What is the Definition of Television - the Conversation Continues.

A few weeks ago I wrote about what I saw as the transition of the definition of television. I started to think about this issue when Nielsen recently lowered their Total US Universe estimate of Television households – the second time in as many years.  But is “Television” or even “Television Households” for that matter, really best defined using a hardware-based television set definition?  And if so, should it not contain all hardware platforms on which one can receive television based content?

Not surprisingly, there are others in the industry who are also re-examining the concept of Television and what it has become in today’s several screen media landscape. At the recent ARF 7.0 Insights conference in NYC on June 11 and 12, the definition of television was one leitmotif in the discussion of today’s media research landscape. (The other was standardized cross platform metrics, an obvious corollary to the definition of television and a subject for a future TV Board article).  

Many prominent industry researchers attend the ARF and their thoughts and opinions on the definition of television were varied and often conceptual. To Lyle Schwartz of GroupM, “TV is delivery of video content” while for Jeff Boehme of Kantar, “TV is any screen” and for Bruce Gorelich of Rentrak, “TV is episodic (content).” But for Michelle de Montigny, Metrix Lab , television is “a friend. It’s a character. It is not just a screen or a picture.”

Here is a short video clip of the full range of responses:

One basis of general agreement is that the definition of Television is no longer traditional. It is not the “TV set” hardware. To many, it is much more behavioral and/or content driven. But if that is so, how can we collect the totality of the television universe and use it to form a universe basis for measurement?

As Tom Xenos of MediaVest so aptly said, "What's television?  That's a good question.  I know what it's not.  It's not limited to a TV set anymore.  It's not appointment viewing.  It's no longer family time.  The concept of a Fall season premiere is dying off like autumn leaves.  And channel numbers only provide comfort to grandparents.  But television is constantly changing, evolving, and redefining the viewing experience, and that's the one thing that we can all count on."


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