Media Perspective: Television needs to turn to digital to find the missing X-factor

We've been here before. Reports that the ad-funded TV industry is set to collapse seem to emerge almost every week.

The latest, from the US research company Screen Digest, suggests the US TV market should prepare itself for a $2 billion slump in TV revenues as heavy usage of PVRs knocks confidence in advertising and young consumers spend more time online.

There's nothing new here, of course: UK broadcasters have been facing up to a dramatic drop in ad revenues for months now. No wonder, then, that the names reported to be on the shortlist for the ITV chief executive job (Mike Volpi, the chief executive of Joost; the former Yahoo! and GCap executive Fru Hazlitt; and Elisabeth Murdoch) all have experience from outside of traditional television.

Broadcasters need expertise at the top that understands both content and emerging distribution technologies. When the ITV job first became available in May, the bookmaker Paddy Power, tongue firmly in cheek, put a price of 500-1 on Simon Cowell landing it.

Yet Cowell's ambitions lie elsewhere. He is going into business with Sir Philip Green to create what reports describe as "the ultimate licence to print money, and a kind of talent-house-meets-TV-company-meets-record-label-meets-movie-studio". Tellingly, Cowell seems to have recognised that a TV set might no longer be central to this. One report quoted him as saying: "Once your mobile phone becomes your television screen, you've got billions of consumers who want content. I'm never going to want to own Nokia, but I know what Nokia are going to want to buy."

Potentially bad news in the long term for TV companies. And if there's one media lesson to be drawn from the response to Michael Jackson's death, it's that TV is no longer the default medium for big events - mobile phones and Twitter have taken that crown.

But reports of the TV set's demise might be exaggerated. For evidence of this, check out the video of Nigel Walley of the digital consultancy Decipher talking about the new Samsung TV that has a direct broadband connection ( Walley's contention is that this is a "strangely disruptive" piece of technology that puts pressure on the likes of Virgin Media and Sky to come to the market more quickly with their own set-top box equivalents.

Allowing for viewers to access widgets from the likes of Yahoo! and iPlayer on their TV screens, it's long been argued that this type of technology could become powerful in maintaining the TV's status at the centre of the home. Now this has become reality, broadcasters are faced with both threat and opportunity. Because if they don't deliver the content viewers and advertisers want, you can bet a man with nipple-high trousers will.