Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Huddling the family around the Netflix box

with 2 comments

home_content_box1Remember gathering the family together to sit by the old radio and listening to Amos ‘n’ Andy, The Adventures of the Thin Man, and Fibber McGee & Molly? Of course not. You’re likely too young. Most of that generation is gone.

TV burst onto the screen and as a society and we still participated in that new medium as a family unit. With only a few choices to select from (and many shows ported over from radio), prime time meant prime family time.

Enter cable with the ability to deliver a myriad of programming choices. Now seeking particular demographics became feasible. Audiences fractured. Broadcast, still dominant, sees its numbers dwindle to the point that it may be impossible to top M*A*S*H’s finale even with a Superbowl broadcast.

With the further splintering effects of a society that operates at a quicker pace, family activities prevented a coming together like we had seen in the past. Even the evening dinner came a casualty.

Enter today’s economic predicament. Shaky income situations leads to reassessment of free time and differing choices on what we spend money on. The bottom line, as I wrote about before, does it have value?

At the same time is the development of IP delivered content. Through vehicles such as iTunes, Hulu, and TiVo, we can get the content we want when we want it. And with the ability to connect devices to the big screen TVs we now have in our living rooms, we’re not confined trying to watch the content on a small iPod screen or sitting at our desktop computer. We can now sit down and watch the content where it was meant to be consumed.

So, I pose this question in hopes that it sparks a conversation; if we aren’t going out as much and re-assessing how we’re spending money, does that not invite a return to the days of quality family time? If we’re able to receive content according to both our tastes and time schedules via The Netflix Player or Apple TV, could we not begin to see the opportunity as advertisers of reaching large, demographically heterogeneous audiences again?

2 Responses

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  1. Interesting point Jeff but I don’t think we’re going to see the large return to TV family time that you mentioned. Perhaps the current environment (i.e. reassessing how we spend money) may lead to some of that but I am doubtful that the return to those type of habits would be large enough to make a significant difference in advertising.

    The problem is that there are still too many choices out there these days, so TV viewing will always be fragmented — that is if the TV is even the media of choice for everyone in the family. It used to be that everyone huddled around the TV because there were shows that everyone in the family mutually liked. Kids and parents together watched Happy Days, Love Boat, M*A*S*H, Family Ties, Cosby Show, etc. More shows back then had universal appeal vs. today when the majority of shows seem to cater to one type of audience or the other. Case in point, it’s rare that my wife and I watch TV together. Our tastes are completely different and there are different outlets to satisfy each of those tastes. There are only a few shows that appeal to both of us.

    So, perhaps the answer has more to do with the content than with the economy’s affect on our viewing habits. If there were more family-friendly shows that were good enough (and I emphasize that last point) to take viewers away from their taste-specific shows, then maybe it could have the effect of drawing everyone around the TV together.

    But even so, with DVR’s the family would now come together at a time of its choosing, and fast forward the commercials anyway. The shows would have to be so good that people couldn’t wait to see them so they watch them live and thus see the commercials. Personally, I watch most of my TV by DVR these days except for maybe 1-2 shows that I cannot wait to see each week so I’m in front of the set when it airs live.

    And not only does the content have to be able to overcome the DVR effect, it has to overcome the Internet these days. The Generation Y members of the family are more interested in surfing the net all night than watching a quality show (and if they do watch TV it’s likely to be online with little to no advertising). The content has to compete with the likes of Facebook and YouTube…and not just with the Gen Y’s either. The fastest growing users of Facebook is the 25-40 crowd (I know because my wife and I are part of that group becoming addicted to FB).

    So what’s the answer? Better network TV would help, but the real issue is that we’re at the beginning of a change in society as we’ve known it. Technology has allowed us to blur the lines between work and personal life, to surround ourselves with personalized everything (the “Daily Me” as they say), and the growing social media trend will blur the lines even further, completely changing our entertainment habits, probably for good. Advertisers of broadcast media need a completely new model if they’re going to survive in this new landscape…start your brainstorming now!


    February 4, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    • Excellent points, one and all. Not only do I agree with you, but I would suggest that you didn’t go far enough.

      Network television’s next M*A*S*H is already on the air. I don’t know which show it is, but one of the shows on the air today would live, thrive, and survive if it was airing on network television in the ’70s. But for all the reasons you stated, it’s too late. The current environment has precluded mass audiences in the numbers that we used to see.

      I think there are certain types of programming that will be somewhat insulated from technology altering delivery methods. For the most part, people don’t like to watch sporting events that have been pre-recorded. Unless it has historical meaning (1980 Olympics US Men’s Hockey semi finals), people want to watch the event NOW. From that respect, we knew that we would be somewhat insulated at ESPN.

      Sports aside, perhaps one of the most popular shows today coincidentally with a “have to watch it now” formula is American Idol. But even they can’t come close to the numbers found in the family type programming that you listed in your comments.

      I love my TiVo. I love Hulu. I love my AppleTV rentals and my Netflix. Advertisers have a real hard time reaching me! So, how will advertisers reach people like me (and you) now that there’s more of us?

      I have an idea or two!

      Jeff York

      February 16, 2009 at 10:07 pm

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