With the information age introducing gadgets such as smartphones, iPads and handheld gaming consoles, consumers are becoming used to having more options at their fingertips. That now includes streaming cable to any device in their house, even if it’s not from their cable provider. As more and more consumers are looking for ways to cut costs and effectively “cut the cord” at home, internet TV streaming services like Sling, YouTube TV and Hulu Live are becoming more interesting to viewers across the country.
Streaming is designed with the viewer in mind. When someone is watching a show on Netflix, the experience is a 100 percent focused effort, which doesn’t revolve around a programming schedule. It also deconstructs the idea of a schedule; now, the same show on TV is likely available any time, on any day, whenever they like. For the viewer, this is great news. But for TV executives who often see large payouts once a show becomes syndicated, running reruns on television, that’s a loss when the content is ubiquitous.
The way stories are being told is changing, too. It used to be that a show premiered in the fall and — depending on the length of the contract — took a mid-season break around the holiday season, picking back up in January. Most shows would then wrap the season between April or May, so the show would be on hiatus most of the summer months. With streaming services, that way of thinking has changed.
Writers used to incorporate seasonality into shows to reflect what was happening in the viewer’s world. But now that premiers are no longer tied down, the way storytelling is being approached is changing. Tricks to lure viewers into staying tuned in after a commercial break like melodramatic pauses and well-timed scene changes are going away, which means that consistent messaging from an advertiser is also going away.
However, don’t say goodbye to traditional cable packages just yet. While there are many perks to switching to a streaming service, the variety of vendors and bundled options remains enticing. One of the main things keeping people connected to cable is sports; very few streaming services offer sports as a streaming option, and those that do are expensive.
Overall, TV streaming still resembles traditional cable packages. The four major networks — ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox — are mostly uncooperative. No matter which service you choose, all of them have gaps in channel selections and offer DVR and add-ons like HBO and Showtime that are often fraught with bugs and technical issues. While the technological landscape is changing the way we consume, it’s clear that large cable companies still have power in the market.
Advertisers will always go where the people are, and people are switching to streaming services offered via the internet. In the past, advertisers would purchase time slots on cable networks based on selecting shows that they felt would be watched by the people they were trying to reach, but that model doesn’t work the same on a streaming service. Running a 30-second ad isn’t really the default option on platforms like Netflix or Hulu, since programming is shorter and the structure of shows can be entirely different.
But while the old model doesn’t quite fit the new mold, there are more options with internet advertising that weren’t available before. In the past, advertisers studied audience demographics and ratings to decide which networks they wanted to buy ad time for. Now, with online streaming, behavioral targeting is much easier, allowing advertisers to reach more of their intended audience instead of guessing. However, many traditional advertisers looked to the number of audience members viewing their ad to decide what ad slots to buy and how much to spend — how can they make an effective decision?
The problem is how to measure advertising. As online streaming services have taken off, traditional ratings have plummeted. The Nielsen Company (Nielsen) is just beginning to figure out how to accurately measure the number of online viewers for TV shows.
Previously, Nielsen calculated the number of viewers of a TV show by metering the televisions of a small sample size of the U.S. population. To effectively do that now, meters will have to be added to all household computers. But since there are so many devices a viewer can watch from, the complete audience may not be measured accurately. Because advertising and ratings are two of the most principal factors in determining if a show is successful, this problem will continue to be a point of contention for networks and advertisers alike.