New TV: Not as Big of a Deal as Old TV

Categories: Internet TV

Written By

March 25th, 2008

Old TVBefore every start-up running a video site spams me about being wrong,  I said as "big" of a deal.   "New TV" may very well be a better deal for all.  I too dream of a world where my TV is hooked up to the Internet (as well as every other video appliance I have) and I can just get any content I've ever paid for on-demand.  I want the Internet to be my DVR.  For me, that's a better deal.

I love that I can watch Video on my iPhone. I watched most of the first three seasons of LOST on it.  And while the cinematography for LOST practically screams for the big screen, a little 3.5" screen close to your face with the earbuds in is an incredibly immersive experience.   Still, I've watched all of season 4 on the big screen in HD (mostly via on-demand).   

But the new methods of viewing video will never be as big of a deal as the old methods for the same reason that the old methods will never be as big of deal as they used to be.  The video world just keeps getting bifurcated again and again and again.  Choices, more choices, even more choices, and still more choices.  Cable  networks have already eaten into the big broadcast television networks scale in a fairly significant way.    Let's take a walk down memory lane.  Thirty-five years ago in the 1972-1973 television season, here were the top 20 broadcast shows for the year:

OCTOBER 1972 - APRIL 1973

HOUSEHOLD

RANK

PROGRAM

NETWORK

RATING

SHARE

1

All In The Family

CBS

33.3

53

2

Sanford & Son

NBC

27.6

45

3

Hawaii Five-O

CBS

25.2

38

4

Maude

CBS

24.7

38

5

Bridget Loves Bernie

CBS

24.2

39

5

Sunday Mystery Movie

NBC

24.2

37

7

Mary Tyler Moore

CBS

23.6

39

7

Gunsmoke

CBS

23.6

35

9

Wonderful World of Disney

NBC

23.5

37

10

Ironside

NBC

23.4

36

10

Adam 12

NBC

23.4

36

12

Flip Wilson Show

NBC

23.1

35

13

Marcus Welby, MD

ABC

22.9

40

14

Cannon

CBS

22.4

39

15

Here's Lucy

CBS

21.9

33

16

Bob Newhart

CBS

21.8

37

17

Tuesday Movie of The Week

ABC

21.5

33

18

ABC NFL Football

ABC

21.0

35

19

Partridge Family

ABC

20.6

33

19

The Waltons

CBS

20.6

31

Every show in the top 20 had a household rating of more than 20% (though I should note there were fewer people and fewer households then).  And every show on the top 20 averaged at least 30% of the households with their televisions turned on.  All in the Family averaged over 53% of all televisions turned on while it was on.  Back then, Coca Cola could run the "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" ads and be sure that within a week almost everyone in the United States would have seen it. 

These days it's not Archie, Edith, and Meathead, but Simon, Paula and Randy who rule the roost.  And to its credit American Idol captures over 15% of the television households with a 23% share of televisions turned on (77% of the televisions are tuned to...something else, whether it be on one of the other broadcast networks or the cable networks).   But while AI is impressive in its ability to attract viewers in these modern times, the big challenge is that the difference between the first show and the twentieth show is much bigger now.  If we just look at last week (which isn't  really a fair comparison since it's one week instead of the whole season), the difference between the #1 show and the #20 show is a fairly large chasm.    Last week AI topped the charts with a household rating of 15.2  27.3 million viewers and a 23% of the televisions turned on.  Sorted based on viewers the 20th show had a 6.4 household rating with an 11% share of televisions turned on and 9.6 million viewers. 

To put this into some perspective, the most viewed cable program last week was an airing of WWE Raw with 5.4 million viewers and a 3.3 household rating.  The 40th most watched cable show, Law & Order Criminal Intent on the USA Network had a 2.1 HH rating with 2.8 million viewers.  Of course there are hundreds and hundreds of programs broadcast on cable each week.   It's harder and harder to achieve any big scale.

And scale matters.  It matters to the advertisers.  PR flacks at the various web sites, and web video sites will try to tell you that scale doesn't matter to the advertisers  but scale and demographics do matter.  That's why shows like Grey's Anatomy can charge ridiculous amounts for a 30 second spot (reportedly $419K according to Advertising Age's annual survey).  And even though CBS' CSI actually has more overall viewers, advertising is a very ageist business (don't let anyone tell you any differently - they're lying).  It's somewhat sexist as well.  

When the "isms" grease the gears of capitalism, being ageist and sexist is just fine.  Grey's Anatomy can claim stuff like in the women's 18-34 demographic it gets 30% of all the eyeballs watching. CBS could probably make a similar claim about viewers 55 and older, but the advertisers don't care about those guys much and so CBS doesn't bother issuing that press release.

