My article published in September-October, 2013 edition of The Futurist magazine, the official publication of The World Future Society. The issue was dedicated to “Disappearing Futures.”
SAY GOODBYE TO NEWS AT 6:00
As our choices for how we source electronic news and entertainment evolve, we, the marketplace, will choose a series of winners and losers. The trends are evident: we are more and more getting our news online. Newspapers and traditional television news are rapidly losing market share.
Most Americans migrated to cable television from broadcast television but now many are cutting the television cord altogether, opting to watch what they want on their personal preference schedule using Hulu or Netflix – and watching their choices on laptops, tablets and smartphones. Gen Y, the next future of viewership, is proving they have little desire for any mass media product that is not delivered wirelessly on a handheld device. Network television, with its age-old lock on original programming, is watching this paradigm fail as Netflix and others are producing network-quality shows that compete on even terms with the legacy companies. Advertising dollars that used to go to the networks are now going to social media delivered over mobile devices.
With their extensive news organizations and the capital to bid on live sports (which still commands a unique position in the viewing marketplace), the big three (plus Fox) networks will likely survive – most likely as a subsidiary of one of the social network juggernauts (Google, facebook, etc.), much like ABC network is part of Disney-ABC Television Group. What becomes expendable – and will disappear – is the string of local affiliates of the networks.
These outlets are largely repeater stations of their affiliated overarching network. Little they provide, except morning and evening newscasts, is substantially different than the network’s product. And now their news delivery timing – that which used to be their strength because they were ahead of the newspaper – is behind that of virtually every other means of communication. The nearly 900 local TV affiliates just aren’t needed in the new mass communication marketplace. And despite how essential they seemed for all these decades, when they finally go away their collective presence will hardly be missed.
The concept of television as we know it may undergo vast changes by 2030. YouTube style internet stations may supersede traditional programming. Televisions themselves may be rendered a tabletop generational throwback by Google glass pull-down optical shades that create a viewing experience like watching Avatar IMAX 3-D with your headset. But the first casualty, before TVs and networks, will be the local TV network affiliates.