I come from a background of traditional media; newspapers, radio and television. I still feel that especially television can play an important part in a project, since it is a tried and tested way to reach people, a way that many are familiar with and can accept fairly easily (and no, I’m not talking about television as being watched on a television set, but the notion of a television show, no matter where and how you view it. The 30 minute slot, the feeling of a sitcom, the soothing tone of a well-spoken voice over, all the things that we accept as natural parts of a television show). So, naturally, I keep track of what happens in my old – but still very current – areas of the media landscape.
This year, we are witnessing the beginning of a small upheaval that just might turn into a bigger one. Over at Hulu, CEO Jason Kilar wrote passionately about the new ways of consuming television and his firm belief that the traditional television companies would have to move with the times and rethink as more and more people are abandoning traditional television. Ty Braswell wrote an excellent piece over at Venture Beat about 2011 being the make-or-break year for television. A quote from the end of his post:
2011 will be the most significant year in the history of television. We are days away from the tipping point. Industry leaders who fail to organize with their competitors will see their business evaporate. Digital natives are already becoming comfortable and savvy getting TV and movie content illegally.
2011 will be a very good year for people in the business of television if they realize that television as we know it has gone away. For the start-ups and their investors, a tremendous opportunity has been created: Whoever teaches the television industry how to monetize content and make it easy to access will become the next big thing.
Granted, that was written to a large extent from a financial and distribution angle. I do believe, however, that this will be a positive thing for transmedia storytelling. As is discussed and hoped for in the posts mentioned above, we are looking – perhaps forced to look, but still – at a significant change in the way people consume television, a change that will be for the better and in a more coherent way will touch on the viewers’ way of living and consuming. This space is not yet occupied, and in my eyes it does have a decidedly transmedia-ish shape.
Using transmedia storytelling as a way to re-invent television makes absolute sense to me. That is the best and – I was going to say “easiest”, but that’s probably not the right word – most accommodating way to utilize the fact that many a loyal and engaged member of any show’s audience has already torrented it from any number of sources weeks before it hits their territory via traditional television, and are viewing it on their laptops. In such a case, perhaps clear call to actions in the content of just that show means that “delving deeper into the story” is just seconds away. Remember, these are people who have not just switched on the television set and are watching your show because they have nothing else to do. These are active and engaged people, who have taken the effort to download YOUR show rather than anyone else’s, because they like it. Don’t throw that away!
I firmly believe that television as we know it will not exist for that long. Yes, there will be television sets, although the way t use them will evolve. Yes, there will be television shows, although their function might evolve as well – from being the end product to being the lunch vehicle to engage an audience into your story world. And as the term “I’m watching television” moves to whole new contextual levels, so must the content and the stories we want people to listen to.