TV and Internet On Equal Footing

Move over radio. The Internet is now taking aim squarely at television.

There's an interesting new global IBM study that shows the time consumers spend using the Internet is roughly about the time they spend watching TV. (You can download the report for free).

The study reports: "66 percent reported viewing from 1 to 4 hours of TV per day, vs. 60 percent who reported the same levels of personal Internet usage. Consumers are increasingly turning to online destinations like YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, games, or mobile entertainment vs. traditional television".

The study also gives credibility to what I have been observing with the next generation in that they are quite content to watch movies, DVDs and all sorts of video -- not on their traditional TVs or their families' HD set but on their computer screens.

The IBM report says "Consumers are demonstrating their desire for both wired and wireless access to content: an average of 81 percent of consumers surveyed globally indicated they've watched or want to watch PC video, and an average of 42 percent indicated they've watched or want to watch mobile video".

Traditional media's woes are only beginning.

Radio became increasingly irrelevant to Generation Y when all the planets were in alignment for a doomsday scenario. Consolidation helped them take their eye off the audience. The Internet took off. Music was available for free online. All of a sudden the radio was not one of the focal points for a young person. The computer was. And so was their mobile phone and devices such as iPods.

Television will face the same crisis.

There are still plenty of older people watching traditional TV, but as they feel the economic pinch the networks are scaling back on programming costs. When they need great programming the most they're airing cheaper reality shows and less expensive series.

Cutting costs is not a sign of an industry that is growing.

Google doesn't make headlines by cutting costs.

Radio companies do.

And radio, according to Wall Street, is not a growth industry any longer.

Companies that cut back are on their heels. So based on this, you can almost predict what is in store for television in the years ahead.

The networks cut costs and cut creative quality.

They go shopping for Internet video companies to buy and will likely screw them up because they don't have the skills to oversee or run them.

As it is now, the TV business acts like it wishes it could be YouTube.

This is unfortunate because YouTube has done very little other than to prove that it is a delivery system for video clips. Parent Google is still trying to find ways to make money with it. The next generation will tell you that they are very fickle.

By the time Google figures out how to monetize it, this generation could be ready to move on. Already there are many imitation YouTubes out in cyberspace.

So what can we learn.

TV viewer and Internet usage are on an equal footing. We suspected it. Now we have another study to confirm it.

But don't be fooled.

TV and Internet are not equal.

There is a great divide similar to what we are seeing in radio. Older (Gen X and above) still use traditional media and many use interactive media as well. There are plenty of consumers upon which to run a free cash flow business.

What it is not is a growth business. The Internet -- now, that's a growth business.

You need a lot of tomorrow's to make a future.

Radio and now, television operators can ill afford to act like traditional delivery systems. Content must be good enough to attract the next generation of young consumers.

I have to smile when I see all the attention the Don Imus situation continues to get in the trade and consumer press. He's out. He's back. Al Sharpton is forgiving him. Is WABC getting him? Yet over 50 of my students recently asked, "who is Don Imus?"

The great divide.

Traditional media needs traditional talents and content to entertain their base, if you will. But none of this is going to attract the audience they must have to be viable -- the next generation.

So in the months ahead keep in mind that what television can learn from radio's mistakes is to become providers, marketers and sellers of content to a new generation.

Where they live.

On the Internet.

They have the challenging task of basically running two companies.

One aimed at keeping the older demos happy through traditional means and familiar content.

The other starting from scratch and developing new programs for delivery on technology that may not even be discovered yet.

There's little choice.

The future of radio and TV is not based on transmitters and towers, networks and affiliates. It's based on social networks cropping up all over the world. Gen Y has demonstrated (and now we have evidence to prove) that they will watch the small screen for their entertainment.

In a world of HD and plasma, it will take a real futurist to redeploy the skill sets that made radio and TV so dominant for over 50 years.

Fail and the next generation will be learning about radio and TV at the Museum of Radio & Television.

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