It wasn't that long ago when the term "TV" had a clear, universally understood meaning - a type of programming (e.g. entertainment, sports, news, weather, etc.) that was viewed on a screen typically located in a living room/bedroom/den/kitchen/etc.
Flash forward to today and things are much more complicated. TV programming is, of course, still a form of video, but how about all the different original online video that is now being produced - should some, all or none of it be considered "TV?" What criteria should be used to decide how to classify it and who decides? Does the definition differ by age group? And perhaps most important - does it even matter - is the concept of something being considered "TV" still relevant?
These questions and others are being provoked by a confluence of two powerful trends - first, the proliferation of devices (beyond the TV set) that allow for video viewing and second, the explosion of creativity in (and financing for) original online video that isn't being funneled through the traditional broadcast/cable TV ecosystem.
For younger viewers, things are particularly convoluted. When a 6 year-old watches a "Scooby-Doo" episode on Netflix on an iPad, does he/she realize or care this was actually once a TV show only accessible on Saturday mornings on TV? Of course not. Or consider the 13 year-old girl I recently overheard pressing her parents for their Netflix login credentials say to them "I just want to get Netflix on my laptop so I can watch TV like normal people." Note what's now considered "normal" now to a teen.
It seems to me that ultimately the question of whether video is also TV matters for at least two important economic reasons. The first is that ad spending on TV is massive compared to online video. But if video can evolve to have the same standing as TV for buyers (including things like measurement, ROI, efficiency, etc.) then we could end up with one big bucket of video ad dollars, which could really harm traditional TV while benefiting online video.
The second reason is that as more people merge their perception of video with TV, there's a higher likelihood that pay-TV penetration will decline. That's because there will be enough suitable video alternatives available at more affordable prices (or free) that the idea of paying $100 or more per month for pay-TV will become relatively less valuable. This is already happening to some extent among younger cord-nevers who gravitate to Netflix/Hulu/YouTube/others, and the risk is that it could accelerate shifts among existing pay-TV subscribers.
It's a fascinating topic that we'll be exploring at the June 25th VideoNuze Online Video Ad Summit on a session I'm moderating, "TV is Video, But is Video TV?" with 4 industry executives who come at the question from different vantage points: Doug Knopper (Co-CEO and Co-Founder, FreeWheel), Peter Naylor (SVP, Ad Sales, Hulu), Fred Santarpia (EVP, Chief Digital Officer, Conde Nast Entertainment) and Dan Suratt (EVP, Digital Media and Business Development, A+E Networks). It promises to be a compelling discussion.