There comes a time in every young professional’s life when you start evaluating the cost of living. When the leftover produce that’s almost inedible will do “just fine” on the soggy salad you bring to work for lunch. Or when that bar in the shadiest part of town, whose happy hour extends till 9 and rail drinks go for $2.50, “isn’t too far from here, so let’s just leave the bar before the streetlights come on.” This is precisely the time most post-graduate twenty-somethings realize that in order to sustain the lifestyle they want, sacrifice is essential. So what do you sacrifice? Nights out on the town? Browsing a favorite retailer on your way home from work? A parking spot near your office?
When posed with this altering conundrum, I examined my options, and then wrote out the pros and the cons. I determined I’d give up what matters most to a fair amount of people. I risked becoming a social outcast. I threw in the towel. I gave up cable television!
After months of staring at a blank plasma screen in my living room, and continuously disappointing countless people when I would ask, “Who is Walter White?” I decided to dip my feet in the waters of online streaming.
Beginning with Hulu, I sporadically tuned in to a couple shows here and there, but found myself gradually becoming more and more agitated by the TV advertisements ever so strategically placed in 5-7 minute maddening intervals. Sure, I could’ve upgraded. I could’ve spent the $7.99 per month. However, after speaking with a friend who did the same, apparently this nuisance persists even at the “Plus” level. Thanks but no thanks, Hulu. The advertisements alone were the only reason I decided not to continue the tumultuous relationship I had begun with Hulu. In the end, I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for Netflix. It may not be free, but it had what I wanted: seemingly endless entertainment and ZERO TV commercial interruptions.
Being a perpetual student of marketing, I started to think about how the online streaming of TV shows and movies is changing the world of advertising not only online, but in general. I know I am not the only person who has clicked off their television in favor of the uninterrupted viewing pleasure found via internet streaming. In fact, an estimated 4.7 million households will cut the cable cords of their homes by the end of the year (NY Times). That is an ALARMING statistic for TV and Cable advertisers. This shift towards on-demand television, sans advertisements, is a serious threat.
It appears the broadcast and entertainment industry are quickly heading to the point where they are forced to reinvent the wheel of traditional commercial advertisements (we already see it with product placement). Currently, I can open my laptop and plug in the HDMI cord into my plasma TV. I enjoy hours of nail-biting Heisenberg action in Breaking Bad, and I get to do so all without an advertisement interrupting my show. To me, it’s perfection with a minimal investment. But to advertisers, it’s an alarming look into what the future holds for TV and Cable versus internet streaming entertainment, let alone at the growing percentage of people DVRing most shows, only to watch them at a later date and without having to watch the commercials. According to reports, currently about a third of all TV is watched from the DVR. That number will only increase…and quickly.
Consumers are demanding more of their entertainment providers, and this is resulting in a need for increased creativity from advertisers. However, that is more about TV and Cable, considerng I’m exposed to a TON of other advertising on a regular basis. I see hundreds of digital displays ads online as I visit my favorite sites, I hear engaging radio commercials as I listen to my favorite radio stations, and I see countless ads as I drive to work, all over busses, bus shelters, buildings, and the occasional billboard (however, there aren’t many of them in the DC area).
The issue TV and Cable have is the tip of the iceberg, I know, but its impact on the advertising industry is indisputable, and now we’ve reached a point where advertisers must decide where to focus their attention. Will this dip in cable viewing affect advertising dollars spent on other forms of media? It’s a question to pose to marketers and advertisers industry wide: how will this affect your advertising?