Sunday, May 06, 2012

Appointment Viewing Going Away


The growth of on-demand and personal video recording technologies such as the DVR is providing viewers many more options for watching their favorite programs when and where they want to. With cable and satellite providers bundling DVRs as part of the monthly subscription fee, recording programs has become effortless.  Not only can you record entire series with one command, you can store hundreds of titles within the machine without tapes or DVDs.

With the proliferation of these technologies one might think that the number of non-linear viewers, i.e., people watching a program at a time other than when it is broadcast, would be very high.  In reality, looking at the US television audience as a whole, the number is not great.  In fact, current estimates by television trade organizations estimate that only 15% of TV viewing in 2015 will be non-linear.

For some in the broadcasting industry this trend is comforting since most broadcasting revenue is still based on the number of eyes watching a program at a specific time.  We see stations rolling out special programs during the Nielsen Sweeps periods hoping to attract more viewers than the competition.  The more viewers watching, the more money the station can charge for advertising.  This has been the model for more than 70 years in TV business.

There is a new set of technologies that might well accelerate the adoption of significant non-linear viewing much faster than the current predictions.  Tablet computers like the Apple iPad and Kindle Fire have already been game changers in the book and newspaper publishing business and could well have an even more pronounced impact on TV viewing.

Up until now, the personal TV recorders were connected to TV sets and, as such, most viewing was confined to the traditional places one finds a TV set. With tablet computers TV programs and movies are available anywhere.  And because they can access programming from a variety of sources, it makes no difference if you remembered to record the program in advance.

With millions of tablets being sold there is a user base developing that is used to having information and entertainment on demand no matter the time or the place.  Very little programming is enhanced by “appointment viewing” watching live.  A major sporting event like the Super Bowl is really the exception among thousands of hours of TV programming.  Just as the music industry changed radically with music being distributed on the Internet rather in CD form, look for TV programs to migrate away from traditional networks and broadcast channels to an on demand mobile device based industry.  It will happen sooner than we think.


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