Speculation abounds as to how Apple
plans to get into the TV market. The company first
launched Apple TV in 2007, releasing a second generation
of its digital media receiver last year. Given Apple’s success
in transforming other media, it is likely that it
will take on television — the most powerful
consumer communications medium.
TV’s enduring strength derives from its ability
to reach a mass audience, speaking to mankind’s
long-standing obsession with narrative.
Beginning with primitive people gathering to
hear stories, and through revolutions in communications
from writing to television, the
desire for narrative remains eternal. Today,
Nielsen reports that the average American
spends more than 146 hours a month watching
TV. It is no wonder that Apple has its eye
on TV and that marketers spend $60 billion
per year on TV advertising. Consumer brands
continue to invest in television advertising because it efficiently reaches the largest audiences.
Despite humans’ ongoing compulsion for storytelling,
not all is well with TV. Today, major brands question
the relative value of TV advertising as they see their
audiences expanding their amount of time online and
on smart phones. They worry about digital video recorders
that make it easier than ever to avoid ads. But
even though more people are viewing more video on
more devices, they are still mostly watching TV.
While nearly half of U.S. TV households own DVRs,
even in these homes they are used for less than 20%
of the total TV viewing, according to Nielsen. And although
GfK Knowledge Networks says 40% of U.S.
households have Internet-enabled smart phones or
tablets, Nielsen reports that the average person in the U.S.
still watches TV nearly 33 hours a week, but watches video
online less than 30 minutes a week and video on a mobile
device for less than 10 minutes. The question
arises whether people change their habits because
technologies enable them to do so, or
whether they embrace technologies that support
their entrenched desires — such as their
appetite for compelling narrative and shared
The TV industry was slow to acknowledge
the challenges and opportunities brought
by the digital revolution, but that attitude
has clearly changed. Innovators have begun
to roll out ideas to keep audiences engaged,
and these have the potential to reshape TV
as we know it. These advances also aim to
make it possible for marketers to target
viewers with ads that are more relevant to them, as well
as enhance the measurement and effectiveness of TV
As Apple and others continue to push technology
that aims to seamlessly deliver content anywhere, the
world of TV will change. Marketers need to recognize
that emerging technologies allow TV to become an
even more powerful advertising medium. And it is clear
that with humans’ core desire for compelling narrative,
there will always be an opportunity to use that narrative
to deliver messages to the audience.
Seth Haberman is CEO of Visible World, a provider of
targeted television advertising solutions.
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