Samsung, Sony and LG are all launching their smart TV’s into the SA market. For most of us, it’s a non-event, as connecting your TV to the Internet seems like another meaningless gimmick. However, the long ranging social impact and transformation of an industry are being accelerated by the TV being the next internet native device.
Most importantly, it is the beginning of the end of TV channels, where programs are shown at specific times as dictated by their potential popularity to the largest audience (i.e. prime time) vs as what you feel like watching when you feel like watching it. With TV as the primary conduit for culture in many households, the social impact of unstructured programming could dramatically change what we talk about and what we have in common. Will people naturally all choose similar programs due to word of mouth or will a greater amount of diversity enter into the fiber of our culture brought on by wider choice.
On demand viewing of everything from series to movies will be possible without the hassle of having to connect your PC/apple TV/x box to your actual TV. While this is a low technology hurdle, it has limited uptake significantly (as have low bandwidth in countries like SA). This means that TV viewing time is now effectively shared with Internet streaming time. The folks at SABC/eTV and any other TV station shouldn’t be too happy about this, as it is literally indicates the end of their businesses over the next 15 years due to an onslaught of competition from every corner of the globe. As most of their hit shows are international anyway, why would you wait an extra year before watching the latest episode of a series, if you can see it in real time over the internet?
The creation of content will also impact the basis of the media business, its revenue models and employment models. TV will become much more measurable for advertisers. No longer will they need to use statistic estimates of who watches what program but will know in real time the programs success. It will also enable advertisers to start targeting in a far more granular level, and not targeting key programs or timeslots but rather demographics, which is what they are looking for in the first place. This will mean lower advertising revenues as TV finds a new way to monetize this format change. These revenues have traditionally been used to pay for local content to be created, as commissioned by the major TV channels. Without flush channel operators who will fund our emerging TV industry, or will the ability to flight your own content create a blossoming of production companies who will survive based on the merit of their offering.
There will be greater choice for consumers and more access for movie/documentary and series makers who will no longer compete for single slots on a TV schedule. . This transition won’t happen without pain and a complete rethinking of the TV content paradigm. What makes a good program or story telling on an interactive TV platform? Who makes this type of content and how is it financed? Will ad based funding still be a significant component or will consumers be more actively involved by subscribing to their favorite content as they do with multi-player games?
More questions than answers as we step boldly into a new communication paradigm.