forms of content.

Maybe in 2030 we will have:

·         Exposure to more overseas channels, beyond the BBC
·         TV that’s instantly transcribed and available for download to be read or listened to
·         Television shows that are acted out in theatre right after they air
·         TV that instantly dramatizes and acts out a hit book – faster than film companies adapt books into movies
·         Ways to alter shows as they air, where you can insert your own character or watch a version with something different, such as a show’s white characters are now black or some cast member who is not as attractive as someone else is replaced
·         Old shows are re-aired with new endings
·         Classic shows are updated to reflect today’s times.  For instance, Michael Brady is a computer programmer, Jerry Seinfeld is a CNN talk show host, Archie Bunker works for Uber, and MASH takes place in Iraq

Who knows what TV or anything will be like in 2030, but I’m sure of this:  These will be a ton of content out there – and only a fraction of it will be very good.


2015 Book PR & Marketing Toolkit: All New

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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