Back to News


TV Isn’t Dead – We’ve just Re-defined it

Comments  /  Megan Olson

For the past few years, we’ve watched consumers’ time spent with traditional Television decline. Broadcast ratings have fallen in a variety of dayparts, but most notably in primetime. TV stations expanded their offerings to include digital and streaming channels, and with the success of OTT services, many have asked, “Is TV dead?” As an agency that incorporates a variety of video advertising options into our media plans, Media Works recognizes the power of TV as well as the strengths of digital video, and would argue that TV isn’t really dead – people are just consuming it differently.

It is no secret that primetime ratings have steadily declined. Although, this notion does not mean that viewers have completely abandoned TV. According to the Q1 2016 Nielsen Total Audience Report, “TV viewership remains rock solid, with the average adult logging 4.5 hours of live TV per week, down only 1 percent year-over-year.” TV’s power is in its ability to reach the masses: there is no other medium that can reach as many people as TV.

That said, fragmentation of traditional TV viewing has occurred rapidly over the past few years, contributing to a decline in ratings. Consumers simply have more TV options than ever before, and it’s showing in TV and Cable audience estimates. With innovations leading viewers to a more digital setting – through laptops, tablets and smartphones – advertisers are shifting their focus to digital media and weighing the options.

Brian Roberts, CEO at Comcast NBCUniversal, points out, “Twenty years ago, there was something like 170 hours of live content on one channel. Now we’ll have 6,800 hours on 11 channels, and up to 41 live streams. So that’s effectively 52 channels with 6,800 hours versus one channel with 170 hours.”

The introduction of digital video opened up a world of TV content options for viewers. At first, we saw migration with Cord Cutters looking to cut cable costs and move to more on-demand TV options. The Cord Nevers, who never had cable and had no intention of paying a monthly cable bill, also opted for cheaper, paid streaming options. Then, an influx of services began to attract viewing from cable and non-cable subscribers alike, reaching across demographics and device users under the category of digital video.

In 2016, 164.5 million Americans watched digital TV, which is 50.8% of the U.S. population. By 2020, this number is expected to grow to 183.6 million, according to eMarketer. Use of OTT services such as Netflix, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, HBO Go and DirecTV have increased overall digital video consumption significantly since 2015. And, with online powerhouses such as Amazon, YouTube and Facebook competing in the digital video space, viewership will continue to grow.

As TV and Video options emerge and consumers continue to seek content from a variety of sources, advertisers and marketers must consider a few key questions:

A major obstacle to overcome for both advertisers and some agencies, is thinking of media in terms of how it is consumed, rather than how it is traditionally defined. Our approach is simple: understand how the advertiser’s target audience uses media and reach that audience through those touchpoints. If consumers watch video – whether this includes Late News on one of the networks or the latest episode of “This is Us” on Hulu – we consider all of the options. Developing a multi-layered media approach that takes into account consumers’ media habits is crucial to staying relevant in today’s fragmented media environment.