Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Next generation of viewers? How not to lose them.

Over the last few years I've spent quality time with friends and relatives at the lower end of the 16-34 demographic that are the 'Holy Grail' for advertisers, therefore the Holy Grail for broadcasters -especially those like MTV or Extreme Sports that sell themselves on that basis.

The thing is, I wonder how many of those who are say 16-20 have the 'TV habit' and what that means for 'TV' Stations as years go by and the notion of what is an available audience changes and shrinks. My experience seems tells me that this younger demo will watch TV when its on, they'll be interested about certain shows they hear about, but crucially they aren't in the habit of going on and switching the TV on. If they're bored or have time they always seem to fire up the computer instead and log on.

Now this isn't new info. However I believe that all TV 'brands', and especially those aimed at a youth market need to up their game and stop thinking of this as TV with bits on, and re-assess how they look at serve their target audience.

Outside the terrestrials, I see only half-hearted attempts to engage with, and prepare for this new paradigm. I'm not sure if its lack of understanding and/or of vision by those who make the decisions. From my experience I think a big factor is the short-termism of the bottom line that ultimately is bad business as it halts companies from growing, or even being able to stand still. I know very few TV businesses that will invest in anything that doesn't have an immediate return on investment - hence the amount of revenue sharing deals going on with more of the risk falling on smaller suppliers who have to take risk to survive. I think the same is true of the bigger players, but they're just a bit more cushioned from those harsh realities.

Multi-channel is a harsh, place and stations can fall off a ratings cliff over a season, but rebuilding an audience is tough like building a pyramid single handedly.

So my few suggestions of the day:

- Money people; realise that you are no longer in a stable, mature business. You're more like a bubble that might burst. You need to be fast moving, entrepreneurial and closer to your grass routes. If you want to survive you need the equivalent of an R&D department, ideally with a bit of an incubator investment fund attached. Risk is part of the game.

- Stop using the word viewer and start thinking of them, for want of a better word, as customers. TV stations are entertainment brands nowadays - and stations aren't that big you can't be in a 'conversation' with your audience

- In fact, stop thinking of yourself as a 'Broadcaster' with its inference of a paternalistic scattering of 'we know better' grains of entertainment gold. You're a service industry, like restaurants, holidays and back massages and its always worth keeping that in mind.

- Stop nibbling at the edges of the 'new dynamic' by playing lip service for example by adding a 'spray painting' of interactivity to your current product. If your going to do something, do it properly if you want your audience to connect to, and respect your product.

- In traditional TV you make a product, then advertise it. But in this landscape, we don't need to be, or in fact should be such a 'distant' entity. Here, your media brand is better able to reach out and touch your customers through social networks, e-mail outs and web presence. Talking to your audience needs to be a dialogue not a speech, and more importantly the 'core' (production side) of the business needs to be talking to customers and potential customers- not a separate advertising and PR department. Lessons need to taken from areas like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) about knowing, understanding, communicating and retaining your customer.

-The current media landscape is moving towards areas where implicit TV specialities such as 'discovery' are more explicit, 'I'm doing this for you', 'check this out'. Music channels - who may (or may not) have your own websites, but you also need to 'let go' of strict notions of ownership and gain a presence on other websites like Facebook or My Space with useful widgets and info. Get your producers and talent to start blogging. Be seen to be fully engaged with the whole media landscape.

- People are still people, they still want to be entertained, to learn, to have something to talk to their friends about, to wind down or be excited. They WANT to interact with brands they trust and that speak to them and their lifestyles - this isn't that scary.

- Your channel brands are multi-platform. You need some more show formats that are too, that build a returning audience across platforms.

Ok, that's enough for today. want me, I'm available as a reasonably priced consultant.

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