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Google Chromecast: A Game-Changer for Media Buying?

If you’ve done an Internet search, sent an email from your Gmail account, or made a call from your Android phone, you already know that Google’s good at game-changers. So when the tech giant debuted its ridiculously cheap, absurdly easy-to-use Chromecast device in late July, heads were turning, and fast. Across the media buying universe and beyond, people were asking themselves, might this little gizmo be the thing that finally delivers all the disruption that proponents of digital streaming video have long been promising? And if it is, what does it mean for the future of television advertising? google-chromecast

Before weighing the possible impact of Google’s new streaming video device, let’s see what, exactly, it is. Chromecast looks like a USB memory stick with a bulb at one end. You stick it into your TV’s HDMI port, and it instantly projects whatever you watch on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or other Internet device on your fancy television screen using your home Wi-Fi signal. And that’s it—unlike Apple TV, Roku, and other “over the top” streaming media devices, Chromecast doesn’t require any extra steps. With a minimum of effort, shows and videos that used to look sad on a tiny phone screen are suddenly big, sharp, and viewable from the comfort of your couch.

And the most surprising part? Google’s new gizmo is only $35, putting it within reach of nearly everyone who owns an HDMI-ready TV.

So Chromecast is easy, and it’s powerful. But is it a game-changer? Thats a hard question to answer, but as media buyers know, there’s definitely reason for skepticism. The brief history of digital video has been full of supposedly revolutionary devices that were going to transform the way people watch TV. From DVR and the Boxee Box to Hulu and Netflix Streaming, there’s been no shortage of products and services that, while undeniably cool, haven’t done much at all to challenge the supremacy of live television. As we noted in a recent post (LINK), just this summer Nielsen Media Research released its latest Cross Platform Report, which examined the popularity and reach of many media platforms. Nielsen’s report found that despite all the advances of digital media, in the first quarter of 2013 U.S. adult viewers spent an average of 4 hours and 39 minutes a day watching television—a number essentially unchanged since 2009. Hardly the destruction of TV that digital boosters have long been heralding.

Still, though, Chromecast is cheaper, simpler, smaller, and sleeker than the streaming video gadgets that have come before it. While it’s unlikely to be the death knell of television as we know it, Chromecast’s potential to really shake up the current live TV model does seem higher than that of its predecessors. So let’s say it moves the needle at least a little bit. Is that necessarily bad news for advertisers who’ve long been accustomed to television’s exceptional market segmentation and unbeatable reach?

Not by a long shot. A world where more people get their favorite television content through streaming media devices may look a little bit different from the present one, with fewer people watching pre-scheduled programming, but it’s also guaranteed to offer new opportunities for advertisers to reach their preferred audiences and earn strong ROI through savvy media buys. For instance, companies could sponsor the individual shows and specials that appeal to their target demographics. They’ll also be positioned to take advantage of seamless cross-platform possibilities to build more durable relationships with viewers and add further sheen to their brands.

Technology may be advancing faster than ever before, but it’s still just as hard to know the future. No one can say whether Google’s Chromecast will truly change TV. But what we do know is that live TV has shown remarkable staying power, and offering viewers new ways to engage with their favorite content could ultimately be a boon for consumers and advertisers alike. No matter what happens, we at Vision Media will continue to stand at the forefront of emerging media buying trends, ensuring that our clients will always stay ahead of the Chrome—er, the curve.

Stephen Reed is the CEO and founder of Vision Media. Based in Redmond, Washington and established in 2002, Vision Media specializes in local and national media buying, strategy and consulting.