Earlier this week, ITV’s Adam Crozier shared an update on the company’s commercial performance across the first quarter of 2012. Despite ad revenue being slightly down in the quarter, a positive outlook for June, strong performance from ITV Studios and growth of online viewing all contributed to the results being well received. The share price responded positively and we were further encouraged by the promise of a strong autumn schedule.
But I couldn’t help but feel the presence of an elephant in the room. A big, fat connected-TV elephant. Reading yesterday’s reports, I was struck by how ITV’s performance was being assessed in the language of the past (perhaps also the current) as opposed to that of the near future. Comparisons versus last year, first quarter versus estimates for second quarter, all wrapped in the context of the “TV ad market”. But things will soon be changing.
Rumours suggest that Apple will be launching its connected TV screen in the first quarter of next year. Samsung, and others, will also be competing aggressively in this space. I have already seen research suggesting consumers are starting to hold back from purchasing new TVs, instead choosing to wait for a better, connected product; drawn towards the enticing prospect of seamless transference between smartphone, tablet and large screen. Those who feel this will be a slow process should remind themselves how rapidly Apple and others have scaled the tablet market – a completely new category. (Or that Xbox already has connected set-top boxes in more than half as many homes as Sky).
So what does this mean for TV? Well, nobody knows exactly but some things are a certainty. Watching TV will become a better experience. We will “search” for programmes rather than “page down”. We will be more likely to choose programmes to watch based on what our friends are currently viewing, as opposed to being directed by channel announcers. Tablets and smartphones will be our remote controls. Our industry will need new ways of understanding and measuring viewing. This will create new TV buying currencies.
None of this is bad. Viewers will be happier and more engaged. Advertisers and agencies will have new opportunities to build richer brand experiences around customers.
But back to ITV’s results. Shouldn’t its performance and share price be understood in the context of the world they are about to inhabit? (By the way, I could say the same the same for all other broadcasters). The “TV ad market” referred to earlier will soon look very different. What will be the role of the ITV1 channel itself be in a connected TV home? To use a retail analogy, what is the value of owning the biggest and best site on the high street if people will soon be buying products out-of-town? This is not to say ITV can’t have a bright future. It can. But I believe now is the time for the analysts to make their assessments within a new context.
However bright TV ad revenue estimates are for the second quarter, I can hear heavy footsteps.
This was originally published on NMA.co.uk