TV, still a picture of good health
TV, so the story goes, is on the wane. Its heyday is viewed with a a sort of romantic, detached nostalgia and its future portrayed as marginal at best - bleak at worst.
It is tempting to look at the media landscape in 2010 and imagine the long-predicted demise of television is upon us.
Ad spend has suffered horribly in the global recession, even if the more buoyant economies in our part of the world have shielded our media industry from the hardships experienced elsewhere.
While advertisers are returning to TV screens in even the worst-hit markets, spectacular big-budget campaigns are rare. In this context, online audiences are conspicuously on the rise. The sheer volume of YouTube views and sales of hand-held devices such as the iPod, and the successful launch of its big sister, the iPad, seem to reinforce the view that technology and audiences are moving on.
But does all this success in other media mean TV is playing out its death scene? And if it is, where does that leave pay-TV? The fact is, technological development over the past 15 years has accelerated beyond the wildest dreams of many in our industry.
From the moment mobile phones began to proliferate in the mid-1990s, the pace of innovation has been incredible, reaching the point at which mobile phones double up as mini TVs, computers can stream videos in high definition and games consoles moonlight as PVRs.
But look at television: aside from colour pictures, the most startling innovation in TV until relatively recently was the infra-red remote control. Suddenly, everyone is buying giant LCD TV sets, investing in high-definition packages and recreating a cinema-like experience at home. Many new sets have integrated web browsers and some offer 3D pictures. People are spending more on TV hardware than ever before - even in markets hardest-hit by the recession.
Look at the hand-held devices, computers and games consoles that I mentioned. The developments they have undergone mean that, ostensibly, they are now more like TVs or at least more closely related to them. There is the little TV to carry around with you, the one that doubles up as the second TV in the household, the one that gives you TV on demand or records TV pictures.
Time and time again, it comes back to television. In a way, this is the reality of media convergence: no matter what the device, at its heart is a screen and pictures. Most importantly, each of these devices is about engagement of audiences.
And this is the reality of the television industry today, and the reason why pay-TV providers can sleep soundly: audiences want to be entertained or be on top of global news and current affairs.
New devices and technology mean that content needs to live on all of these platforms, but it also means the new platforms can (and should) live alongside one another. Television may be changing, but in many ways it is more powerful than ever.
Sunita Rajan is vice president - advertising sales, Asia and Australasia at BBC Worldwide Channels.
- BBC World
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