A new study from a research firm called Grunwald Associates indicates a significant shift in the media habits of children:
Sixty-four percent of kids go online while watching television, and nearly half of U.S. teens (49 percent) report that they do so frequently — anywhere from three times a week to several times a day. … The study reveals that 73 percent of TV-online multitasking kids are engaged in “active multitasking,” defined by Grunwald Associates as content in one medium influencing concurrent behavior in another. This trend represents a 33 percent increase in active multitasking since 2002. While kids are using more media, their attention primarily and overwhelmingly is focused on their online activities.
I don’t need stats to tell me about the decline of traditional TV among tomorrow’s generation; I see it daily in my own house, as my 17-year-old watches downloaded episodes of Degrassi on her iPod, as my 12-year-old focuses far more time IM’ing or fast-forwarding through DVR’d Celtic games than watching live TV, and as my 9-year-old runs around the house making videos and begging me to let him post something on YouTube, or as he surfs for PS2 cheats online, half-listening as Jimmy Neutron drones in the background.
Sure, there are a few seminal TV events that the family feels obligated to watch live, like the Super Bowl or, to a lesser extent, American Idol. But today’s kids are edging – no, rushing – away from the passive TV experience. I do not envy network execs.
The broadcast networks and production studios get beat up a lot over their sluggish reaction to the Internet video phenomenon, but occasionally they hit on a bright idea. The New York Times reports today about Sony’s plans to launch the Minisode Network, comprising a selection of TV classics such as Charlie’s Angels and T.J. Hooker edited down into digestible, YouTube-worthy Web chunks. From the Times article:
The network will consist of a lineup of tightly edited versions of shows lifted off the shelves of Sony’s television library. These are not clips of the shows, but actual episodes with beginnings, middles and ends, all told in under six minutes.
As Steve Mosko, the president of Sony Television, described it, “So in ‘Charlie Angels,’ they have a meeting, Charlie’s on the intercom telling them what the assignment is, there’s a couple of fights, and then a chase, and they catch the bad guy. Then they’re back home wrapping it up.”
These minisodes will be a runaway hit. I hope Sony owns the rights to The Fall Guy and The A-Team.
Compelling column by Mike Bloxham on MediaPost, juxtaposing the unhealthy skewing of our broadcast and cable news heavily toward sensationalist (Duke rape case) and celebrity (Imus, Anna Nichole Smith) issues with the raw footage found on Hometown Baghdad, a recently launched site featuring video vignettes of a handful of young Iraqis living in a war zone. From Bloxham’s column:
Live since March 19, Hometown Baghdad is an example of a kind of news content that gets closer to the reality of the issues, skirting around the pre-packaged, sterilized and trivia-obsessed formats we see across much of our TV news options. Does news really need an anchor or a celebrity journalist to front it?
I couldn’t agree more. The Web is changing the way we consume news. Hopefully it will change the way the broadcast and cable networks package it as well.
Nice juxtaposition yesterday: Viacom sues GooTube for a cool $1 billion the day after Michael Eisner launches his new online studio, called Vuguru, and unveils its first programming, an 80-webisode series called Prom Queen. Other than its name, which sounds like something I used to mutter around last call, Vuguru may be the best example yet of the future of Web video.
On the surface at least, the Prom Queen site offers provides a nice blend of high-end production quality and modern Web packaging. The target audience (the YouTube generation), the format (90-second episodes), the viral enablers (“embed,” “send” and “download” buttons at the end of the teaser video), a handful of sponsors (including Ellegirl.com and Fiji Water), and the backing of a Hollywood heavyweight like Eisner all bode well for the venture. Of course, the content could suck, which would make the buzz moot (“Snakes on a Plane” syndrome). But this could be a milestone in the evolution of broadband video.
Was it just a year ago that broadcast execs had their boxers in a bunch over TiVo and time-shifting? Today I read that Fox plans to begin streaming the full season-opening episode of “The O.C.” on the web a week before its network premiere. Fox is following the lead of NBC, which premiered two of its new shows on the Web ahead of their boob-tube debut in September. From YouTube trailers to iPod downloads to this latest announcement, the shift in the networks’ approach to their TV programming as it relates to the Web has been stunning in both its speed and its scope. Talk about a tipping point.
But lest we get too excited about the transformation of Old Media, read this story in the Hollywood Reporter about how the Tribune Co., NBC Universal, CBS and others are asking the FCC (again) to relax its restrictions on monopolies, er, ownership of local media properties. The FCC is reviewing its (much-needed) regulations that limit single ownership of multiple broadcast outlets, TV stations and newspapers in a single market. And the media companies are whining (again), with CBS citing increased competition from everything ranging from Google to YouTube to the iPod to cell phones as justification for looser restrictions.
The Hollywood Reporter provides a voice of reason in an opposing viewpoint from the Consumer Federation of America’s Mark Cooper:
“There is simply no evidence that supports permitting further media consolidation — no justification in law, economics or social policy,” said Mark Cooper, director of research at the Consumer Federation of America. “The cornerstone of the FCC’s argument to relax ownership limits is that consolidation is in the public interest. The evidence to the contrary is very clear. Stations that consolidate don’t produce more news, they produce less. And diversity of news and opinion from the most influential media declines. The record is clear: More consolidation hurts our democracy without any discernible benefits.”
I’m already tired of Nissan’s “7 Days in a Sentra” campaign – and we’re not even past the first day yet. The seemingly endless prime time loop of the Day 1 spot is not exactly edge-of-your seat viewing. As in, who cares why some dude decided to live in his car for a week? Did he lose a bet? Is he mocking homeless people? Did Nissan pay him gobs of money?
Give Nissan credit for a well thought out integrated campaign featuring TV ads, a Webisode and a blog. But maybe that’s the problem. The promotion feels contrived, manufactured – the antithesis of the free-spiritedness Nissan is so obviously trying to capture. The blog’s not much more than a placeholder for the commercials and raises important existential questions like, why do the blog entries for days 2-7 have the same posting date?