by: Alain Thys

There’s a perfect storm brewing in television land. Changing media consumption patterns mean people watch less TV.  Advertisers shift money away from the screen to other media. And to make things really interesting, both Googlewood and the cable companies are gearing up to disintermediate the broadcasters.   Time to pack up ?  I don't think so.

TV stations who pro-actively embrace the new media consumption patterns can still outrun the new kids on the block in Tinseltown. Below I’ve outlined three ways in which broadcasters can leverage their currently dominant position in the living room to secure tomorrow’s business. Conceptually they’re not that difficult, yet they do require a (very) different mindset.

Think Customer Centric rather than Media Centric Content.  The majority of TV shows today still get produced, well ... as TV shows.  Only when they hit the screen and become successful the web, mobile and other machinery starts working. This often leads to some innovative work like CSI’s interactive game yet even these are still a side show to the main event taking place on TV.

As consumers spend more time online than in front of the tube, broadcasters must push producers to come up with cross-media concepts that compete for a share of total media-time, rather than just win the TV ratings. Connecting to the more high-impact media will allow stations to demonstrate ROI on advertising and thus reclaim the budgets that are drifting away.

Negotiate multi-channel exclusives and put your weight behind them.  Even though no one really knows how it will look, TV viewing in the future will be IP-based and new entrants like iTunes, Google Video, Yahoo and AOL are playing this card all out.   

To compete tomorrow, TV stations need to become the consumers 360° media reference for their favourite content (be it online, in print, IRL or on their mobile phone). In this they can – still - use their bargaining power with major content suppliers to make “multi-channel exclusive” deals, which cut short online competitors before they can truly emerge (if Jobs can convince Hollywood to give him Desperate Housewives, TV stations should be able to do so to).

Think outside of the branded entertainment box. While I love the idea that in 24 “the good guys use Apple”, I wonder how that generates cash for the stations that air the show. Broadcasters need to reclaim the branded entertainment arena by remembering the roots of commercial television. Think back to the days of the soap when shows were produced together with advertisers, yet done in a way that people really want to watch.

Thanks to the infinite channel environment of today, it is even conceivable to leverage existing know-how in programming and production into new business opportunities by helping brands to become media in their own right. Audi in the UK already has its own TV station, courtesy of Sky Digital, so why shouldn’t Hasbro have it’s own Children channel or Amazon it's own Book TV.  

In the digital media landscape, the game is far from over for TV stations, yet to win it may help to get onto the pitch in a more aggressive way.

As usual, if I've missed (part of) the point, or we are at risk of being in violent agreement, don't hesitate to comment ...

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