In what amounts to a “dog bites man” sort of story, the BBC is reporting that online video is eating into TV watching, according to a recent survey. Gee, ya think? For every sign that building relationships with viewers online increases their loyalty to a particular show — which CBS said recently appears to be the case with some of the shows that it has released into the wild on the Internet — there are signs that overall TV viewership levels continue to decline.
What’s also happening, of course, is that any TV watching that is going on is happening very differently. I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had over the last little while with people who not only don’t watch as much TV as they used to, but watch it primarily with the use of a PVR, whenever they want to, and without commercials. All of this requires that TV networks and advertisers think about what they are doing in different ways, as Mike Urlocker points out on his blog.
TV still exists, obviously, and many people continue to like sitting around in groups watching “appointment television” shows like Survivor or Gilmore Girls or whatever (for me it’s Heroes). But it is also increasingly being sliced and diced and served up in a myriad of ways online, through YouTube and Revver and through the websites of the networks. More and more people are watching bits and pieces of shows instead of the whole thing. And as David Brazeal notes, quality doesn’t matter as much as we might like to think it does.
In other words, TV isn’t dying but evolving. What is it evolving into? Who knows. But the TV and the Internet are effectively becoming one thing, just as the Internet and the telephone are becoming one thing, and just as the Internet and the computer are increasingly becoming one thing. George Nimeh has some worthwhile thoughts on the subject too, and my friend Scott Karp from Publishing 2.0 wonders whether all this evolution is really just the video content business eating itself alive. Ian Delaney at TwoPointOuch has also written about it.