Television (Yes, Even Broadcast TV) Is Not Dead; It’s Evolving

Old advertising methods are still relevant and can now be expanded upon

Two people sitting on a couch, watching tv; between the observers and the tv are various symbols like an instagram like
It's a great time to evolve traditional TV methods.
Gregory Baldwin, Getty Images

If you’re tuned in with the media industry, you’ve likely heard that we’re in the post-TV era. Many consumers are cord-cutting by canceling the video portion of their cable subscriptions in favor of streaming services.

I want to let you in on a secret: Television is most definitely not on the brink of extinction, and neither is broadcast television. We are actually in the golden—some even say platinum—era of television. The interesting and convincing point here is that consumers are the viewers who benefit from all the great stories being told today.

Lean forward or back

Today’s television offers something most streaming services do not: to both lean forward and lean back on viewing experiences.

Audiences literally lean back after a long day by turning on the television set and catching whatever may be on in that moment. It’s simple and doesn’t require much thought. For many, our televisions are companions, as more of us live alone. This type of viewing has long been underestimated and some would argue undervalued. It’s time we acknowledge its power and influence.

Television is most definitely not on the brink of extinction, and neither is broadcast television.

Lean-forward viewing is composed of catching up via on-demand and those key moments in time that we all tune into a program as it happens. Whether it be live news, major sporting events, awards shows or new episodes of the latest cult favorite series, audiences around the world lean forward to watch together. A recent study showed that viewers feel unable to participate meaningfully in conversations without TV. This is the true meaning of broadcast: ensuring that you can talk about that cultural nugget in real time, such as through social.

Subscription video on-demand services by definition lean forward in that you have to purposely look for, find and watch a program. And without the timeliness of scheduled broadcast programming, there is no urgency because you know that everybody will be on different episodes, if not seasons, anyway.

Consumers are developing what a recent study dubbed as “subscription fatigue,” with 47% of streaming subscribers feeling as if they are faced with too many choices and 43% giving up on their search for something to watch after a few minutes.

The future of TV

Today’s television delivers through scale and synchronicity. There are lots of people across the country who are watching the same thing as you in near-time synchronicity.

Tomorrow’s television will gravitate toward two things. We’ll see more viewing on-demand, particularly content that’s dated. If consumers have a catalog of greatest hits available, either through active selection like most services today or in a more serendipitous linear fashion offered by some advertising video on-demand services, an element of consumption will move there—but not all consumption will.

Even more of those in-the-moment elements of programming will be key. If you look internationally, reality competitions around the world have viewers vote during the show to decide the outcome. In the U.S., it’s less prevalent, presumably due to time zone differences and an industry preference for prerecording. But as technology evolves, TV will continue to find more of those opportunities to connect audiences in real time.

Marketing in the platinum era

So, what does the future of television mean for marketers?

While the 30-second TV spot will likely never go away completely, marketers of the future must be more thoughtful, strategic and creative. Tomorrow’s TV continues to provide an ideal canvas for marketing messages.

However, marketers will need to transform their toolkit to compete. Brand integration and product placement will weigh more heavily with consumers as viewing habits evolve. Think about it: After a show is created, it lives on infinitely across multiple platforms. Surely you want your brand message to travel with the show to all the consumption points in the future, right?

This story first appeared in the May 6, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Recommended articles