Brand tone (how something feels and the impression it leaves) is one of the most important things that separate good marketing from great marketing... And it's surprisingly difficult to articulate and manage consistently over time.
Apple has been terrific at this. Most recently, Intel and agency Venables Bell + Partners have also created a campaign that has a wonderful, smart but playful tone... Enjoyable to watch and pay attention to.
On Sunday 29.8 million people watched Brett Favre's return to Green Bay as his Minnesota Vikings battled the Packers. Such an audience was not only the second largest of any weekend NFL game, but was also the most watched telecast this year since February's Academy Awards. Interestingly, elsewhere in sports, the World Series has increased its viewing audience by 46% over last year. Across many measures we are simply watching more sports on TV.
Reading these numbers makes one ponder TV... and where our TV watching habits might be going.
First, let's start with the DVR. Currently, over 1/3 of US households have a DVR. What are we typically DVR-ing? Turns out it's largely scripted shows that we watch on our time one to seven days after airing. For example, after the time shifting numbers are added "The Mentalist" tacks on 2.8 million viewers while the "Grey's Anatomy" audience climbs 17%. In all, 36 shows now add 1 million or more viewers once time-shifting measurements are included (according to USA Today).
Next, moving to the computer, Hulu and online video is seeing tremendous growth with traffic to Hulu.com outpacing the websites of NBC, Fox and ABC. Additionally, according to a November Fast Company article, online ad spending on video is up 43% this year and Hulu will bring in roughly $120 million in ad revenue to the networks for 2009. While this is a far cry from revenue gained from broadcast advertising, with US broadband penetration currently at 60% more growth is surely coming soon.
So what might it all mean?
It seems that TV is splitting from just "TV" and into two things: "Event Programming" and "Scripted Shows". Two different products. Two different ways of watching. We're trending toward watching live for events and time shifting scripted shows. Hulu's Jason Kilar put it best recently: "Customers won't tell you what they want, but their behavior will tell you if you capture and analyze it." (That's a great quote for many things, isn't it?)
It seems as if, for now, consumers will continue watching Event Programming in mass in front of the TV when it airs: sports, news, award shows, speeches, reality competitions and the like. Live TV is an event and we want to know when it happens. And we like to talk and tweet about it right then... (Considering that 31% of home web use currently occurs in front of the TV.)
But when it comes to Scripted Shows, we're treating them more and more like movies... We choose when, where and how we watch. Just like a weekend matinee we select the viewing time that works best for us. Sure we like opening weekends but opening weekends span several days, multiple theaters and a range of viewing times.
Who knows where TV is ultimately going?! But for the near term, perhaps we should start looking at TV as "Event Programming" and "Scripted Shows". It just seems like that's the way viewers are starting look at it...