Cable TV is Not Dying, Just Morphing Into What We Want
My good friend Adam Singer likes to talk about how, as entertainment consumers, we have become a lot less likely to do our consuming on someone else’s timetable. It’s true. There are now more options than ever for folks to enjoy their favorite TV shows, music and more whenever and wherever they feel like it. Millions of people are spending time with Netflix, Hulu, Google Play and even uploading their favorite movies and more to the cloud using one of the top services.
Media companies are all getting around this though by co-opting the trend towards timeshifting. While on vacation at hotels that didn’t have HBO, I was able to see my latest episodes of “Game of Thrones” and “True Blood” using the HBOGo app. Many of the more monolithic cable companies, such as Comcast, have their own apps that let you watch your favorite shows and movies at any time using your tablet or other device. Timeshifting in whatever form is great, but I and many others believe something is missing from the experience.
Keeping Your Community: It Ain’t What it Was
I had the joy of watching Paul McCartney in concert recently at Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco. He held us in thrall for almost three hours playing classics from his Wings and Beatles years. In between songs at one point, he told us the story of his first Ed Sullivan performance in back in the 60’s. He was sitting at the piano, ready to go live, when a stage hand came up to him and asked, “Are you nervous?” As the story goes, McCartney wasn’t sure. The stage hand said something along the lines of, “Well you better be. 73 million people are about to watch you.”
This story is of course from an ancient past when there were four or five TV stations on your typical television set and “The Ed Sullivan Show” was watched by almost every American adult who owned a TV set. It does, however, teach us an important lesson about community. Some people still, and will continue to, try to enjoy their favorite media together.
So yes, we’re moving to a place where time shifting will become the norm. However, there is a backlash to that for some people. They want to check the tweets about a show while it’s airing. They like to see everyone’s angry comments as the writers of Game of Thrones kill off yet another of the characters they spent three seasons tricking them into loving.
Partly because of information showing that there are correlations between Twitter activity and TV ratings, Facebook wants a piece of any monetary pie that might emanate from this type of connection. Why let Twitter be the only “second screen” game in town? Over the first half of this year, Facebook has been continuing to work on plans to integrate itself with TV networks and cable company partners in the same way that it currently displays the music being listened to by your friends on Spotify. I predict Facebook will take a significant chunk of Twitter’s “second screen” status sometime in the future, though probably not very soon.
It’s not just the big tech companies that want to be your second screen. I have been pleasantly surprised in recent years by the content that AMC runs along with all new episodes of its Walking Dead zombie show. While watching the program, at AMC’s site, you receive greater details about characters, scenes and more, while the scenes are airing. It’s a legitimately fun and interactive addition to the show, and has proven to be very popular with millions of the show’s rabid fans.
Many folks who can’t be bothered with turning their TV watching into a multi-media smorgasbord will scoff at all of this second screen talk. The simple fact is though, it takes many kinds if people to make the world go round. Different tools for different consumer types are emerging. It’s highly intelligent for our corporate overlords to market to all the people who consume media in different ways. Cable TV will survive and probably thrive for at least years to come because it has co-opted time shifting, is providing folks with tools to keep their community while they watch, and is making billions of dollars off it all.
John Boitnott is a longtime contributor to TheFutureBuzz as well as a digital media consultant and strategist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He works at Circleclick Media helping companies and PR agencies use social media more effectively.