• Survey: Broadband To Lag TV in 2012. Forget It.

    This piece in today's Hollywood Reporter about a newly-released survey ("Broadband Won't Overtake TV, Execs Say") caught my eye because it continues a highly speculative, and largely irrelevant debate pervasive throughout the industry about future video consumption patterns.

    Why's the debate highly speculative? Because truly, none of us has any idea how people will consume video in 2012. There are just too many variables and too many unknowns to make an accurate prediction. Here's a point of comparison: let's say 5 years ago, in 2002, you were asked what percentage of Americans would consume broadband video in a given month? How many (or few!) of us would have predicted a whopping 75%? (the correct answer according to comScore in July '07). Better yet, how many of us would have guessed that over 25% of this consumption would be at just one site (YouTube) - a site that didn't even exist in 2002? Given these examples, who's to predict what 2012 will bring?

    And why's the debate largely irrelevant? Because, in my opinion, it presupposes a continuation of the existing paradigm: an either/or choice of TV consumption OR broadband consumption. Yet these traditional lines of demarcation are already fading. Broadband programming is starting to migrate to networks, as in the recent case of Quarterlife's move from MySpace to NBC, while at the same time network TV programming is increasingly being consumed online. Meanwhile shorter form programming, not bound by traditional advertising pods is on the rise, further confusing industry definitions. Sites like Metacafe, blip.tv, Veoh and others are driving a whole new category of video that could eventually be a more popular format than 30 or 60 minute programs.

    These days consumers themselves are driving this "broadband or TV" debate into irrelevance. They're busy accessing programming on demand - whether "broadband" or "TV" - through a host of devices and services whose popularity is only going to skyrocket in the future. These include TiVo, Xbox, Netflix, Amazon Unbox and many others. Yet traditional thinking is still pervasive. For example, just this week, the chairman of the FCC has attempted to enact new regulations governing how cable programming might be unbundled. Fortunately this initiative collapsed, but take heed, market forces will eventually cause cable operators to offer programming as consumers want it, not how tradition dictates.

    I think Jim Denney, a TiVo product management VP whom I spoke with yesterday hit the nail on the head. Jim said TiVo's philosophy is to have their users "not worry about where any particular video's coming from, but rather just have all choices easily available." That strikes me as a winning business approach for the turbulent and converging 5 years that lie ahead. In my view, those companies which think about how to deliver value to consumers on their terms, rather than being guided by increasingly artificial distinctions, will be the ones to emerge as the winners in 2012.

     

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