Why live TV isn’t going anywhere… yet
Ivan Radford | On 18, Aug 2014
New research shows that while VOD usage continues to climb in the UK, live TV remains a staple of viewing behaviour.
89 per cent still regularly use their telly to watch things live, a study by BroadStream (and YouGov) has found.
VOD services such as Netflix continue to enjoy strong growth, with membership up steadily each new quarter. Indeed, while 5 per cent of viewers said they had used VOD in 2004, that number has now quadrupled to 20 per cent. Nonetheless, this is still just below the other 1 in 5 (21 per cent) who say they have not used VOD at all in the past year.
Given the flexibility of VOD, the notion of watching a programme when someone else tells you seems increasingly old-fashioned. Why, then, is linear-scheduled content so popular?
Ignoring the fact that BroadStream Solutions provide broadcast solutions for linear TV, the answer partly stems from precisely that old-fashioned tradition. If streaming is sometimes thought to be a solitary act, live TV is perceived as a social activity. Indeed, 83 per cent of Brist said they use the television set as a “social hub” for the house. Even though 28 per cent say they might be using a second screen device (such as a tablet or phone) at the same time, with maybe 11 per cent even watching somethig different, the act of gathering around the box remains an event.
(Even in Scotland, where BroadStream says the most solitary TV viewers are, only 1 in 10 never watch programmes in the same room as their family or friends.)
“Event” is the key word. Shows such The X Factor, which is about to return to UK living rooms, rely on that idea of watching something live – the kind of appeal that leads to so many gameshows being commissioned for broadcasters. Those 28 per cent of people on their phones might well be live-tweeting along with a show – there is no guarantee that a second screen means a lack of engagement with the live viewing experience.
The World Cup and Wimbledon demonstrated the sway of live content even further this summer. 88 per cent of sporting viewers (and 81 per cent of reality/gameshow viewers) said they preferred to watch these things live rather than catch up on-demand later. For drama or comedy programmes, you would expect that number to be much lower.
Indeed, it is telling that only some shows generate that bubble effect of needing to be up-to-date: shows such as Game of Thrones, which is now available to download but was also available to stream live weekly on NOW, are The most popular VOD platforms, meanwhile, tend to be those from broadcasters, with services such as iPlayer and 4oD jumping from 16 per cent usage to 57 per cent. TV content originates from live broadcast before reaching VOD: the latter cannot currently exist without the other.
Here’s BroadStream’s infographic, designed to argue just that:
Netflix, though, is attempting to change that with its own original commissions. The company has, crucially, come up with another way to create a similar “event”-like status: releasing the whole of Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards in one go means that people are rushing to beat each other to the finish line and avoid spoilers.
Does it have the same draw as live TV? According to BroadStream Solutions, apparently not. But live TV’s appeal does not lie with drama and comedy. And audiences are changing: according to BBC iPlayer’s stats, the demographic of its users is much younger than traditional TV audiences, more in line with internet users. The younger generation, in other words, is embracing digital video – and they are the same audience courted by shows such as The X Factor. The question, then, is whether these shows can continue to pull in the crowds for years to come.
Sporting events will always remain in their own unique category – but if the current reality/gameshow bubble bursts within the next 20 years, what would happen to live viewing then?
Tip of the hat to The Drum for the infographic.