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Television – The Most Alive Medium for Shifting Times

In late November, Business Insider carried an article titled “TV is Dying, And Here are the Stats That Prove It”. Another recent one was called “The Coming Death of Television”. They pop up every so often, each writing TV’s obituary. And they’re all wrong. Dead wrong.

Here are the facts to prove it: people still watch more traditional television than anything else – TV reaches over 88% of all adults each day, compared to 73% for the Internet. People spend over 5 hours with television daily, versus 3 hours online.

These statistics aren’t merely trends. They’re today’s reality. The rise of the Internet culture isn’t a television replacement; it’s an existence in tandem. As the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, when online giants like Microsoft, eBay, Yahoo!, and Amazon wanted to increase their brand awareness, they bankrolled millions – hundreds of millions, altogether – in television advertising.

Most of the death knell articles cite Netflix, YouTube, and other versions of on-demand streaming as the cause of TV’s demise. They believe television is dying because it’s not what it once was. Programs that generate 22 ratings are gone. But so is the 3-network world. Yet television remains central in people’s video lives – Adults 25-34 spent 13 times more hours watching television per month than watching video online, and 23 times more than video on mobile phones.

People supplement with streaming. They actually create more time for television with time-shifting, as more rating points are increasingly being generated post-live than live. Most binge viewing comes from catching up with favorite shows, rather than as a rejection of current content. On-demand itself exists in order to satisfy people’s appetite for television. Don’t just take our word for it. According to Nielsen’s latest Cross-Platform report, people watch more TV than ever.

That’s right – the rise of digital has simply allowed people to discover a deeper, more robust relationship with television.
So make no mistake, digital exclusionists. Television is very much alive. It’s digital. And it’s social. Twitter has initiated many TV-centric metrics, taking steps to solidify its relationship with the television industry before going public. And Nielsen acquired a social media monitoring service, and will also be integrating online viewership in its ratings. A dying medium does not inspire such industry-transforming responses.

Nielsen and Twitter each promote the same basic truth – that television drives social discussions. People take to social media to talk about television more than almost any other topic. And social media brings relevance to television’s mass reach. Viewers use social media, often simultaneously with live television, for a social viewing experience. For these people, their mobile device usually isn’t their viewing screen, it’s their communication vehicle. They’re watching their television.

Furthermore, according to Deloitte, only 20% of People age 14-23 say that they watch TV on tablets, while 62% are watching live on traditional TV. And a Kaiser study states that 71% of 8-18 year-olds have a TV in their room. Yet another recent article in The Atlantic called out the myth of teens rejection television. So TV’s demographic future isn’t as bleak as some might lead you to believe.

It comes down to this – even if you can watch TV everywhere, why would you watch it on a 7-inch tablet when you have a 70-inch Super HD with surround sound? People will always choose the best screen available, and that will always be television. This year’s CES is demonstrating just how big and innovative the business of television hardware still is.

TV is far, far from being a dying medium. It is evolving. Comparing the landscape of television to what it was in the 1970’s or 80’s is about as accurate as comparing the Internet today to the Internet to the 1990’s. It’s not the same platform anymore. It’s better.

There is a reason that no one refers to the television as a “second screen.” In the media universe, television will always have the largest mass. The rest will just have to settle into orbit.

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