Will the web kill TV?

Sir Martin Sorrell's giant end-to-end ad business, WPP, is predicting that a little bit of industry history will be made next year: UK advertising on the web is set to outstrip that on TV for the first time.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010
Research subsidiary Group M expects online revenues to boom this year, rising some 30 per cent to around £3.4bn. TV revenues, by contrast, will stagnate, creeping up only one per cent to £3.56bn, paving the way for the internet to overtake it in 2009. So poor old ITV is in for another torrid twelvemonth, then.

If the crystal ball gazing comes good, the UK will be only the second major economic nation where the internet has bested TV for the lion’s share of ad spend. The first is widely expected to be Sweden, where the virtual milestone should be passed later this year. It will also cement the net’s meteoric ascent as a medium to be reckoned with – only a few years ago, it was hard to imagine that the decades of TV dominance of the ad business would be eroded so rapidly.

Industry wonks claim that it’s the ‘interactivity’ of the web that appeals to advertisers, because it ‘adds value to the user experience’ (sorry). We think the truth is rather more prosaic. Advertisers like the web because it can generate reams of reassuring-looking data, helping to foster the illusion – for illusion it largely remains – that on the internet they can tell when their adverts are actually working for once.

The other major influence on the shift of course is good old human behaviour. People are using the net more, and watching the telly less. And as the web matures into an increasingly ‘high bandwidth experience’ (that means more and better graphics and video and fewer annoying hold-ups) this trend is likely to continue. Especially given the lowest-common-denominator tat that passes for ‘new’ TV these days. Anyone for Ibiza Uncovered – the Movie?

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