Where’s the remote? Entertainment in the year 2024

What gets me is that they still call it “television.”

After all, since 2022 – if not before – most shows have been watched on tablets. But, I guess you can still call it “TV.” The network television of my childhood, 50 years ago, is such a quaint, distant memory of three channels, maybe a movie of the week and a football game. When cable came along it seemed like the answer, and then when Netflix began, it seemed like the answer. Now we have Wave, Screamer, HuluX and so many more ways to access entertainment.

The revolution of distributing original television shows (not on television) was formally acknowledged as being “for real” about 10 years ago, at the 65th Primetime Emmys in 2013. Netflix made history with a win for their online series, “House of Cards.” For the first time ever, a web series was held up as not only credible, but award-winning. Then, of course, in 2020 the Motion Picture Academy awarded the Oscar for Best Picture to “Congressional” – a Wave Singles production not even distributed in theaters.

And now, in ‘24, the networks have largely gone the way of the hometown newspaper. Adapt to an online format or die. Advertisers are finding more efficient ways to build relationships. The one bastion of network television supremacy that remains is the live broadcast. The Super Bowl, Oscars and Olympics have been and still are big draws. In fact, we’ve never seen so many award shows, live events and live reality shows.

The largest change to networks is the hyper-growth of interactive TV. You can’t find a show today that doesn’t have an online enhancement of some sort – be it live voting, story direction or even essential plot elements found only online. Many shows just don’t make sense without them.

The latest excitement from Apple Corporation was not the iPhone X2, but their own “iTunes Originals” network. For years, iTunes has produced albums and music festivals. Now they are throwing their hat into the online series ring, with the announcement of two original shows – “Source of Gold,” a story tracing the greed and discovery of wealth, and “American Diary,” a documentary series made largely with users video and photo content. Apple also plans a full complement of children’s shows.

Of course, Amazon, Google and Yahoo have been up and running for years now with limited lineups that all seem to last a couple seasons each.

Even big brands are feeling the empowerment of storytelling. BMW is releasing their own online series produced around the successful PHEV line. And they’re no virgins; decades ago, they produced a series of short films at the launch of the Z3.

Speaking of virgins, Virgin Mobile is releasing a mobile-only series sent directly to users. Coke, McDonald’s and other majors are also taking similar steps to creating short, online series revolving around their brands. After all, when television is getting squeezed, product placement pushes to the top – but product-centric programming rules the roost.

So, where does this leave your brand? The short story is this: Since the invention of television, we had about a 50-year run of roughly the same format until cable threw everything up in the air. Cable had a good run of about 30 years until the Internet threw everything up in the air. At this point, the largest mistake you could make is to wait for things to land and figure out what’s what. Because things are still up in the air and will continue to be up there for the foreseeable future. The answer: Start reaching out with any means appropriate for your brand. Waiting is death. Action is life.

So, who wants be a star? The online viewership numbers may not be anywhere close to those of the old network shows, but between the critical acclaim and the high-quality eyeballs watching, there’s no end to custom content and brand integration. Like always, it’s about the relationship. It’s about creating and cultivating evangelists. It’s about engagement.