Darn those whippersnappers!

At the recent Broadcast Engineering News Technology Summit, I learned that today's media managers and engineers don't recognize what younger people want in video delivery. In fact, many of us in the 40-plus age bracket are pretty dense when it comes to packaging attractive content for young viewers.

Television today is how we're used to it: linear and single channel. If you want to watch “CSI,” you sit in front of your television at 9 p.m. every Thursday night. The most-watched local segment, the newscast, is just as structured. The newscast starts on the hour. Weather follows at 13 minutes after the hour and sports at 19 minutes after the hour. It's the same sequence every time. Today's news broadcast model hasn't changed in 50 years!

While older viewers are content with this programming model, younger viewers are less willing to adapt to a scheduled TV life. As a result, they are finding alternative ways to watch television.

The most common way to best the system is to use a personal video recorder (PVR). The initial popular model was TiVo. In fact, many people use the term TiVo to refer to any type of PVR. TiVo in common speech is both a noun, “I have a TiVo,” and a verb, “I'm going to TiVo ‘CSI’ tonight.” The technology has become so popular that more than 18 percent of American homes have a PVR. But even this technology has failed to meet the demands of young viewers.

In order to meet the needs of this younger, mobile, multitasking and tech-savvy audience, broadcasters must change. Content needs to be repackaged, multistreamed and user-selectable.

The summit's Wednesday's keynote speaker was David Payne, senior vice president and general manager for CNN.com. He said today's content needs to be supplied in new ways if broadcasters hope to attract the younger audience.

“Younger audiences demand a different experience,” he said. “Give them what they want on the schedule they want.”

This audience is saying, “Give me something I can use and don't make me wait,” Payne said.

This is especially the case for news. More than three out of five online TV viewers cite personal convenience as the major reason for watching TV broadcasts online. These viewers are heavy news consumers, with 62 percent of them logging on just for news.

Young viewers also no longer see traditional television as their primary source for news information. Payne noted that during the close 2004 elections, CNN.com had 650 million page views in a single 24-hour period. Those viewers were not satisfied with letting the four big networks decide what information would be presented.

So, what's the solution? First, take this test. Go to www.secondlife.com. If you would enjoy such an activity, then you may have the mindset for programming to young viewers. If on the other hand, you think it's just a video game, you might fall into the clueless generation. In that case, maybe www.aarp.com is more your speed.

Payne said that broadcast managers must have the courage to change. They must actively seek young staffers who can put content into presentations that will attract this audience. The first step, Payne said, is to know what these viewers want — and older managers may literally be unable to do that.

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