Microsoft: TV faces ‘iTunes moment’

The TV industry has as little as two years to create viable digital businesses or face a version of the “iTunes moment” that saw the music business cede the online future to Apple, according to Ashley Highfield.

Highfield, the former BBC future technology chief who is now managing director of consumer and online at Microsoft UK, said he believed the reluctance advertisers feel to advertise on sites such as Facebook will soon be a “non-issue”, putting more pressure on broadcasters’ advertising revenues.

“Once this happens the shift of spending from TV to web will accelerate even more,” he told the Edinburgh International Television Festival.

“So realistically I think the industry has about two to three years to adapt or face its iTunes moment. And it will take at least that long for media brands to build credible, truly digital brands. But, importantly, I do believe TV does have a small two to three year window in which to respond.”

Highfield also said he believed that despite the growing popularity of online TV viewing it will be at least three years until it reaches a scale to win over media agency advertising buyers and generate significant revenues.

“The traditional television business has to aggressively move its content online, build a critical mass of content that the traditional buyers of airtime will understand and buy into,” he added. “They want to see TV-like reach and impact.”

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