RIP, TV?

Farewell, TV. Or at least TV as we knew it.

That is the pronouncement of Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings, who has been having a very, very good year (after a notorious rough patch). Not only are the company’s earnings and share price way up, but it also has enjoyed a hit show with “House Of Cards,” a Netflix-produced series starring Kevin Spacey.

Netflix has 30 million U.S. subscribers, according to the Washington Post, which is roughly 9 million more than the cable company Comcast. “The fact that Silicon Valley is finding success with Hollywood-like ventures bodes ill for the traditional television model,” Cecilia Kang wrote last week in the Post. “Some broadcasters have begun scrambling to catch up to online viewing habits.”

Hastings himself is even bolder. “Internet TV,” he asserted recently, “will replace linear TV.”

As we’ve noted, Peter Drucker liked to point out that much of what to expect from the future is just stuff that has already happened, if you’re paying attention. The founders of General Motors were among the first to understand, thanks to the success of Henry Ford, that the automobile would become mass transportation. That simple observation—Ford is making inexpensive cars for all Americans—made them wealthy.

Image credit: Kevin Lawver
Image credit: Kevin Lawver

Looking for the future that has already happened and anticipating its impacts introduces new perception in the beholder,” Drucker wrote in Managing for Results. “The opportunities . . . are neither remote nor obscure.”

However, there are two particular pitfalls associated with forecasting. The first, Drucker warned, is the “temptation to see as a change what we believe to be happening, or worse, what we believe should happen.”

The second (as we’ve also noted) is that your prediction can be correct but unimportant—like the person who predicts that email will replace paper mail but misses the real import of the Internet age. “Everything the forecaster predicts may come to pass,” Drucker wrote in The Age of Discontinuity. “Yet he may not have seen the most meaningful of the emergent realities or, worse still, not have paid attention to them.”

Do you think Reed Hastings is right about the imminent demise of TV as we know it—and, if so, what are the most significant implications?