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Digital Media Goes Mainstream

Posted @ 9:55 pm by Grady Kuhnline | Category: Awards, Community & Social Media, Digital Marketing, E-commerce, SolutionSet, Technology | 0 Comments

Last night’s Emmy Awards was an important milestone in media as Netflix, an online only distributor, won a primetime Emmy – the first time this has ever happened. As major content producers continue to embrace the internet as a platform, I can’t help but think this won’t be the last time. A new, younger generation of consumers streaming their content will help make sure that, soon, television will have as much to do with air waves as radio does today.

The Internet is continuing the slow dismantling of the major networks that began with cable’s rise to prominence. Today, companies like Netflix and Hulu offer a direct to consumer distribution channel that can completely bypass the broadcast establishment. Even cable companies, like AMC and HBO, are utilizing the broad acceptance by younger consumers of online streaming video to bring their content to their customers. The emergence of binge viewing (captured brilliantly in an episode of Portlandia) is part of an overall trend of how modern audiences prefer their media experiences to occur on their terms.

Mainstreaming Streaming

Not long ago, the idea of a slick, big-budget drama being produced exclusively for online distribution might’ve seemed absurd. Yet, despite the absurdity, Netflix has found success through a number of new series (including, most notably, House of Cards) and Amazon is getting into the mix with its own original content. Netflix is trying to prove to the television industry establishment that the DVD market, which has been providing a significant second income for television programming, is going to give way to online streaming.

While it seems that the old guard is catching on – Hulu started as a joint venture between NBC and News Corp – they haven’t yet embraced the concept of a la cart programming. Television is still largely beholden to the antiquated ideas of primetime programming. Young audiences, however, have increasingly only been drawn to network TV for event programming – think reality TV stunts, awards shows and sports. Networks like NBC, are seeing dramatically reduced audiences compared years past.

Outsider cable networks are already capitalizing on this new distribution platform. AMC, HBO and Showtime are all creating award-winning television that are designed to get a huge boost in the DVD, streaming and video on demand aftermarket. The current case-in-point for this trend is a show like AMC’s Breaking Bad, which has remained a hugely popular show, despite typically low Nielsen ratings.

Fans of these types of shows rely on an array of “catch up” formats that allow them to watch the shows when it is most convenient for them. However, convenient viewing options also allow for new fans to start from the very beginning of the show. If your friend raves about a series that they love, you can start watching that show from the very beginning, even binging to catch up in a single weekend. Quality content is finding new audiences long after the original air date and audiences are choosing their time wisely, engaging in shows only after they’ve already established a critical mass.

Radios and CD’s

Today it’s hard for anyone under a certain age to imagine purchasing a music CD – iTunes famously changed its logo to remove any reference to the antiquated discs. Even radio has taken on a new meaning in the digital age, making the very concept of over-air radio seem useless – in my car I stream my “radio” from services like Spotify and Pandora using my internet connected phone. Music was the first medium to get a fully digitized makeover, largely because music files are so much easier to distribute on the internet. Audio files are substantially smaller than video files.

The digital distribution of video content has been waiting patiently for the proliferation of high speed internet and capable computers to make online distribution viable. Already, the number of US households without a TV at all is on the rise. This trend is likely to increase over time as more and more households rely on their laptops, tablets and phones as their primary source of video content.

The internet is reaching a critical mass where it is displacing media channels that have been entrenched for decades. There are new, exciting opportunities to reach customers on the web. What we’re seeing is a validation of the Internet as the most important distribution channel for content in the 21st century. The most encouraging, and truly historic part of this trend is that the original content that’s available from the streaming services is actually really good. In the case of House of Cards, it’s award-winning.

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