It’s really happening. It’s been talked about for ages, but finally the big box we call television that’s attached to a wire or satellite and opens up a world of hundreds of channels, is fundamentally changing. We’ve reached the point where “pushed” TV isn’t delivering the value consumers demand and so, the paradigm is shifting. In David Pakman’s article, “TV Is Changing Before Our Eyes” it is clear that TV is transforming in two significant ways, including how it’s distributed and where content is coming from. This is no surprise to me, but then again, it’s my generation, no doubt, that’s expediting this shift.
Netflix, seemed so quaint and small when it began, has become a powerhouse in the new era of content distribution. They recognized early on that consumers wanted easier, cheaper ways to access good content. They got their sea legs by changing the model for how we view home videos, helping to drive the Blockbusters of the world out of business. Then they added television content, distributing traditional shows in a non-traditional way. Not only do they stream content quickly, but they give consumers the freedom to watch what they want, whenever they want. As technology evolves, it focuses on the content itself and what consumers want out of it (content type, duration) and less on the hardware, except in asking how can it be more convenient. Consumers seized alternative viewing platforms such as Xbox, laptops and smartphones, because they allow for multi-tasking, which equals greater value. For a Generation Yer, as I am myself, this type of content streaming service is perfect fit for the typically fast-paced, impatient lifestyle we have come to know and embrace. It’s my generation, in fact, that’s expediting this change because we won’t put up with what our parents’ generation did. Forget low resolution and high buffering times. Forget some convoluted process for accessing the shows we want to see, we want it NOW and we want it free or cheap. Patience may be a virtue, but it’s lost on me and my peers when it comes to entertainment.
The other significant change is with content providers. We can thank video giant, YouTube for its role in changing the landscape. They, of course, popularized, to put it mildly, the strategy of nontraditional, low-cost, lower production value, shorter programming that allowed a new era of content producers to emerge. Most of this content is of far lower quality than traditional TV content, but the younger generations happily and unanimously sacrificed quality for on-demand user control. Plus, it allows this generation to be content producers themselves. So popular has YouTube and other online video sites become that major entertainment brands have even joined in, but following the established single major rule that entertainment – as judged in real time by online reviewers — is KING for success, not high production values. Ultimately, Generation Y, also known as Milennials, will drive this change simply because the power is easily accessible and obtainable. YouTube and alternative content can not only be influenced by these generations, but created by them, using the given power and authority.
Now, how quickly will we “cut the wire” completely? My guess is in the next three to five years, but we may never truly move away from some traditional viewing. For some experiences, there’s nothing like seeing it in real time, as it happens, on a big screen. While some shows are quick to jump to Internet streaming from networks such as NBC and FOX, there’s nothing like watching the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop or Tom Brady throwing the Hail Mary on a 50” flat screen. And there will be those programs that only seem appropriate if watched as scheduled so you can talk about it with your friends the next day, but of course live streaming is becoming ever more prevalent as this major the transformation continues.
There will be casualties as this evolution continues, but the winners, clearly are the consumers who ultimately will continue to press the distributors and content providers to give them the entertainment they seek at prices they demand.