TV: Special Report

With all the doom-mongering about the television industry in recent months, anyone would think it was close to a dotcom-style collapse. If it's not apocalyptic talk of ad-zapping personal video recorders, it's the splurge of low-rent copycat programming or the medium's newspaper-like descent into oblivion as adspend slows to a trickle.

Granted, there are genuine reasons for concern. First, who in their right mind would sit through an ad break if they had Sky+? Second, advertising future-gazers suggest that the TV ad market is "past its prime". TV advertising peaked back in 1999, ZenithOptimedia considers, when it claimed 33 per cent of the total pie. Furthermore, the sorry state of high-street spending prompted the media agency to chop $229 million from this year's TV adspend forecast.

But TV-bashing is often unwarranted hysteria. A recent report by Starcom found that PVR owners are exposed to 30 per cent less advertising than non-PVR households, while advertising awareness levels are 17 per cent lower in PVR homes. Hardly numbers to get TV advertisers running for the hills.

And, as Andy Roberts, Starcom's executive buying director, wonders, is it really surprising that the growth of a medium as mature as commercial TV (50 years old in September) is slowing when the wider economy is doing the same? In any case, he points out, TV adspend is growing faster than radio, magazines and newspapers.

Beyond the numbers, it is hard to imagine a future without TV in one form or another. Broadband will let us watch the box online, and 3G will do the same for mobile phones (in South Korea, up to five TV channels are already available on mobiles). It is more a question of whether TV companies can adapt to the changing behaviour of the viewer.