In recent years, there have been many predictions of the downfall of linear television and how technology will have its way with broadcast TV. Over the last decade, we have seen technology chip away at network TV with the rise of services like Netflix, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire. Content is riding high as consumers are able to seek out and binge-watch specific programs, and no longer have to rely on networks to curate shows for primetime around themes like the famous “NBC Thursday Night Comedy Block.” Now, consumers can use technology to find and watch shows anywhere, anytime.
We are also seeing the rise of social TV, where consumers are turning to their mobile and tablet devices during programming and commercial breaks to share their thoughts with friends, tweet, or gather extended information about the show and cast. This creates an entirely new avenue for producers to narrate their content and engage consumers, taking the story to a whole new level. Additionally, while these dramas have taken on a life of their own, networks have eliminated movies from their lineups, replacing them with live event-driven reality series like The Voice and Iron Chef. It used to be that only sporting events could amass a scaled audience around a given time, but now every network has the opportunity to create blocks of time that many viewers will not only watch together, but will digitally share with each other, creating a completely new experience for the audience and the advertisers.
In a way, technology is creating a revolution in television like we never thought possible. Technology is poised to take programming to new heights, and I would guess that programming will soon come to a fork in the road. Dramas will evolve into narratives fit for binge-watching and akin to silver-screen experiences, driven by consumers who are willing to pay handsomely for the exact shows they love. On the other hand, live programming will take the place of the cheesy reality show and exhibit well-scripted, socially charged content where the audience is part of the action, possibly controlling the outcome of the event or show. Technology will be used in very different ways to support each of these scenarios.
Where does all of this programming change leave the advertisers? In the TV drama example, more product placement and likely sponsored production development will be embraced even more than it is today. Brands will be so integrated that you may not discern the name of the show from the marketer -“The Walking Dead Brought to You by Hyundai,” comes to mind. And in the new reality programs, the audience participates by helping direct the cast, promoting the event live to their friends, and watching flash mobs create buzz for a specific brand.
This dichotomy between live and on-demand programming will indeed create new considerations for marketers to sort out with their media plans. There will need to be much thought given to sponsorship, content production, and real-time buying, which will challenge the upfront model and likely require new dynamic ways for brands to plan and execute their video buys.