Imagine, the end of the network as we know it
And no distinction between online and offline content, either
March 17, 2016
Quick, where did you watch the latest episode of “Modern Family?”
Perhaps you caught it on ABC, where the show originates. Or maybe you caught it a couple days after the fact on ABC.com, where the network posts programs after their original airing, or Hulu, which grabs them a day later.
Or perhaps you didn’t watch a recent episode but saw an older one replayed on USA or your local Fox affiliate, which both syndicate “Family.”
You may have even watched a pirated version on YouTube.
Content sourcing has become a grayer and grayer area in recent years. It bleeds across channels and devices, and it’s only going to become murkier as time goes on and more technology evolves.
In fact, eventually we may come to a day when the very concept of networks all but disappears, according to a new report from Barclays Capital on the future of media. It’s a prediction that would have a huge impact on media buying and planning.
“The concept of a ‘network’ could become obsolete,” observes the report, titled “The Future of Media: The Age of Aggregators.”
“With the emerging aggregation platforms being organized by consumer tastes across platforms rather than networks or timeslots, over time, the aggregation platform will become akin to the concept of a cable network today for consumers, but micro-customized to individual preferences.”
The report predicts that content will become divided into two main buckets: scripted shows and live events.
Live events that draw large numbers of viewers will migrate to broadcast.
“Cable networks on the other hand will either have to adopt a more broadcast-like business model with more event programming (and consequently higher costs) or else be relegated to compete with OTT platforms for eyeballs,” the report predicts.
The end result will be very little differentiation between networks, and likely big changes for media buyers and planners.
They would face a world with arguably more choices but also more confusion from clients, who don’t even grasp the nuances of why certain media decisions are made now even with the more orderly format offered by cable and broadcast.
Yet it won’t just be TV that’s impacted in this new order, which will evolve over the next few years.
The report also predicts online and offline platforms will converge.
“For the most part, when consumers switch on a TV set today, it defaults to live TV,” the report says.
“Conceptually, everything like VOD, DVR and OTT is an incremental service. The end state of the evolutionary process, in our view, is likely to be the exact opposite of present state of the world.”
So, essentially, offline TV no longer becomes the default. Instead, people will boot up connected TVs or go immediately to the video-on-demand function, or switch to over-the-top service HBO Now instead of HBO by default.
Again, that marks a massive change in the way media is consumed and potentially in how media people do their jobs. Agencies that are adept at buying across platforms will clearly be at an advantage.
“Given changes in technology, consumers are moving to usage patterns which fit more naturally around their schedules. For instance, while total television viewership has been falling, digital video viewing has been increasing,” notes the report.
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