By Brad Finegan
I remember watching television with my parents over a family dinner in 2013. We were watching the evening news, eating my mother’s roast, when suddenly, I realized something; this was the first time in ages I had watched a broadcast television.
I was floored. Here I am, a media communications major, and I can’t remember the last time I watched a broadcast TV. For my parents, primetime TV is a more-than-weekly evening ritual. Television news, morning and evening, is a daily routine. I, on the other hand, don’t even have cable in my room. What was the difference? What did they see in television that I didn’t? Then, it hit me like a bag of bricks labeled “obvious.”
It wasn’t what I was missing, it was how our youth differed. My parents come from a generation where television depended on you, the viewer, to free your schedule for it. If you didn’t, the network would determine the show wasn’t making quota, and that it wasn’t worth keeping on the air. These days, it’s an absolute blessing if someone actually watches your show when it actually airs on an actual television.
Now, this isn’t to insist that this transition is going to kill television. Television is visual entertainment, and it’s still the case (maybe even more-so, now) that video connects to others unlike any other medium. This is to insist that companies distributing content may want to take a step back and learn how we, the viewers, choose to ingest that content.
Generally speaking, if you ask anyone under age 25 how they view their favorite shows, chances are they’ll return the same answers. Hulu, their DVR, and most importantly; Netflix. Avenues such as these stand as new mediums of sharing content amongst a large crowd, and with changing times, there’s a chance that these could become a new standard.
Here’s an example. NBC’s “Community” is a primetime television show about a group of seven quirky community college students and their life-changing and hysterical adventures through their four years of school. The show retained a huge cult following; the issue was NBC couldn’t recognize it. Why? Because fans of the show are generally under age 25, and chances are they don’t even have cable to watch it on.
Ratings (based on viewership) started to slip. The show found itself on a Friday night slot (not great for a primetime schedule) and on the verge of cancellation after its third season. Once their fan base received word of this, they did practically everything they could to save the show. Netflix and Hulu viewing exponentially increased. More people were accessing the show via On Demand services and DVR. The hashtag campaign #sixseasonsandamovie, insisting that the show deserved to receive six seasons and a movie, went viral virtually overnight. These fans were so dedicated to keeping the show on the air, and did everything they could to do so, except the one thing that would actually raise ratings; watching the show on television when it actually aired.
As this was happening, ratings for “Community” were still hardly sub-par, but when the time came, the executives at NBC signed the show for a fourth season. The show is currently onto its fifth season and stronger than ever.
How can we relate this back to content marketing? Well, it shows us that one avenue isn’t always the only avenue. YouTube may be the second largest search engine in the world, but Instagram is the second largest social media site in the world. Why not put some of your video content there? Even though Facebook is the top social media site right now, who’s to say Google+ won’t get there?
Like with television, the future of content marketing is undetermined, more-so now than ever before. Every avenue could have potential to become a new standard. We now have the ability to ingest content from so many sources that no one could ever possibly be sure where the next viral trend will end up. As a business owner or content marketer, you should always keep the potential of “what-if” in mind. As the internet continues to grow exponentially, the avenues we have access to taking are endless, and we shouldn’t squander the possibility of new avenues taking over our respective markets.