Long Tail TV Data

Chris Anderson of Long Tail fame has got a great piece today on some of the raw data that supports the notion that television is the most ripe media industry for a Long Tail economic transformation.  We couldn't agree more!  It's wonderful to see Chris bring his empirical, econometric view onto industries in transformation.  Some gems from his recent post:

  • TV produces more content than any other media and entertainment industry. There are an estimated 31 million hours of original television content produced each year. Although that isn't as much as radio, most radio is either chat or recorded music that is available elsewhere, so it's not in the same league. In addition, 115m digital video tapes are sold each year for personal camcorders.
  • Only a tiny fraction of it is available to you. First, the average American household now gets 100 channels of TV. While that sounds like a lot--it's 876,000 hours of video broadcast to the average home each year--that's still less than 3% of the commercial video that's produced for broadcast each year.
  • Making matters much worse, unless that home has a DVR (and only 4-5% of US households do) and someone is spending a good chunk of their free time scouring listings to program it, they're going to miss virtually all of that TV.  Once TV is missed, it's usually gone. Only a tiny fraction of shows are syndicated, and an even smaller fraction makes it to DVD.
  • Thus the ratio of produced content to available content is the highest of any industry I've looked at. Other industries may produce more content--print, for instance--but it's far more available (see Google). Only television treats its premium content as disposable. True, a lot of it actually is. But not all, and not as much as is effectively thrown away after a brief moment in the sun.

A couple of follow-on thoughts here.  Not only does this reinforce that the Long Tail TV opportunity is not just about new, smaller publishers (it is about that!), but it's also a tremendous economic opportunity for the established producers of video media to harvest their content and create richer experiences for viewers and consumers.  As Internet Television arrives, we will see dramatic growth both in new publishers who are embracing the efficiency and richness of this new medium, and dramatic new revenue growth for the content owners that are already on the cable dial.

Another thing that Chris's data underscores is the fact that the user experience for discovering and using content delivered via Internet Television will need to scale to accomodate a measure of content that the Electronic Program Guide (EPG) was never, ever intended to handle.  Interesting problems to solve!