Last week, I began noticing hard some more things which make it more clear than ever before, at least for me, a profound realisation: it is going to be the end of television as we know it. Or, at least, the so-called prime-time.
For decades, television channels have been built around high-impact programmes built around the success of prime-time shows, usually the evening or weekend hours, when families converge around TV sets.
The highest viewing in these get the maximum ads, with obnoxiously priced 30-second commercials hyped around the high viewership they generated. With the coming of cable TV, the era of channels and networks commanding huge revenues came under attack.
The advent of direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting, made popular in India by Tata Sky and Dish TV and now by several other services, led to more fragmentation of channels.
Last week, when Star Plus’s reality show “Sachchai Ka Saamna” opened to big-bang ratings, it overnight took on Colors, Zee and NDTV Imagine in a see-saw game.
Seriously, what we have here is a case of more channels, more programmes and more wars. DTH broadcasters also offer downloads and staggered viewing of programmes and enable you to record one programme while watching another channel. All this is making the business of measuring channel viewership more and more difficult, and I suspect advertisers are realising it more than ever before.
Meanwhile, I started noticing that YouTube, the online video site owned by Google, now puts advertisements at the bottom of uploaded videos and also on the side of the Web pages, while its viewership surges, aided by referrals on social
networking sites like Facebook. Internet video is taking off
Google also announced last week that YouTube will be profitable in the near future, justifying its $1.65 billion acquisition in 2006. While DTH channels are becoming easier to launch at lower costs, with the mushrooming of satellites, online video is maturing to a point where programmes can be sold through Websites or DTH services in downloads.
It is truly the end of prime-time TV. I expect that within two years, people will watch programmes, not channels.