Thursday, December 14, 2006

A more powerful idiot box

Right now, tv watching habit wise, I’m pretty much a free to air (FTA) viewer – but that could soon change.

I had an interesting conversation with Craig Zimbulis, president and CEO of Anytime (a video on demand (VOD) channel) the other day. Just as the interview was winding down, we got to talking about the future of IPTV – and it was during this time that it really hit home how majorly tv viewing habits will be changing in just a few years time. I know the above sentence sounds really suaku, but this has to be placed in the context that I don’t have that funky StarHub time-shift thing-a-majig service, Tivo, or watched anything over IPTV – hell, I don’t even have cable TV at home.

Anyways, according to Craig, IPTV viewership is projected to reach 15-30 million by 2010, that just a little over three years away and not bad considering the figure stands at around one million at the moment. That’s also saying that in just over three years, IPTV will be a lot more ubiquitous, people will understand what it is and what it can do for you and you might see it deployed in many countries, if not in every country in Asia Pacific with multiple players in those countries. The advantages are obvious, it empowers consumers through offering them choices.

But where does FTA tv fit into all this? Does it at all? How about tv ad sales, and ads for that matter, because if clients aren’t buying spots, they don’t need to produce as many tv ads as before, if at all…?

According to Craig, if you look at FTA tv in any country, consumers are already easing off on their reliance on it, the advertising base is starting to erode, and the model of broadcast where you make money from ad supported revenue is changing dramatically. Eventually, programming line-ups might change where there’re less feature movies on TV because they’ve already been watched at the box-office, bought on DVD or shown on VOD or pay TV by the time they get to FTA so they can’t command the audiences they once commanded.

To survive, network operators are moving into interactive TV, and have an online presence as well as a broadcast presence – even the MediaCorp group is already getting into IPTV and VOD and communicating through the mobile device as well. It shows you just have to diversify in order to survive.

And as for advertising, there’ve been many who have/are predicting the end of the 30-sec commercial. Will the growth of IPTV push it off the cliff once and for all? I guess the real question is how effective were TV ads to start with? Is it more a prestige thing because if you’ve got the budget you can do a great production, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t cut through anymore, what’s the point? On the other hand just the other day, a GroupM study showed that TV is still the world's largest advertising medium, accounting for around half of all media investment, despite increasing audience fragmentation. So while it’s true that IPTV, VOD, Tivo and all the rest of these new media techonology things will change tv viewing habits, but I guess it’s not its time… yet.

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