Broadcasters need help to lure millennials

Clark Gregg playfully hugs Ming-Na Wen

Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen at the Disney Media Networks International Upfronts in 2013.
© Jean_Nelson /

This is upfront season. That’s when TV networks gather advertising buyers into large meeting rooms and present the highlights for the next TV season, hoping that they’ll pay top dollar for ad slots on such superb entertainment. YouTube held its own ad buyers meeting, and announced that it reaches more consumers aged 18-49 than the top 10 prime time TV shows. That led Broadcasting & Cable’s John Consoli to crunch some Nielsen ratings, and he came to an alarming conclusion. Over 1 in 10 millennial viewers, 18- to 34-year-olds, have stopped watching broadcast TV since just last year.

That was just the latest sign that broadcast TV is in trouble. Last week, Fox CEO James Murdoch said, “Over the long term, but approaching quickly, all video entertainment will be consumed over IP streaming networks.” For the coming year, online video ad spending is projected to rise by 18-28%, depending on who you ask. TV just isn’t as attractive any more.

Here at FreeTVBlog, we happen to prefer free broadcast TV. (Over-the-top video, whether free or reasonably priced, is also acceptable, but I digress.) To convince these millennials to recognize the benefits of this great resource, broadcasters just need to shift how they think about it.

You see, these millennials want instant access on demand, preferably without paying for it. The free part is pretty easy for cord-cutters who have switched to an OTA antenna, but broadcast TV seems to be the opposite of on-demand. That’s where the paradigm shift needs to come.

My Tablo gets it. When I want to choose shows to record, Tablo displays a picture list of every program coming up on my broadcast channels over the next couple of weeks. The list doesn’t care when the show airs, or which channel it’s on. I just pick this one and that one, and a few days later, it’s ready for on-demand viewing.

That’s not the only way Tablo presents potential recordings. It also includes a standard live TV grid, or I can narrow the list by channel, or prime-time only, or genre. But the paradigm shift is to think of broadcast not as appointment TV, but as a constant source of programs that can be scooped up and saved to watch whenever.

That’s what the broadcasters need to do – embrace and promote OTA DVRs as pre-planned on-demand devices. Any system of suggesting programs, or of listing every available program, will help cord-cutters appreciate the wealth and variety of choices they have for free with local TV.