TV 2.0 ‘Not a Zero-Sum Game’

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Las Vegas -- Since the fall television season began, 35 million episodes of ABC programming have been watched off the Web, according to Albert Cheng, executive vice president of digital media for the ABC Television Group at Disney.

And the season finale of The Wire was the most-watched to date, according to Rishi Malhotra, director of HBO On Demand. The pay television service last year allowed its viewers to watch all episodes of the police drama before they appeared on its premium TV schedule.

“TV 2.0 is not a zero-sum game,” said Shahid Khan, managing director of IBB Consulting, at a panel session of that name, “Television 2.0,” at the International Consumer Electronics Show here.

Instead, downloading of episodes to PCs through Apple Computer’s iTunes site and other such services and watching of “Webisodes” off TV programmers’ Web sites adds to interest in the original programs, according to Cheng, Malhotra and other panelists.

“It’s proven out,” Cheng said. The added distribution, as long as it generally comes after it first appears on TV, doesn’t cannibalize viewership. Instead, you “increase consumers’ ability to get more of it.”

TV is still the place where viewers first go to watch what they want, Cheng and Ty Ahmad-Taylor, senior director of interactive products for Comcast Cable Communications, said.

Households still consume 8-9 hours per day of conventional TV. And now the challenge is to deal with the decision-making wrought by the new forms of distribution.

There are, Ahmad-Taylor noted, 250 scheduled TV channels on most cable systems, another 8,000 choices available at any given moment from a cable operator and, roughly speaking, 20,000 or so choices on the Web confronting a viewer at any given point.

Which means that if programmers figure out how to deal with all of the different TV 2.0 platforms, from the computer screen to the phone screen, which give viewers what they want to see any time and anywhere they want to see it, TV 3.0 will be where the real challenge lies, according to Cheng.

Then, the question becomes whether programmers can figure out how to promote their new shows and programs as effectively online and on mobile-communications devices as they have on broadcast TV.

“Can programmers be as good marketers in the future as they have been in the past?” Cheng asked.

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