As Lewis Carroll said “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” So where do we want television to go?
The goals in a nutshell are: quality programming, fewer, more valuable ads and a diversity of pay models, all available on demand, on any device.
What’s quality programming? By that I mean a diversity of well produced, watchable shows across a broad spectrum of tastes. It doesn’t mean just “PBS” style programs. Scandal has its place, and certainly Downton Abbey does as well as the Housewives of New Jersey. The key word is “balance”. Right now, increasingly desperate, me-too reality programming is crowding out good scripted entertainment for reasons of cost.
Fewer, more valuable ads is a necessity that I’ve touched on before. It’s the most complex part of reinventing television because it requires cooperation across platforms, programmers and advertisers. Currently TV advertising is very wasteful, exposing millions of viewers to ads that have no relevance to them. They don’t like seeing them and the advertiser doesn’t want them to. The result is a crushing commercial load that makes ad-supported TV almost unwatchable without a DVR to skip the commercials.
The solution is a system that allows better targeting of TV ads to demographics or zip codes so that the programs can generate the same, or more, income from fewer, more valuable ads. This does not require any technology breakthroughs but it does require the creation of new systems which can handle the intelligent insertion of ads in program streams in real time, Basically what Doubleclick does for online ads, but done for television.
It also requires that all programming be delivered as on-demand feed, a not insignificant change but one which we’re already moving toward and that consumers want. The cable companies should be embracing any commercial solution that requires streams since they are the best positioned to deliver them over cable or Internet.
The pay model for television is in pretty good shape, with lots of options. However, I would like to see a micropayment solution added to help support short videos like the ones on YouTube.
Platform diversity has also moved pretty quickly in the right direction. I can get different kinds of video on just about everything I own – Vizio TV, LG DVD, Apple TV, iPad, etc.
But ad-supported TV has a long way to go.