A Look to the Future
"The future is where we will spend the rest of our lives," was the way General David Sarnoff, longtime head of RCA, used to emphasize the need to look ahead, even when the view is a hazy one. 1 Today we hear much about "the New Electronic Media, the "Information Society," "New Technologies," or "Videotech," and certainly these new arrivals will have some effect on audience measurement in the future. This is a broad area indeed, and in order to approach it for our purposes some definitions and parameters are essential. How far ahead are we looking? What specific technologies should be considered? And finally, as the new mass communication field evolves, what new system will be required? How will audience delivery be measured?
The time frame will be limited to 1990, the end of this decade. Experience dictates that five to six years is the maximum period for which there is any likelihood that forecasts will be even marginally correct. Moreover, the electronic media in 1984 are in one of their most dynamic transition periods. As Don Menschel, president of MCA Television, remarked, "In this business you come to expect what you least expect."2 So whatever the forecasts may be for 1990, watch out for surprises.
A further consideration is that rather than focus on technology and processes (hardware), our look is directed toward content and services to the consumer (software). This means primary consideration of program and economic aspects rather than the physical aspect of newer services.
The future look is directed at three major categories of video service: (1) the present broadcast spectrum and systems, (2) existing nonbroadcast technologies in which we have experience-one-way cable and VCRs, and (3) the truly new technologies such as two-way cable, DBS, electronic publishing (Teletext and Viewtex), and home computers, which are now jockeying for position. The