The 3 best books about the future of television and what the authors would add if they could
Daunting, exciting, and unpredictable are among the many adjectives that can be used to characterize the future of television.
The industry is in a state of flux. The amount of content options and content producers is growing by the day and the means through which to distribute this content is expanding. How people engage with TV is playing out across more devices and more screens than ever before.
Michael Wolff, Mike Proulx and Stacey Shepatin, and Alan Wolk, have authored the three best books about the future of television by examining these subjects, carefully considering trends and their implications, and making sound predictions based on the evidence.
As one can imagine, writing about these changes is no easy task. At Found Remote, we have the luxury of being able to describe what is happening in near real-time. For those writing books on the subject, however, so much can and does change between the time a manuscript is submitted and publication. This is why we asked the authors what two things they would add to their books given the chance:
Michael Wolff, author of Television Is the New Television: The Unexpected Triumph of Old Media In the Digital Age
Ad blocking and addressable television.
As though with a terrible shiver, the digital world in the summer of 2015 woke up to ad blocking. Software can strip out tiresome search, banner, pop-up and video ads—and, hence, the lion’s share of digital media revenue. While television is now 50% supported by non-advertising revenue, digital media is yet 100% supported by ads and hence 100 per cent exposed to the prospect of losing them--hastening the day when it will have to embrace content that people will pay for (i.e. television).
Television, for all that it remains the most powerful ad medium, still has only ever offered dumb ads. Everybody sees the same thing. But finally, after years of promise, this changes in the run up to the 2016 Presidential election with addressable television. Using politics as addressabilities first wide test, candidates will have ever-more economical way to increase the effectiveness of their “spend” by precisely targeting geographically and demographically ideal, issue focused, never-miss-an-election, voters. Indeed, in the long-feared big-brother world, television will now know exactly who you are. With addressability, you don’t buy ratings, you buy actual results, not just of overall numbers, but of people with specific, granular attributes. This not only makes television advertising all the more valuable, but it foreshadows a world where Nielsen is no longer necessary.
Mike Proulx, author of Social TV: How Marketers Can Reach and Engage Audiences by Connecting Television to the Web, Social Media, and Mobile
Since publishing Social TV in 2012, the disruption in the TV/media industry has only accelerated. Stacey and I expected this and alluded to it in our book’s bonus chapter. In it, we emphasized that there can be no more baton passes between media and creative groups. And technology can’t be a bolt on. Modern marketing is a result of a tight collaboration of creative + media + technology talent working together from the start.
Stacey and I also got a few things wrong—And that’s pretty much all of chapter 3. “TV check-in” apps never took off. In fact, all of them have since vaporized either by folding, getting acquired, or pivoting into something else.
Although stats have changed, consolidation in the marketplace has happened, and new platforms have emerged—the principles we laid out in Social TV still stand strong almost 4 years later—they’ve only just evolved across the board, especially in the TV everywhere, OTT, and addressable TV spaces.
And if there’s one chapter I’d add today, it would be called Original Programming. A year after Stacey and I published Social TV, I wrote an article, The One Thing That Will Change The Business Of Television, that highlighted how Hollywood grade content (from the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu etc.) completely bypasses the TV networks and MSOs. And since then, it’s gone from a novelty to a full-fledged disruption—in a good way for consumers. Content from Netflix and Amazon are now winning Emmys and Golden Globe awards. The amount of quality content people can get today is growing a breakneck speeds. And with rumors that Apple is getting into the original programming business…well, stay tuned for what’s in store.
Throughout Social TV, Stacey and I made the point to approach TV as “new media.” We still very much share this point-of-view and would add to think about TV today not as television but as video. The physical TV set is merely one of many ways to consume TV video content. And what this means for marketers is that they should no longer approach television and online video separately. At Hill Holliday/Trilia, Stacey’s team has transformed from a television buying department to an integrated video buying department. On the planning side, we work with clients to create integrated video strategies that transcend channels and devices but are purpose built and optimized for each.
Alan Wolk, author of Over The Top: How The Internet Is (Slowly But Surely) Changing The Television Industry
When I finished writing the book, there was about a two to three month period where every week some new development would crop up (e.g. HBO Now) and I’d feel the need to go back in and edit the book to reflect that. Eventually I realized that could go on forever, so in April 2015, I just said, "okay, pens down," and sent it off to be published.
Since April 2015, I’d say the two biggest developments were (a) CBS’s decision to run the same ads on their live stream of the Super Bowl as they will on the live broadcast and (b) the continued blossoming of high quality content, aka TV’s second Golden Age
The CBS decision is important because right now we are still treating all OTT broadcasts (live or otherwise) as “digital” and networks are selling different ads to different advertisers than they are on the linear stream. And that makes no sense to the consumer at home who really doesn’t see the difference. What’s more, it makes it harder on everyone— networks and advertisers— as the audiences are not markedly different.
The main reason OTT TV advertising has been so tricky is that Nielsen still doesn’t measure OTT views, which means the networks have not universally agreed upon standard upon which to base their ad rates. Now that should be changing soon—Nielsen is working with Adobe and I’ve been told they’re going to be rolling that product out later this year or early next year—but until they do OTT remains a challenge. The CBS decision is noteworthy because it’s a sign of where we’re heading as an industry and how the ability to buy specific audience segments— Audience Parting— makes OTT such a game-changer.
The quality content phenomenon is very heartening as it allows TV to take its place at the table as a serous medium. Or at least a decidedly middlebrow one. Series like Mr Robot, from USA, a network not known for that kind of show, continue to delight and surprise. And that’s all important because it speaks to changing business models, where shows with small but passionate audiences are far more valuable than shows with large but indifferent ones. Those audience are more likely to pay money to watch the shows on subscription services, to support the sponsors and advertisers and to promote the shows via social media. They also help point out the value of the subscription business model, where if a show gets viewed two years after it’s first aired, that’s still a win if it helps to retain existing subscribers or draw in new ones.
There’s been much talk as of late about the “glut” of good programming and how there’s “too much” of it, but I’m confused about what those naysayers see as the alternative: produce more bad programming? Spend money on shows that no one will ever want to see? As far as I’m concerned there can never be enough good programming.