Gold medals and silver linings

It would be just plain weird of Thinkbox if we didn’t write something about the Olympics and TV. It would also be disingenuous of us to pretend they were particularly wonderful for commercial TV – at least not directly.

The direct impact of the Olympics on commercial TV is plain for all to see: lower audiences and so less ad revenue. This was as inevitable as Sir Chris Hoy getting a gold medal, our football team going out on penalties, or me blubbing more or less constantly for 17 days.

But there is a positive, indirect impact. The temporary commercial cloud has a lasting silver lining because what the Olympics has done brilliantly for all of TV is remind, reiterate and reinforce the simple, immutable fact that TV is bloody healthy, is expanding, is technology-neutral and is working beautifully with other media – especially of the social disposition. It has further underlined how TV remains the beating heart at the centre of our cultural life. It is where we go to be entertained, informed and to share wonderful experiences. As I’ve been quoted saying elsewhere: we didn’t need the Olympics to prove this, but it’s very useful that it has.

So, in this very important sense, TV – commercial and not, broadcast, interactive or on-demand – won gold.  And I have no doubt that Channel 4 will earn that medal superbly with its upcoming coverage of the Paralympics, this time complete with incredible opportunities for TV advertisers.

I’ll stop there as there have been lashings of praise heaped on the medium of TV in the last few days (and, to be fair and specific, on the broadcaster who snapped up the rights). As examples, I would just encourage you to read the wisdom of Jim Marshall, Daniel Barnes, Leila Gould, Greg Grimmer, and Arif Durrani.

In the short term, commercial TV didn’t ‘medal’; but long term the benefits of a renewed understanding of TV’s health and influence are worth a lot more.

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