A few weeks ago, we looked at the changes in television we see arriving in the near-term — namely, technology that is here, but has yet to see its full potential reached. Now, in our mini-series of articles on TV’s fundamental shift to a digital infrastructure, we get to the meat of the plot.
Exactly how dependent are we on television? We’ll specifically address the key findings from Razorfish’s recent television study, and then offer a prediction of what television will look like in 10 years. (Special thanks to my colleagues Andy Pimentel and Joe Crump who conducted the study and shared their findings at the recent Cannes International Advertising Festival.)
The Study: Today’s Couch Potatoes.
We startour examination of the future of TV by taking stock of where we are today. What behaviors surrounding this beloved medium are in the very DNA of television? To find out, we embarked on a study we broke into three parts: Deprivation, Youth and Technogeeks.
Part 1: Deprivation: In this experiment, we wanted to see what it was like for the average American family to live without television for an extended period of time, as a way to gauge how important TV is in our collective daily lives.
It was a simple concept: eight average American families, no TV for a week, and we’d pay them $350 to keep photo diaries of their experience.
Then, we got a call from our researchers. No one was going for it. We reduced the timeframe by a couple of days and tried again. Still, no takers. After a few more back-and-forths, we asked the question: How long would you be willing to give up TV for $350?
The answer? Just 2 days.
The study had determined its own headline: Three days without television was too long, a week was unimaginable.
Part 2: Youth: We interviewed kids who are most tied to interactive convergence, meaning they participate in digital activities like gaming, and have no sense of distinction between short-form content (five minute video) and longer-form content (30 minute sit-com). We asked them to draw out their vision of what television should be.
One of the most interesting themes from these findings was that our young subjects believe that TV should be able to react to you – for example, offer you appropriate viewing suggestions based on your mood. What was most important to this audience though? Portability. No matter where you go, whether it’s your mobile device, your hotel room in Shanghai, the screen on the back of the seat on a plane, you should be able to get your personalized TV experience — whatever that is, wherever you want.
Part 3: Technogeeks: This last part of the study revolved around people commonly referred to as “bleeding-edgers” or “early adopters.” This group is the segment of the public who are comfortably ahead of the technology curve in screen-based entertainment.
For example, one woman in the study could commonly be found VJing (having friends over to view videos from her Apple TV). Another man streamed the NBA finals from his Slingbox to his phone while he was at an amusement park.
One of my favorite examples came from a woman who called up Wiggles videos on YouTube based on her two-year-old’s requests of songs. In this case, YouTube is really just one voice-recognition code away from a two-year-old becoming able to navigate it.
Ultimately, we’ve determined that TV is going digital and portable. In other words, it’s getting “Internetty.” So, what do we think it will it look like 10 years from now?
In 2019, TV Will Be…
TV will know who you are, and what you are watching, based on a profile you (and your behaviors) define. Maybe you enjoy animal programming (on Tuesdays)—the TV will know that. Tuesday, when you get home, the TV will suggest that evening’s documentary on cheetahs.
§ Channels as brands, not numbers
The concept of channels as numbers is a thing of the past.Instead of a channel guide, you will see an interface with options like “Lazy mode” (show me something I might like based on previous selections),Trends (think real-time Nielsen ratings), Friend Networks, Search, Mood, Timeline (how long you have to watch), etc.
§ People become channels
People will become channels. Consumers will subscribe to their content streams, and many people will make their money simply from being influential.
§ Television—your television—is portable
TV will be portable and live in the cloud. Wherever you are, whatever device you are using: Netbook, mobile phone, screen on back seat of a car, your hotel—you’ll be able to watch your own personal channel.
§ TV is transactional
Links to purchase items via real-time auctions will exist. Oprah’s favorite things show might include a real-time review of each product by friends and the public, and the items will be available for purchase. The Oscars broadcast might team up with InStyle magazine to link to dresses similar to the red carpet styles that are available for purchase and searchable by price range.
§ Content is viral/Maps trends
Whether it’s the news, the latest SNL Clip, the NBA Finals or YouTube videos of protests – TV content will be viral. Popular shows, clips and user content will be cropped, mashed, and shared. Some channels will track global trends of what is the most watched segment of the day.
§ Content is deconstructed
Content will be served in a dozen new ways—all on-demand. A viewer will be able to “log in” and see that 14 of her friends are watching the YouTube channel of her high school. Or she can view her bookmarked shows alongside a list of her friends’ suggestions. Viral videos, news shows, funny ads, movies etc—you’ll be able to choose the combination to make your own show. Think America’s Funniest Home Videos (as determined by you and your friends.)
§ Content is truly interactive: commentary, gaming
Capabilities for commentary and gaming will be built-in. A viewer watching SportsCenter might see a ticker on the screen displaying updates on the players in his fantasy baseball team. He’ll watch as one of his friend’s shortstops has an error and send him a quick IM over the TV to gloat.
Augmented reality will change the face of gaming. For example, when a pitcher specializing in knuckleballs enters a game and warms up, you can pass the time by swinging and trying to hit a knuckle ball in your own home.
It may be sooner than 2019:
Many technologists say that it won’t be a decade until the scenarios described above become reality, especially since much of this technology is already in existence. Here are some of the fully cooked elements around today that will help move this paradigm shift along:
§ Hulu-snacking, choosing your own “prime time”
§ Project Natale—full body motion capture, facial recognition. Your body becomes the controller for games
§ Boxee and Apple TVs. Browsing content in new ways
§ Facebook and CNN (e.g. during Obama’s inauguration) demonstrating the power of TV when combined with your social graph.
§ Twitter trending topics
§ TiVo ads, and T-commerce (ordering a pizza through Tivo’s interface).
§ On-demand Netflix and Amazon movies
So, what will this mean for marketers and advertisers in the decade to come?
What happens to the :30 spot? How will brands get their messages across? What will become of them? Will they survive? The dramatic conclusion to this series in next month’s Chief Marketer. Stay tuned.
Dave Friedman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of the Americas for Razorfish and a monthly contributor to Chief Marketer.