Television More Competitive, Diverse & Fragmented Than Ever

by on October 25, 2010 · 2 comments

I’ve grown increasingly tired of the fight over not just retransmission consent, but almost all TV regulation in general.  Seriously, why is our government still spending time fretting over a market that is more competitive, diverse and fragmented than most other economic sectors?  It’s almost impossible to keep track of all the innovation happening on this front, although I’ve tried here before. Every metric — every single one — is not just improving but exploding. Just what’s happening on the kids’ TV front is amazing enough, but the same story is playing out across other programming genres and across multiple distribution platforms.

More proof of just how much more diverse and fragmented content and audiences are today comes in this excellent new guest editorial over at GigaOm, “The Golden Age of Choice and Cannibalization in TV,” by Mike Hudack, CEO of Blip.tv. Hudack notes that, compared to the Scarcity Era, when we had fewer choices and were all forced to watch pretty much the same thing, today’s media cornucopia is overflowing, and audiences are splintering as a result.  “Media naturally trends towards fragmentation,” he notes.  “As capacity increases so does choice. As choice increases audiences fragment. When given a choice people generally prefer media that speaks to them as individuals over media that speaks to the ‘masses.’”

Indeed, he cites Nielsen numbers I’ve used here before illustrating how the top shows of the 50′s (like Texaco Star Theater) netted an astonishing 60-80% of U.S. television households while more recent hits, like American Idol is lucky if it can manage over 15% audience share. He concludes, therefore, that:

While American Idol remains strong, the trend is clear. Americans have been abandoning broadcast television in favor of cable’s niche shows for thirty years.  Historical trends like these do not disappear, they accelerate. Internet video is growing at a significant pace. It has not yet taken a chunk out of the broadcast and cable audiences, but the trend is there. Shows on the web are infinitely more targeted than the shows broadcast and cable companies deliver. [...]

The broadcast distribution model, which dictates that only one show can air at any given time, makes it impossible for a niche show to thrive. The opportunity cost is too high. And the corporate structures, cost structures, business models and cultures of the network and cable companies make change far too difficult. Thus the Internet will do to broadcast and cable what cable did to broadcast. It’s inevitable. And it’s already beginning to happen.

Too bad nobody bothered telling Washington policymakers that the world has changed so radically.

[Update 11:00 pm: Ironically, just caught another piece along these lines from TechCrunch entitled, "Internet TV and The Death of Cable TV, really."  I don't agree with all it's conclusions, but includes many good facts and anecdotes pointing to the revolutionary changes underway in the television marketplace.]

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