BOW Thought: Good is Good

A Frankstein thought...

I’m on vacation!

Where? I’ll never tell.

As a result, this week’s newsletters might reflect either a bit more genius or a bit more gobbledygook.

You can be the judge.

Today’s newsletter is a bit of a Frankenstein - it combines a few thoughts rattling around my head, some of which may belong or really not belong together.

No sponsor today, let’s get right into it…

BOW Thought

You may have heard that linear TV dropped to under 50% of TV screen time for the first time in July.

If you haven’t, HERE is a link, but it won’t work if you don’t have WiFi under the rock you’re living under (buddum, chi!).

This might not be surprising, especially for those of you who binged The Bear in the last month.

There are plenty of caveats to this, most chronicled by Evan Shapiro.

For example, YouTube TV and Hulu TV are grouped in with linear TV in this data, whereas FAST channels that are mostly linear are grouped in with streaming.

But the best and most pertinent caveat is one flagged yesterday by Lucas Shaw in his Bloomberg Screentime newsletter:

“People should spend more time watching live TV networks in the fall when sports come back.”

People have amnesia. Because a similar thing happened last year.

For the first time ever in July 2022, streaming led cable and broadcast in TV usage.

Why? Partially because streaming usage is rising, there is no doubt about that.

But also because it’s summer. People are on the move. Travel is high. People aren’t sitting in front of their TV screens.

When they are, they’re watching their favorite shows on their own schedule, which streaming affords more than TV.

And because, major sports aren’t on.

There is no doubt that linear TV usage will bounce back to 50%+ when the NFL is back on-air in September. After all, the NFL’s first preseason game averaged 6 million viewers this year.

So why are people exclaiming this as such a big deal?

Because it represents an old way of thinking.

A way of thinking that groups and looks at things together by medium or “channel,” instead of focusing more singularly on the content itself.  

For example, I find it odd that TV is both cited to be on its death bed, yet used as a cultural guidepost for what Americans are interested in.

Take, for example, the Women’s World Cup.

The media has reported, excitedly, that millions of people stayed up late, in the middle of the night, to watch the U.S. women’s team play…on TV.

In this example, the media holds up TV as evidence that people are more interested in women’s sports than ever before.

That the league’s appeal is growing.

But in the Nielsen example, the media holds up TV as dying.

Which one is it?

A dying medium, or one that can anoint a new emerging sport?

How does one reconcile these thoughts?

In order to do so, we must believe this as the guiding principle for media consumption:

Good is good.

(Man, he’s heavy on the gobbledygook today).

It’s not streaming. It’s The Bear or Drive to Survive or Succession.

It’s not TV. It’s the NFL, or the U.S. women’s national team.

It’s not podcasts. It’s Bill Simmons, or How I Built This, or The Daily.

It’s not social. It’s TikTok, or it’s Instagram, or it’s Mr. Beast.

It’s not online video, or TV, or even video. It’s YouTube.

Thinking about media as “channels” first and foremost is no longer accurate or valid.

Why? Because people don’t think that way. In 2023, they rarely settle for a show they don’t want to watch, just because it’s on a specific “channel.”

Instead, they turn off the show or skip the video as quickly as you’re ready to unsubscribe from this newsletter.

More than ever before, people are able to pick within and across many channels for what they actually want: good content.

So, we should think about media not as “channels,” but as properties, partners, creators, teams, individuals, etc.

It’s why I resist the narrative that “women’s sports” or “U.S. soccer” writ and large are gaining ground in the U.S. If you look at the ratings, it’s not really true.

People are interested in particular athletes, like Caitlin Clark or Lionel Messi, or particular teams, like the U.S. national team.

But random MLS games? A weeknight SEC women’s basketball game? Show me those ratings.

So when you think about media, or plan it, think beyond broad terms like “TV” or “streaming.”

Because inevitably, the same channel, like TV, will represent two sides of a spectrum - on one hand, it’s important; on the other, it’s not.

It’s because “channels” are so much more nuanced in 2023 than previous years, that they somewhat have become irrelevant.

It’s because one piece of content - like the NFL or The Bear - has the power to shift usage of an entire “channel.”

The aim of the game in 2023 is to think a level deeper, because thats how actual people think too.

And that will make you invest less in arbitrary bundles of “channels,” and more in good content people seek out, regardless of its on TV or streaming or anywhere in between.

Stay thinkin,