Lessons to Take Away From the Year in TV — From Technology to Song-and-Dance Shows, Everything About the Medium Is in Flux

Dec 28, 2012  •  Post A Comment

By Brian Steinberg
Advertising Age

If 2012 taught us anything about TV, it was that anyone who still thinks this technology should be centered around a family watching in the living room at a preordained moment is stuck in a time warp. The massive audience that once tuned in to weekly series such as "Mannix" or "Green Acres" is still out there. But it likely will never be collected in the same manner it once was.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a few lessons that TV aficionados should take away from 2012. After all, those who ignore the lessons of the past may, like that person stuck in the time warp, never make their way to the future.

Zombies are a real threat, at least to TV networks.
Broadcast networks such as CBS and Fox may capture the biggest audiences, but their dominance continues to be challenged. The mid-season finale of popular zombie-disaster drama "The Walking Dead" drew in enough 18-to-49ers to challenge broadcast standbys like "The Big Bang Theory," and advertisers were apparently happy to pay $200,000 to $260,000 for a 30-second ad in the drama during upfront haggling. In later scatter buying, moreover, the price grew dramatically.

If cable can develop a few more shows that prove appealing to the fickle young men that broadcast works so hard to reach, marketers may move more of their money in its direction.

DVRs are so 2007.
Yes, digital video recorders have forever altered TV as we know it, but the disruptive devices are already gradually starting to fall out of favor as cable and satellite providers’ video-on-demand offerings grow.

The spread of web-enabled "smart TVs" is only making consumers more familiar with getting nearly anything they want (at least in the realm of video) at their beck and call. And then there’s the burgeoning popularity of live-streaming services such as those operated by Netflix or Amazon. Who needs a DVR when the show you might have saved is available somewhere else? As this thinking becomes more common, consumers may use their DVRs less often and ultimately become less inclined to pay the cable company’s usual fee for it.

Smart media companies and marketers will take this reprieve from commercial-zapping tech to make sure these new services include ads from which there is no escape.

After a lot of hype, ‘social TV’ is starting to find its (business) footing.
Once almost entirely based on getting chatty TV fans to post, tweet, check in and "like" TV shows on various social networks, the so-called social TV movement is starting to gain traction with advertisers by attempting to get TV fans to do the very things commercials always did: give up hard-earned cash and buy products American Express partnered with both NBC and Fox in an attempt to get fans to use their "second screens," or smartphones and portable tablets, to buy items given a quick spotlight in programs such as "New Girl." Sales are a lot more important to an advertiser than social buzz about a show.

TV for Hispanic viewers is becoming more mainstream.
Whether considering Univision’s attempts this past year to throw an elbow at NBC, News Corp.’s introduction of MundoFox, or Jennifer Lopez’s new stake in the small cable network NuVo TV, it’s clear that TV aimed at Hispanics is growing in power. Yes, you can chalk it up to the sizable Spanish-speaking audience in the U.S. today, but there’s much more going on, including the rise of younger generations who also speak English and want to find relevant programming that emulates the best of what they see on Fox, CBS and ABC. Advertisers who ignore this area of the TV landscape do so at their own peril.

The nation may be growing weary of song-and-dance routines.
Yes, NBC’s "The Voice" fared well in its first fall season and no broadcast network would turn its nose up at the ratings for "American Idol," even in its winter years. But it seems implausible that the 2013 TV audience is going to arrive in the droves necessary to fully support a cycle of "Idol," two cycles of "The Voice," another season of "Dancing with the Stars" and a third outing of Fox’s "X Factor." That doesn’t mean the networks will cancel any of these shows, but anyone who thinks each of these programs is going to secure 20 million viewers or more — the number "Idol" once notched with ease and the figure Simon Cowell predicted for the first season of "X Factor" — needs to lower their expectations and start working on other avenues. Maybe the networks could cull one of these shows and put on a clever comedy that looks a lot like ABC’s "Modern Family" but not too much like it, if you know what we mean.


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