When I presented to a conference of TV advertising people in Berlin three years ago, my suggestion that broadband users would be turning away from television was met with an icy, if polite, silence. One senior attendee noted that he had yet to see any decline in TV viewing figures, and wished to know whether they would see such an impact in 10 or 20 years.
If that individual is still in the industry, he may not have noticed, as his head is in the sand, two reports today demonstrating just how much impact broadband is having. The first, as described in today's Guardian
, reports on the formation in the UK of a Broadband Measurement Working Group with the aim of accurately measuring how online video is being consumed so that advertisers and broadcasters can agree on rights payments. I wish them luck. As a starting point they may like to consult today's other news
from the European Interactive Advertising Association, suggesting, amongst other things, that 16-24 year olds on average are now spending more time on the Internet than watching TV. Specifically, only 77% of this group watch TV at least 5 days a week (down from 82% in 2006), compared to 82% who use the Internet. It is not just frequency of usage - they are also spending 10% more time on the Internet overall.
So the predicted decline
in TV viewing is now happening in the younger age groups. Of course, those same people are now watching "TV", ie streamed or downloaded video from TV companies, online, hence the need for working groups to try to measure this accurately.
It's not that TV companies need to panic about the loss of their business, but they do need to wake up to the fact that their content is going to be consumed in very different ways, at different times, and on different devices, than in the past. Given the challenges involved in audience measurement, the TV advertising business model was always imprecise at best. The move to online, with its interactive capabilities, should ultimately improve the opportunity for advertisers to reach their customers more effectively, but it may be some years before the necessary technologies and measurement systems are in place. In the meantime the TV industry will have to survive a period of some turmoil.