One of the bigger problems facing online video in general is lack of good standardized metrics for online video viewing that include good demographic information.  Without such metrics, advertisers will not feel great about the venue.   This problem can and will be solved, but that leaves the issue of scale.

As happened with "old" television, the more choices that are available, the harder it is to achieve scale for any single choice.  This problem is only compounding.  YouTube has scale in spades, but no one video has the kind of scale American Idol has.  Plus, it's not clear to me at all how Google makes any real cash on YouTube since I never ever see and ad, and usually don't have to even go to YouTube to watch the YouTube content that I wind up watching. 

If Google wants to provide loads of free file space and bandwidth for the purposes of branding - I'll be happy with it as long as it lasts.  I think if Apple can crack the code it will certainly have huge scale as a distributor, but again, no one offering will have the kind of scale that makes advertisers salivate.  With good demographic tracking it won't matter because if there's something that gets a million 18-34 year old females, advertisers will still be happy to pay for them.

Watching The Office on The iPhoneI like Apple's positioning better from a product point of view, and it seems to have more of the mindset of a broadcast media company than Google to me.  Still, Google can just do something like buy CBS if it wants to acquire that sort of expertise.

I'm not sure we'll ever see 27 million people in the US sit down in front of their computers at the same time to watch the same video offering.  But it won't surprise me if in 20  years (or less) if the #1 show on broadcast television is only drawing 10 million viewers.

I'll be writing more on the convergence, but for now I'm going to get back to catching up on The Office on my iPhone...

 
  • http://yahoo.com Jenny G.

    Bifurcated? With words like these in your blog I might just have to go back to school. LOL! Advertisers being sexist, and ageist isn't wrong, but as long as their not racist… so my $$$ is on Obama winning, cuz that's where our culture/society is. I agree corporate America's marketing teams should advertise appropriatly, but I would still like to see a funny commercial for beer during HOUSE :-)

  • http://yahoo.com Jenny G.

    Bifurcated? With words like these in your blog I might just have to go back to school. LOL! Advertisers being sexist, and ageist isn’t wrong, but as long as their not racist… so my $$$ is on Obama winning, cuz that’s where our culture/society is. I agree corporate America’s marketing teams should advertise appropriatly, but I would still like to see a funny commercial for beer during HOUSE :-)

  • KIC

    “And to its credit American Idol captures over 15% of the television households with a 23% share of televisions turned on “

    Well, maybe its a credit to American Idol, but I still have to wonder about the American public.

    On sexism and ageism in advertising….I often wish we of the “wrong sort” could completely withdraw from buying. I'd like to see how advertisers like them apples. Of course, they get these ideas from statistics again. And you know how I feel about statistics. Or “spinnistics” as I am beginning to think of them.

  • KIC

    “And to its credit American Idol captures over 15% of the television households with a 23% share of televisions turned on ”

    Well, maybe its a credit to American Idol, but I still have to wonder about the American public.

    On sexism and ageism in advertising….I often wish we of the “wrong sort” could completely withdraw from buying. I’d like to see how advertisers like them apples. Of course, they get these ideas from statistics again. And you know how I feel about statistics. Or “spinnistics” as I am beginning to think of them.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    the famous old quote and one of my favorites: Lies, damn lies, and statistics!

    I'm not an Idol fan, but I'll tell you what: if you like live performance music (which MANY people do), there are some real gems that come out of Idol, like from this Tuesday night where contestant David Cook does sort of a ballad/accoustic version of Michael Jackson's “Billie Jean”. More than one person forwarded me the YouTube link — I watched, and enjoyed it.

    I understand why some music lovers may really like the show.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_aiawC-9aM

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    the famous old quote and one of my favorites: Lies, damn lies, and statistics!

    I’m not an Idol fan, but I’ll tell you what: if you like live performance music (which MANY people do), there are some real gems that come out of Idol, like from this Tuesday night where contestant David Cook does sort of a ballad/accoustic version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. More than one person forwarded me the YouTube link — I watched, and enjoyed it.

    I understand why some music lovers may really like the show.

  • KIC

    Maybe that's my problem. I have a bachelor's in vocal performance. An MFA in Theater. Yes, there is some talent, but it's all vanilla pop talent AFAIC.

  • KIC

    Maybe that’s my problem. I have a bachelor’s in vocal performance. An MFA in Theater. Yes, there is some talent, but it’s all vanilla pop talent AFAIC.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Your problem then seems to be with how capitalism actually works. “Vanilla” seems to be an extremely popular flavor.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Your problem then seems to be with how capitalism actually works. “Vanilla” seems to be an extremely popular flavor.

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