The age of online television has finally arrived

Online swallows television

One thing this deal definitely does do is cement the position of digital as the number one driving force in media. For years it was debated which way round this Holy matrimony would go. Would television swallow digital? Or would the internet swallow television? Would we be googling shoes through our TV? Or watching shows on our laptop? In its own way Rentrak’s acquisition by comScore finally gives us our answer – the latter swallowed the former, and not the other way around.

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Of course there have been attempts at cross-audience measurement before, such as the much maligned Nielsen, but if you wanted a sign about which way around the media pecking order now works in 2016, then this is it. Like the printed page before it, the content that was once confined to the television screen is now accessible through any media window you care to imagine.

The BBC reported that time spent online had surpassed TV for the first time in history amongst youths, and these guys by the way began life as the ‘British Broadcasting Corporation’.

Good news for publishers

The good news for publishers is that this shift undoubtedly levels the playing field in the moving pictures game. When I wrote the Magazine Media Handbook back in 2007, magazine advertising’s 13 per cent share of total UK ad-spend was dwarfed by the 33 per cent of television. This no longer needs to be the case. Whoever publishes the material now attracts the eyeballs. The flow of distribution has changed, and traditional broadcasters are no longer in sole control of the taps.

But the very nature of moving pictures itself too, is changing. Yes services like Amazon and Netflix still ensure a healthy supply of ‘full length shows’ in a digitally distributed world. But as attention spans dwindle, media options multiply, and non-linear viewing increases, the dominance of the 30min show – and with it the 30 second slot – is itself being eroded. The Late Late Show with James Corden knows this, and that’s why they create shorter, more shareable online content that seems to trend from one week to the next.

Yes, it’s a welcome analogy indeed the Internet’s swallowing of television, in helping us to visualise the changing media landscape. Except it’s not really an analogy at all. It’s literal. Television audiences are now part of online audiences, and that’s literally the way it is.

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