The Biggest Threat to TV News
By Mike Brannen
Lingering in the minds of many TV news employees is a scary question: will TV news end? It’s a question that occasionally drifts into our heads every time stunning new technology is introduced, or something embarrassingly and insultingly bad happens on our airwaves. TV news has survived a lot, and it’s still standing strong.
But something was unveiled in Kansas City in July that you wouldn’t think could end TV news. I’ve always said local TV news affiliates (and networks) will survive and have an edge over other non-TV news outlets as long as they could broadcast faster and with a stronger signal than anyone else.
That edge is gone in Kansas City. It now has Google Fiber, and it signals a potential death for TV News.
Google Fiber is a super high-speed and television service. It offers customers 1 gigabit of Internet download speed. According to Jeff Kagan of E-Commerce Times, that is one thousand times faster than the few megabites most of us get from our current cable/Internet providers.
The Internet is the biggest threat to television, especially since the television medium isn’t changing as fast as what’s happening online.
Look back at the last 15 years. What are TV’s greatest additions in the last decade?
TIVO? A glorified VCR.
Netflix? Blockbuster for the lazy.
3-D? Only if I take an aspirin as I’m watching.
Notice how each one is a “luxury” addition to TV. You can watch TV at a bar or an airport or any public place the same way you did 15 years ago without those additions.
Look where the Internet was in 1997. Try not to laugh. But you see the point. Our internet experience has vastly improved over the last 15 years.
So how does speed end TV? Speed makes Internet news sites more competitive with TV. When I talked with Kagan about Google Fiber, he brought up a great analogy. Picture a pie. When TV first began, there were 3 networks all sharing the same pie (which is the audience). When cable started, the networks had to compete with about 15 channels over the pie. Satellite comes along, and pie slices got smaller.
The pie changed even more with the Internet. It isn’t just a TV pie anymore. It’s a media pie. TV and Internet are part of the same pie now that computers and mobile devices force news outlets from different platforms to compete in the same space for the audience’s attention
You’ve seen newspapers, online news media, and bloggers all post video to the Internet. Their ability to stream content as quickly as television is dangerous for us working at TV affiliates. They may soon out-do TV stations when it comes to breaking news. Why bother putting on the TV if the Internet is just as fast? That’s a bone-chilling thought.
I don’t expect a major change to happen overnight where people suddenly abandon TV affiliates. I would get worried if Google rolls out Fiber in other cities. When people realize how fast their Internet experience can get, TV stations better have a game plan.
But, Kagan says this is just a warning shot. Google might not go anywhere else with this, and cable companies might just improve download speed a little more for its customers because Google put some pressure on them. TV can continue without fear, with Fiber out of sight, and out of mind.
Mike Brannen is a morning newscast producer for KSTP, the ABC affiliate in Minneapolis-St.Paul. Before that, he was a producer at KIRO7 in Seattle, where he led the 4:30 a.m. show to a #1 share in the U.S. He received an MA in Broadcast Management from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2010 and received his Bachelor of Journalism degree the year before. He shares more about his life at mikebrannen.com and on Twitter: @MikeBrannen.
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