A few months ago I blogged about the future of television, and in particular sang the praises of traditional, linear, television. My main argument was that, despite the rise of catch up and on demand, linear TV is not dead. In fact it remains a key part of how we want to watch the box and share it with our friends - and as Channel 4's new fly-on-the-wall show 'Goggle Box' demonstrates, even watching people watching TV is entertaining. What is clear is that the concentration of audiences around certain programmes, so-called 'event television', mean that shows like X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and Britain's Got Talent remain important and highly valuable to audiences and therefore advertisers and networks.
As if to prove the point, we have just seen the launch of this year's Christmas adverts for Marks and Spencer and John Lewis, as well as a slew of other department stores and supermarkets - Sainsbury's is launching its campaign tomorrow.
For some of the large retailers, these adverts now have the dimensions of short films, complete with complicated story lines, high production values, significant budgets and months of planning. They help prove a key point: that television advertising is definitely not dead. While of course the ads will be viewed online, and the best may even go viral, they are primarily designed to be seen on TV, and where better than in the middle of the Saturday night linear TV schedules?
John Lewis in particular has mastered the transformation of a Christmas advert into a major TV event, with its seasonal offering as much part of the linear television landscape as the shows during which it appears. Over the last three years the expectation of a clever and heart-warming advert from John Lewis has become a modern Christmas tradition. With the anticipation of the ad, fueled by the media, aired on Twitter and given its own individual ad break during the X-Factor, it is suddenly possible to imagine a world where people might watch some TV shows for quality advertising - 'advertaining' as the Evening Standard has put it. And it is also possible to imagine a world where PRing the ads is as critical as PRing the programmes, as demonstrated by the evening dinner launch of the John Lewis offering to the great and the good in retail journalism. The 'big reveal' is becoming big business itself.
Does this mean the future of TV is becoming clearer? A world of big budget reality shows (X Factor, BGT), major dramas and soaps (Downton, Corrie) and sports, interspersed with big budget ads? All of it hyped by PR and amplified by the internet? It looks more and more likely...