Can traditional TV succeed as mainstream video?

traditional tv

By Merav Chen, {grow} Community Member

In 2005 I left a job at a traditional TV production company and took a marketing position at an internet company. All that buzz about IPTV, DVRs and this new kid in town, Youtube, got to me. It felt like TV’s days were numbered. Our water cooler talks back then were all about how the internet would soon kill TV and everyone was going to be watching videos online very soon.

Fast forward 13 years. I’m now working with a TV production company to launch digital channels and video-based websites for OTT platforms. Working on this project brings up some interesting insights about how things panned out for TV production companies in the last decade.

Here’s what I’m learning these days.

No-one’s Gonna Kill the Video Star

Remember “content is king”? For the last decade this throne had many contenders. Distribution, discovery, intent and social networking all claimed to be the new king. But you can’t do much with any or all of these if you don’t have content.

Some examples? Think Facebook circa 2008, when you were nearly poked to death. Or think of the boost e-commerce got from user reviews. How about the success of content recommendation platforms such as Outbrain and Taboola? This is a great example of how content uses (other) content to get distribution.

Content kept and keeps surfacing as the driver of engagement. So it turns out those 2005 water cooler talks were somewhat exaggerated. We should have been talking about “video content” rather than “TV.” TV production companies are video content creators. Aren’t these companies best positioned to capture the value in these times of accelerated online video growth?

Yes and No.

Yes they are because:

  • They have the infrastructure, know-how and talent to create high-quality, professional video content. According to Youtube, 300 hours of video content are uploaded to their platform every minute. Only a few of these hours could be considered to be interesting, high quality, appealing content.
  • They have free TV screen time on their current TV channels/shows/talents and brands. This free PR and media access to millions of TV viewers could be used to cross promote their brands and content online.
  • They have existing inventory and editing resources. Online they can distribute this content globally. To test the attractiveness of their inventory materials online, these companies don’t even have to create a dedicated website or drive traffic or anything. If you have good content that people are likely to search for, just upload it to Youtube for a while and see what happens. At the very least it would be a proof-of-concept experiment with a few ad dollars on the side.

No they aren’t because:

  • They think about “television” in terms of programming, length and depth of content. The rules of online video are different, the attention span of viewers are limited, and the distractions are constant.  Although the content development and production know-how are there, these companies still need to learn and adapt their thinking to the web and mobile viewing habits.
  • They still struggle with low-cost content creation. They are used to creating high-quality content to match broadcasters’ and audiences’ standards. Such production level is costly. It is not trivial for them to develop a “lean startup” or “bootstrapping” type of thinking. They put in the same effort and resources behind content for the web as they do for TV content.
  • They are dependent on cable and satellite platforms or broadcast networks – these are their big customers and they don’t want to aggravate them by going “indie” and putting their content online.
  • They lack experience in online behavior, user interface, and digital marketing. Being a content provider for TV platforms, most production companies have never had to deal with marketing to consumers. If they produce digital channels for OTT platforms, they can still rely on the platforms’ marketing capabilities, but if they launch independent channels, they would have to develop these capabilities in house as well.

Can TV production companies overcome these barriers and succeed in the online video market?

Obviously, there’s a learning process these companies need to go through. But there is one element that is instrumental for making the transition from TV-based video to online and web-first video production:

They need to be light on their feet.

This means they need to change the way they think about content creation, learn to work in short iterations, measure results and be quick to make constant changes to the plan. This may go against the DNA of many TV production companies, but this shift in thinking and culture is a must for making that leap.

Merav ChenMerav Chen is an experienced marketer and the co-founder of, a digital marketing firm, shouting out to the world from Tel-Aviv, Israel.  Find her on twitter @meravchen

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