Today, incumbent TV networks are facing a two-fold mission: On the one hand, current viewers (a.k.a. “users”) must remain engaged and receive their steady supply of “push-media”; even on fixed schedules and in fixed locations, and in the traditional ways that have worked well for those that are not part of the Net Generation (i.e., those web-savvy 12–27 year olds). On the other hand – and this is something we must totally embrace – the only significant and sustainable growth in revenues, in the future, will flow from this generation of the “echo boomers,” the Digital Natives. These are the people who will consume VOD services, IPTV, mobile TV, and online video offerings. And, let’s face it, these are also the people “formerly known as consumers (i.e., viewers)” – they no longer just sit, wait, and watch. Rather, they program their own media (that means locations, schedules, and delivery platforms), they comment, they question, they share, they communicate – and many of them want to interact as well, and even contribute to this new TV 2.0 medium. The Net Generation will be able to select from, and switch back and forth between, many different delivery platforms and hundreds of thousands of sources of TV/video.
This has already started with YouTube, DailyMotion, Metacafe, Joost, Babelgum, and Facebook. In addition, the rapid growth of cheap, wireless broadband may yet turn every person into a walking DVR, video vault, and peer-to-peer broadcaster, as well. Therefore, the most important mission for the incumbent, large, and international TV companies must be to really embrace these changes and to build (or buy) new business models based on these new paradigms, while efficiently retaining what is still working – but with the understanding that this will, beyond a doubt, no longer generate enough revenues in only 3–5 years. Embrace user engagement, interactivity, user-gener-ated content (or shall we say user-generated context?), social media, and communities built around TV and video content, and go for the Web approach. It’s not all good but it’s going to get there. Sometimes, it may work best to start an in-house, rival “TV 2.0” company, a new, quasi-subversive entity that seeks to overthrow and out-do the existing company and that is free to do things the new way without having to worry about the day-to-day business.
For TV producers and distributors, it is now also crucial to seriously question one’s own operating assumptions. The worst thing that can happen is to take your own, current media consumption habits as guidelines for the development of future scenarios, because it is not us (i.e., the 30 to 60-year-olds) who generate the future growth, it’s the 10–30 year olds who will – and they don’t think at all like we do! Once one realizes that there is no longer such a thing as “offline,” that TV is about to fully converge with the Internet, that all of us will very soon be truly always-on and connected at very high speeds (and with small devices formerly known as computers), that the Internet is now all about content rather than just communication, that in many western countries the Internet has moved to the #1 position as the favorite medium of choice for the digital natives, and that Internet advertising stands to overtake TV advertising in 2009…then one cannot overstress the importance of getting involved with TV 2.0, with jumping in head-first, with becoming the driving force behind change. Don’t wait another day. As Victor Havel once said: “Consciousness precedes reality, and not the other way around.”