Americans can watch television shows on anything from a computer to an iPod these days, but media companies and advertisers have yet to figure out how best to take advantage of all the new ways to reach audiences.
So suggested a panel of experts from Google, Dow Jones & Co, NBC Universal and TNS Media Research at a conference in New York on Tuesday, which coincided with the first work stoppage by TV and movie screenwriters in 20 years.
At the heart of the work stoppage is the question of how screenwriters should be compensated in an era of burgeoning digital technologies, such as Internet and hand-held wireless devices, that are changing the face of entertainment.
Those changes were the central topic of conversation during the hour-long panel session -- part of the adtech conference in New York -- although nobody mentioned the strike itself.
"When you take a show like "Heroes" or "The Office," that show ran once 30 years ago," said Ron Lamprecht, senior vice president, digital distribution, at NBC Universal, which is majority owned by General Electric.
"Just in the past couple of years, so many new choices for consumption have developed on so many platforms," he said, pointing to Hulu, an online video service formed by NBC Universal and News Corp, which is buying Dow Jones.
The long-awaited free, advertising-supported service made its debut last week, with many seeing it as a key competitor to Google's YouTube. NBC has pulled its channel off of YouTube.
Lamprecht said NBC Universal and Google are engaged in various discussions, but that Hulu is the company's priority.
"Hulu is a big bet for NBCU and News Corp," he said. "Our play for video outside of NBC.com is Hulu and the launch partners in Hulu," including Sony Pictures Television and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
But Lamprecht and other panelists said traditional TV -- broadcast through a TV set -- isn't about to disappear.
"Broadcast television is still very powerful, it's still the only way to do certain things," he said. "I think there is always going to be a place for consuming a TV show or movie in a certain environment," like a movie theater or a living room.
For all the interest in new ways of broadcasting, he noted, most content is still viewed through the television set.
"We're very focused on mobile," he said. "But when you look at it, less than 5 percent of people have viewed video on the phone."
Another difficulty has been selling advertising across new digital platforms, he said. "When you talk about mulitplatform sell, it's not really happening," Lamprecht said. "People talk about it, but, practically, it's not going on."
Perhaps the main reason is that it is still difficult to measure audiences across all the different types of media, panelists said.
"The whole measurement space is under transition. For the foreseeable future, there won't be one currency," said George Shababb, chief operating officer of TNS Media Research.
"We need to address some of the measurement issues that exist today," he added, saying that the sample size is too small for television audience, few agree to standards for online audience measurement and mobile measurement still hasn't been defined.
"Eventually, we'll get to a point when we can bring these different measurement systems together into one," Shababb said.
Michael Steib, director of TV advertising at Google, said one benefit of new broadcast methods is that the technology will allow advertisers to better understand who is watching their commercial, when, and where.
"The more granular your information gets, the better you know how the audience reacts to those ads," he said.