A turning point for television

Television - or at least what we've all traditionally thought of as television - appears to be at a turning point.

Television – or at least what we've all traditionally thought of as television – appears to be at a turning point.

This week a New York Times headline informed us that “Ownership of TV Sets Falls in U.S.,” a trend that was attributed by the Nielsen Company first to poverty and the high cost of digital technology, and second to a generational shift toward the small screen, i.e. computers. The younger you are, the more likely you are to skip the big screen.

Just weeks ago, the Associated Press carried a story with a similar theme, “More Americans Abandon Landlines, a Trend Led by Poor Households, Not High-Tech Elites,” examining the flight to mobile phones across the U.S. Roughly 27% of American households rely solely on cell phones – a trend that is continuing to grow.     Here too, the younger you are, the more likely you are to pass on the traditional telephone. Will the television follow this same trend?

Add to the mix that the Pew Research Center reported in March that more Americans get their news online than from newspapers, but television [at least for now] remains the top source of news overall. And, as the Nielsen study found, it's unclear how many viewers are actually watching a television or their computer monitor, so there's even new consideration of the term “television household” to include Internet viewing.   

Television's reign appeared especially challenged this week, as many people claim to have learned about the Osama Bin Laden death first on social media. The White House elected to use broadcast television to make its announcement; it wasn't the first to deliver the news, however.

The concept of television, viewers and even what constitutes news is clearly changing and we're all challenged to consider how we work in this shifting environment – one that will certainly look different in the future than it does today.

Mark Shadle is EVP and managing director of corporate affairs at Zeno Group.

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