Vivid: Is TV losing ground to digital media?

The couch potatoes have seemingly gone digital with TV, once the most popular medium of entertainment, taking a backseat, says Annurag Batra of exchange4media

e4m by Annurag Batra
Updated: Aug 12, 2013 8:19 AM
Vivid: Is TV losing ground to digital media?

This was in the coming for a long time. A recent survey of a market research company has revealed that the average time spent with digital media by an average US adult will surpass television viewing time soon.

According to eMarketer’s latest estimate of media consumption, an average adult will spend over five hours per day online, on non-voice mobile activities or with other digital media this year, compared to 4 hours and 31 minutes watching television of last year, a fall by seven minutes. The couch potatoes have seemingly gone digital with television, once the most popular medium of entertainment, taking a backseat. The forecast decline in TV watching in the US is in stark contrast to the UK, where a report from Ofcom, the industry regulator, showed that the medium remains central to the British household, with viewers on average watching four hours a day in 2012, up from three hours and 42 minutes in 2004.

This survey is important for it marks a significant tipping point in the shift away from the traditional forms of media. The ever-growing, innovation-inspired media market has seen such shifts within a short span of time since the introduction of globalisation and liberalisation policies. In India, the decade of the 90s is best remembered as the one slowly but steadily introducing computers to every household, at least in urban areas in the country. Being online became a fad as consumer behaviour changed and shook the foundation of traditional businesses.

Computer technology itself saw increased creative activities targeted at tapping in consumers as digital media became a way of life across the globe for obvious reasons like lowered costs, widened reach, instant customisation and most importantly, connecting anyone anywhere to circulate information and further increase reach. The growth of the internet and the rapid spread of fast broadband connectivity transformed the landscape. So did the rise of companies such as Apple, Google and Samsung, whose main aim is to delight individuals rather than businesses or governments.

Computers remain important part of our lives until today but even this medium is slowly being overtaken in another pivotal change in the form of smartphones and tablets. As per the eMarketer’s estimate, smartphones and tablets will overtake computers as the primary means of consuming digital media. The amount of time people spend using mobile devices to surf the web will increase by nearly an hour to two hours and 21 minutes, compared to one hour and 33 minutes in 2012, the survey has revealed. Meanwhile, hours spent using a desktop PC or laptops for internet-related activities will fall by eight minutes, from two hours and 27 minutes in 2012 to two hours and 19 minutes.

A recent survey by Flurry also claimed that phablets (phones+tablets) have become a fad across the world with more than a billion smartphones and tablets being in the use. Another survey made these important revelations:

37 per cent adults and 60 per cent teenagers admit to being addicted to smartphones
51 per cent adults and 65 per cent teenagers say they use their smartphones to socialise with others
Many smartphone users use their phones during mealtimes, in bed, and even in the bathroom
58 per cent males own a smartphone, compared to 42 per cent females

Nielsen, a market-research firm, acknowledges the devices make up the majority of mobile-phone purchases in America. Emerging markets are embracing them as well: in Indonesia, BlackBerry handsets made by Canada's Research in Motion (RIM) have become a status symbol among the country’s fast-growing middle class.

These changes will also drive foundational alterations in advertising business. Google reported a larger-than-expected drop in advertising rates during the most recent quarter because of the shift to mobile, where ad rates are typically cheaper. In contrast, Facebook shares have soared after the company last week reported better than expected mobile ad revenues. This continuing digital revolution has meant that the online commerce is accelerated, this time by mobile computing, which can safely be categorised as the third digital revolution.

Even India is on the cusp of smartphone revolution. Until a few years ago, the mobile market was largely a first time buyers market. Simplicity was the feature. Today, it is driven by replacement. Therefore, expectations are high as consumers are always looking for what’s new. In addition, technology advancement has meant that every 6 – 9 months there is something significantly new on offer.

All these point towards the new generation’s unstoppable thirst of information, quicker and while being on the move. This has led to the debate that the rise of smartphones and tablet computers threatens to erode the PC’s dominance, prompting talk that a ‘post-PC’ era is finally dawning. A new technology landscape is taking shape that offers consumers access to computing almost anywhere and on many different kinds of device. Smartphones are at the forefront of this change. The Yankee Group, a research firm, thinks that sales of these phones will overtake those of ordinary ‘feature’ phones in many more countries in the next few years.

Besides reflecting a shift in technology, in part, this emerging array of devices reflects changes in society. As people come to rely more heavily on the web for everything from shopping to social networking, they need access to computing power in many more places. And as the line between their personal and their work lives has blurred, so demand has grown for devices that can be used seamlessly in both.

They also reflect changes in consumer patterns. While three decades ago, it was a privileged family who could own a television, smartphones are now being used by children as young as 10. This reflects at the growing consumerisation as well as the rising incomes and the growth of a new middle class that has created a vast, global audience of early adopters for gadgets.

The burgeoning global market for smart consumer technology is inspiring an outpouring of entrepreneurial energy that will create many more remarkable products. And it is encouraging organisations of all kinds to adapt innovations from the consumer world for their own ends. Many more such opportunities are likely to emerge as the technological and economic forces behind this popular computing revolution gather steam.

Smartphones are also relevant for India’s untapped market. While PCs came at a price that could not be afforded by those at the odd end of ‘have-nots’, the affordability of smartphones has meant that the digital revolution will be accelerated. These phones will bring rich digital experiences to the masses, which they will not only desire but will come to expect -- and entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of such platforms will reap the benefits, while the traditional media forms will brave the challenge for survival.

The author is Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of exchange4media Group 

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