Future of TV – and ICT

The IBM Institute for Business Value has released a new study on The end of TV as we know it: A future industry perspective. While technology is pushing the industry toward convergence (i.e. telephony, cable TV and Internet), this study see consumer behavior as the major differentiator:

The industry instead will be stamped by consumer bimodality, a coexistence of two types of users with disparate channel requirements. While one consumer segment remains passive in the living room, the other will force radical change in business models in a search for anytime, anywhere content through multiple channels.

The study labels this as:

the “Generational Chasm” between the passive mass audience (“Massive Passives”) and leading-edge users (divided into two sub-groups: “Gadgetiers” and “Kool Kids”).

As a result, the industry will have to invest in different strategies to reach the different consumer groups. That should make for an interesting scramble.
On the technology side, the World Economic Forum has also just released its Global Information Technology Report. The report ranks countries on their “Network Readiness” – with the US as regaining the top spot. [I wonder how that will play out in all the competitiveness discussion on the US lack of broadband.]
More importantly, the rest of the WEF report discusses how information and communications technology (ICT) is absolutely key for economic developments. For example, in one chapter “Information Technology and Productivity, or ‘It Ain’t What You Do, It’s the Way that You Do I.T.'”:

The authors show that the higher productivity of US multinationals located in Europe–as compared to other multinationals–appears to be linked to their better use of IT. They argue that this is likely to be due to the superior internal organization of the US firms, such as stronger worker incentives, smarter targets, leaner manufacturing, etc. This effect is particularly strong in the ICT-using sectors, where the United States experienced a productivity burst, whereas Europe did not. This difference in the use of IT may explain the absence of US-style productivity acceleration in Europe over the last decade.

Looking at the TV industry as part of the broader ICT sector gives us a different look at the IBM “Generational Chasm.” Does this chasm describe not only consumers of information/content, but also producers. Are those in the massive passive category also workers who are not using ICT and not very engaged in the I-Cubed Economy? Or are they (as I can speak from my household experience) people who need an evening break from the interactive world (i.e. have TV news on while cooking dinner – or relaxing in the evening)?
The line between consumption and production of information is blurring with the rise of interactivity. But it is not completely gone. We need to take a closer look at how people respond at work and play. We also have to realize that people may shift categories during different parts of their day (and different times of life).
The IBM authors are absolutely right in their statement that the one-size-fits-all version of TV is gone forever. But, I’m not sure that it ever really existed. I remember the old fights over whose TV programs we are watching tonight — which only lessened with the move to multiple sets in the household and still exists in the ongoing “war of the sexes” over who controls the remote.
My guess is that in the I-Cubed Economy, the concept of broadcast versus narrowcast will be lost. Both of those speak to the distribution technology — not how the consumer wants the content. Getting “Desperate Housewives” on a PDA or mobile phone screen does not remove the desire by others to see it on Sunday night curled up in front of the TV. But that does not necessarily mean that everyone curled up on Sunday stays that way for the entire week. They maybe downloading TV talk shows to their iPod or using the Web almost exclusively for their news.
For me, multiplicity and fluidity of categories are real the concepts. All of which should make for a very interesting ride for all the ICT industries over the next few years.

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