Regular TV offers programming geared to the tastes of specific audience segments, but music television – once believed dead – is experimenting on the internet with all the innovations that were predicted to come to television a long time ago.
On April l, 2012 the media group RTL Deutschland launched RTL Nitro, complementing its range of channels which include RTL Crime, RTL Living and RTL Passion. This move reflects the necessity of producing highly specialized or even taste-oriented content for specific audience segments. At the same time, the steady growth in online offerings clearly demonstrates that public and private TV stations can no longer get by without expanding into cyberspace. These attempts at specialization and individualization however are not the hallmark of an avant-garde showing the way to the future of television. Just like back in 1981, it is music television that is trying out new channels for distribution and marketing.
Music television not dead yet
It's a well-known tale how the video to "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles heralded the birth of music television in 1981, which became an inseparable part of popular culture in the 1980s and 1990s. Thirty years later, MTV and its German counterpart VIV have long since lost their pioneering status. Long before MTV went to pay TV (in 2011) people were saying "music television is dead."
This had much to do with the dominating rise of YouTube and resulting format changes over to ringtone advertising, docu-soaps and cartoon shows. But is music TV really dead? Tape.tv-founders Conrad Fritzsch and Stephanie Renner would say "no".
Tape.tv was established in 2008 as a provider of personalized music television. The company's 45,000 music videos are filtered to match registered users' tastes, and can be sorted, compiled into playlists, or removed from the display. Even unregistered users can watch a new loop of 20 videos every six hours. This concept in combination with well-planned partnerships took the broadcaster to the 4 million users per month mark in December 2011, generating 2011 sales of € 20 million.
While significant as a specialized online channel, tape.tv may also be blazing the trail to how television and advertising may be interwoven in the future.
Versatility, flexibility and orientation
In June 2009, the magazine De:Bug published a panel discussion between director Daniel Härder, Viva2 maker Mark Sikora, Tobias Dettling of MTV and Conrad Fritzsch. When asked what a revolution in pop culture content would have to look like today, Dettling said the solution would have to be versatile and flexible, but would also have to provide a point of orientation. tape.tv's current offering seems to fulfill Dettling's prophecy. Users decide themselves what they want to see, but without having to go it on their own without editorial assistance. And proprietary formats have been created as well, like "6 Short, 6 Questions" (6 Kurze, 6 Fragen) and the live show "On the Rooftops" (Auf den Dächern), which have been acclaimed as taking music video to the next level.
The new modes of advertising tape.tv tries out are fascinating, by way of video, audio spots and perfectly coordinated broadcast formats. Currently tape.tv places advertising by running a spot after every three videos and having ads frame music videos. In the magazine brand eins Thomas Wildberger, managing director of the Berlin-based creative agency Römer Wildberger, was exuberant about these tactics, calling it "borderline brilliant" to have users always (ideally) listening to the music they like. "That's like if every customer of clothing retailer H&M could listen to their own personal soundtrack while at a store that would put them individually into an optimal shopping mood.
Another creative idea is handing out cameras to live concert-goers provided by the manufacturer. The individual recordings are edited and made into a video, which is uploaded to the tape.tv server. The best filmmaker then gets to keep the camera – who probably would have balked after the tenth ad banner on the Spiegel Online website.
Though they define tape.tv as an experimentative powerhouse, these promotional strategies have not yet made the company profitable. Constant growth being a must, that could be a problem. If these experiments prove successful over a longer term, other TV content may be appearing in such cutting-edge forms in future.
One way this might play out with consumers was described back in 2006 in the Feuilleton section of the newspaper Die Zeit: "Thomas Gottschalk will be retired, and instead of obsessing about him fan communities will be on the internet, their cell phones or even together at school talking about the last episode of their favorite new mini-niche shows."
image © tape.tv