Linear TV soldiers on

Editor David Austerberry challenges reports that TV will go the way of the music industry, noting that many viewers are still happy to get the lean-back experience linear TV provides.
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One thing is certain about the future: It is uncertain. A recent article in The New York Times related how the music publishing industry did not make a successful transition from analog to digital, with Mark Mulligan of Forrester Research opining, “As things stand now, digital music has failed.” Pundits are predicting the same decline for video.

However, music is not dead; it's just the way it's distributed. It took a computer company to show the music industry how to monetize downloads.

In any town, you could go out tonight and hear any number of live bands from all genres of music. No band now is without its Facebook page; the bands network directly with their fans. Some say the music industry had it coming. The big labels were notorious in the 20th century for exploiting young musicians, but now, many bands find they can manage without their support.

But TV is different. You can't go out and find an episode of “CSI” played out in a local venue. Recorded music could be considered a more polished version of live music, but episodic TV has been edited. It is the editing and visual effects that separate it from a live performance. Editing adds nuances of rhythm and emotion to a production. TV also delivers live events you can't see locally — sports from the other side of the country or from across the globe.

The demands of production and post production add a cost to TV that limit content creation to professional media companies. Everything from production finance to distribution prevents TV from following the same route as the music industry.

Is the business model of TV threatened by OTT? Maybe in the long run, but the commercial models of advertising, subscription or PPV, alongside tax funding for state broadcasters, will surely remain as the four primary sources of revenue to fund content production.

There will always be leakage from the “darknet,” i.e., content stolen through file sharing, that will impact the media and entertainment industry, but the legitimate viewer shows no sign of disappearing.

Recent stats from the UK ratings agency provide cheer for advertisers in that viewers are watching more linear TV than ever: an average of 28 hours per week. The stats only recorded TV viewing, however, and excluded other consumer devices. There were also external factors, including bad weather and the economic recession, which kept viewers on the couch. That being said, the stats prove that viewers are not deserting TV for the Internet.

Commenting on the rating, Thinkbox, the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, gave the view that live, linear TV viewing is now likely to have reached its peak. Strangely, another driver for live TV viewing is thought to be social media, through which TV programs are discussed as they air. (The stats show that figures for time-shifted viewing have actually dropped.)

When immersed in technology, it is easy to forget that many viewers are happy with the EPG: They don't want the hassle of time shifting or VOD. But the next generation is viewing on multiple devices and watching TV while tweeting and surfing the Web. Despite the changing viewing environment, perhaps reports of the death of connected TV are exaggerated.

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