The fragmentation of television, why TV will move online

Nov 02, 2011

Table of contents:

  1. The fragmentation of the internet
  2. Online Television networks
  3. Online video advertising
  4. iPlayer and TV on demand
  5. Apple TV

Television is an industry that is ripe for disruption. Online TV networks are springing up, streaming is finally a reality and Apple is surely on the verge of  doing something major. What is the future for television and why are things changing?

The fragmentation of the internet

One of the most powerful side effects of the Internet is the fragmentation of media into every possible niche. You can now find online communities that share your enthusiasm for absolutely anything. From blogs, to forums and podcasts, more and more content is being produced that can satisfy even the most obscure niche interests. One of the downfalls of television is that is mass broadcast, it has to appeal to the mass of consumers. Before the Internet, people could not satisfy their niche interests in an easy way. People used to read the same newspapers and watched the same television shows as there was no other choice. However, since the huge rise of the Internet, people are now discovering a way to satisfy their extreme niche interests.

A good example of this is The Gadget Show. By the time the Gadget Show is on TV, much of their content is already out of date. The Gadget Show must aim to cover a wide variety of technology products and innovations. But by covering all aspects of technology, they completely miss targeting the niche interests of their target audience. So if you are only interested in mobile phones, you will find the majority of the content of the Gadget Show boring. Take on the other hand a niche video podcast like AppJudgement that focuses entirely on the latest mobile phone applications. AppJudgement is filmed on the fly and does not have to jump through the hoops of a television network in order to release an episode. This means that they can cover the latest developments as they happen.

As more people discover online communities that allow them to indulge in their niche interests, televisions shows that aim to appeal to the masses will become less and less popular. The on demand and quick turn around of indie online television networks will leave the big corporations for dust.

Online Television networks

As I mentioned, there are more and more dedicated online television networks springing up. The mass adoption of broadband and the falling costs of bandwidth have meant that delivering hight quality video content is now a reality. Television networks like Revision3 and This Week in are producing huge amounts of content everyday and creating communities of people that share very niche interests. Online video content is one of the fasted growing aspects of the Internet. Online networks can get many multiple million views each day as more and more people are moving their attention away from television to the Internet.

Online video advertising

As the rise of online video content continues, so to does the rise of money that is being pumped into advertising. However, advertising through online video content is very different to advertising for television for a number of reasons.

Firstly, online advertising can be targeted to niche communities and interests. If you are advertising a product that is aimed at 18-25 affluent males, you can now directly target them through very specific video channels. Unlike television, the costs are much smaller and the target audience can be much more defined in order to ensure your message is getting viewed by qualified consumers.

Secondly, the analytical nature of the internet means that you can see directly where people are coming from and you have the ability to track their decision making process. For example, if you are advertising a product on a video podcast, you can give a unique URL to track the consumers that sign up after seeing that advertisement. Click throughs and the ability to track exactly how many times a video has been watched are two more huge advantages for Internet televison.

Thirdly, video content has the ability to go viral and will be forever archived online. Although many corporate campaigns fail in their attempts at going viral, others have achieved success, most notably of course being Old Spice. The fact that content can be watched months or years after it is broadcast is another huge advantage. Whilst many shows will show larger numbers of viewers the day the show is broadcast, the long tail nature of the Internet means that the content becomes more valuable for every day that it is online.

iPlayer and TV on demand

The falling cost of streaming and downloading high quality content has made for a huge disruption to television networks. Sites like Hulu have become increasingly popular, and services like iTunes means you can download an entire series of a television show on demand. The BBC’s iPlayer has also had huge success worldwide, allowing people to watch and catchup on television shows they might have missed. Although services like Tivo and Sky now allow you to instantly record shows, freeing you from the television schedules, I believe it will only be a matter of time before the television networks are putting more and more of their high quality programming online.

Apple TV

Apple have been rumoured to be bringing out a dedicated television service for some time now, but what are they really going to do? Well it is likely that they will bring out their own television as they look to disrupt yet another decaying industry. Apple are transitioning from music to films and television content. As with the philosophy of Apple, they will want to control the user experience from downloading the content to viewing it. Apple have already got a good selection of television shows that you can purchase from iTunes, but with new content delivery methods through the Internet, they could get tighter grip on the television network’s distribution systems.

To conclude, it is only a matter of time before we are all consuming the majority of our content online. The Internet has transformed many different industries, and television is set to become the latest. The technology that is required has come of age, and it is now cost effective to host and distribute high video content. As the Internet become more fragmented, more and more people will discover communities of people that share their niche interests. The age of mass broadcasting is now over, the rise of the Internet television star is about to begin.

Philip Brown


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