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TV detox (sort of...)

I’ve been conducting my own personal media experiment over the past several months. I’m going through TV detox. No traditional TV. No sitting on the couch and letting the warm glow of mass media wash over me. Instead I’ve been using more Web TV to get a first hand feel for whether this platform has potential.

True confession: I love TV. I love its connection to, and ability to shape, the pop culture zeitgeist. This is not the test of some new-media, TV-bashing fanatic.

The result? Like with all media platforms, online TV has its time and place. It cannot match the experience of watching TV on a Bravia in 5.1 surround. But I have been pleasantly surprised to discover how many of my favorite programs I can download or stream for free. I like the freedom of streaming 30 Rock while waiting out a delayed flight or getting my dose of Anderson Cooper 360 on my iPhone on the treadmill. I’ve also incorporated many more video podcasts into my viewing diet, such as Rocketboom.

So why should we care about this? From a marketing standpoint, online TV content has the potential to help marketers use the time-tested branding power of sight, sound and motion in a far more targeted and less-intrusive manner. Each network uses a different approach to sponsorship. I found the occasional commercial every 10 minutes or so from a single sponsor to not be overly bothersome in exchange for free content. And the ability to click over to learn more about the product finally delivers on the long-promised potential of interactive TV. (Perhaps, then, the best usage of this platform is for launching new products and not merely re-running existing commercials.)

Another reason we should care came to light this week in a new study published by the Conference Board. Its joint study with TNS reports that close to 16 percent of American households who use the Internet watch television programs online and that the number of consumers viewing full episodes online has doubled from a year ago. The study also reveals that watching TV programs has replaced news as the most widely viewed content online.

A second true confession: Those who know me well know that this test is suspended every Sunday while I watch the New York Giants. My commitment to the pursuit of knowledge has its limits you know…