We’re still watching. Actually, we’re watching more than ever. The three-screen audience for video content has never been larger or more active, that is, if you define ‘active’ as sitting still and watching other people do things.
For advertisers, that’s terrific news. But candidly, it’s even better news for traditional ad agencies that long specialized in television production. Because despite the flurry of new formats and technologies, the fundamental consumer desire to watch video thrives unabated in a platform agnostic manner. Clients who ran to new media shops based on the strength of their technical prowess alone may want to reconsider; the viewers are there, but you can’t assume they’re an eager advertising audience. It takes compelling content to earn an audience, and that starts with story.
Two recent posts on this subject actually make for an interesting compare and contrast. Last week, Chris Rohrs, the president of the Television Bureau of Advertising (find their rather hideous website here), posted a persuasive editorial in Adweek where he cited recent Nielsen time spent data that registered the highest numbers in their nearly sixty-year history. Nielsen suggests the average American household spends eight hours and twenty-one minutes in front of the TV every day, with the precious Teen demo logging nearly three and a half of those hours.
He went on to cite a March study from Ball State’s Center for Media Design, hailed as the “largest observational look at media usage ever conducted.” Rohrs takes great delight in that study’s finding that ninety-nine percent of TV viewing in 2008 was done on a “traditional” TV with less than 5 percent of that viewing using DVR playback. Web video from YouTube, Hulu and all other Web/cell phone media accounted for less than one percent of all viewership.
Obviously Mr. Rohrs has a bias to present but still, he uses these facts well to rebut the conventional bromide of so many new media advocates: “television is dead.”
Of course it isn’t Chris. Say it with me, won’t you? “Television is not dead, it’s just diversified.”
And that’s the point Gavin O’Malley made yesterday on MediaPost: viewership on all three screens has never been higher. Special events added extra fuel to online viewership numbers as people watched the Inauguration and the Final Fours from their desktops. Again citing Nielsen, US online video usage grew thirteen percent year-over-year while mobile jumped more than fifty percent.
The two mens’ numbers around DVR use seem to conflict but the undeniable truth is that we are watching more video than ever…which must have something to do with this great nation’s rampant obesity, but that’s another blogpost.
Call me self-interested but my takeaway from all of these findings is that agencies deeply schooled in television production can no longer be cast as behind the times. The collective skill and experience all that commercial production engenders gives us a leg up over any putative content provider, particularly if we’ve moved aggressively into new media anyway.
Like so many things, the means don’t matter nearly as much as the ends. Facile skills on specific platforms mean nothing if the content isn’t there.
Stories, drama, ideas always come first.