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World Television Day: Celebrating TV as a Symbol of Connection

There’s no denying that television plays a central role in our lives and is a dominant source of information and entertainment. The influence of TV is so widespread that the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed today (November 21) as World Television Day nearly 30 years ago.

As part of the first World Television Forum, the UN leaders recognized television as a symbol of communication and globalization that educates, informs, entertains, and influences our decisions. So how did TV become so powerful…and what does that mean to the streaming industry today?

A window to the world

Television had a bumpy start. A costly status symbol at the beginning of the 20th century, the image quality of televisions was poor and programs were limited. It was unclear how people could even use television in their daily lives. 

Over the years, manufacturers explored interesting applications to add value to TVs – including units with stoves and radios built in!

Technology and content were in a race to produce a product consumers had a reason to purchase. While engineers were hard at work improving the picture and audio quality, studios were striving to create more enticing shows that motivated consumers to want a television. 

Black-and-white screens and three channels with grainy pictures were the springboard for creating an entertainment and information hub that delivers the world to our living rooms. The 1960s represented a turning point in the power of television with millions of sets in peoples’ homes. Pivotal moments in history were televised, including the first moon walk, Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and the John F. Kennedy assassination. 

No longer simply a source for entertainment and news reports, TV transported viewers to real events – at the moment they were happening. Television elevated the public consciousness of world affairs by televising stark images of war and scandalous government wrongdoings. Content became the driving force of modern television.

Content choice leads the way

Not surprisingly, viewers continued to want more varied content – and they were willing to pay for more selection. Cable networks exponentially increased the number of channels and content choices, but audiences still wanted more. Exclusive channels, like HBO, added tiering to the pay-cable landscape with new release movies, original programming, and live sports.

Streaming services began making an appearance in 2007, offering movies and TV shows online. The wider availability of high-speed internet, combined with the development of MPED video compression and ADSL data communication, enabled the delivery of video content over the internet as an alternative to cable TV. Within a few years, companies like Netflix began producing their own high-quality content like “House of Cards,” and Hulu offered a mix of ad-supported and subscription-based streaming services.

Today, approximately 50% of adults living in the U.S. spend more than $100 per month on cable television, and though consumer costs are expected to rise, that revenue is difficult to replace as cable subscription numbers fall. With smaller budgets, it becomes even more difficult to produce new quality content to keep viewership. It’s a vicious cycle as cable TV costs rise and content choices drop, the allure of streaming grows stronger. 

Another signal of the changing times is many linear TV channels and networks are launching their own streaming options. Is this the next turning point for TV – the beginning of the end for cable? 

Ushering in the next era of TV 

Amid trends, like the rise of FAST and the resurgence of the TV bundle, some people question if streaming is simply recreating the cable experience over the internet with CTV. What we are beginning to recognize is that streaming is building on the success of cable TV. CTV has enabled content publishers and streamers to make their libraries more accessible to a broader range of audiences. The digital connection of streaming allows providers to measure content performance and target niche audiences in ways that cable TV never could. 

For viewers, streaming services have revolutionized how they interact with TV today. Content can be accessed easily on-demand, as well as through scheduled channel programming similar to traditional cable TV. Similarities with the cable viewing experience have made streaming options, like FAST, a natural step for viewers curious about the vast amount of streaming content available.

Still, so many content choices can be too much of a good thing. While the early days of television were defined by a lack of options for what to watch, technology and content have evolved to the point where the choices are nearly limitless. Content discoverability is today’s most pressing challenge. Choosing programs to watch – from an estimated 40,000 individual FAST channels, streaming providers, and aggregators – can be overwhelming. The average consumer spends more than 10 minutes finding something to watch each time they access their streaming services. 

Although there are generational differences in how people find content, the best indicator for connecting your content with the right audiences is their actual viewing behaviors. ContentDiscovery helps acquire new subscribers at the lowest possible cost for SVODs and increase Ad ROAS for FAST channels and apps. Wurl’s AI engine is capable of learning your content and identifying and targeting high-value viewers based on their content interactions. 

Find out more about how ContentDiscovery can amplify your campaigns to attract high-value viewers. Join us in celebrating World Television Day today by appreciating the value of television as a tool that can connect and globalize the world through shared experiences.

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