Traditional broadcasters have taken a bit of a kicking lately, as stocks were hit by Brexit and questions about their (lack of) impartiality in the lead-up to the same. On top of that, we’ve seen signs traditional television isn’t as unassailable as once thought in terms of the amount of time we’re spending with it or the amount of ad spend it receives.
So we’ve wrangled a few key takeaways about the state of television in July 2016 into the following list, to see if there’s any lessons broadcasters – and the digital companies encroaching on their territory – can learn from recent trends.
TV viewing on traditional sets is falling
While the amount of video content being watched is increasing, the proportion of that consumption being done on traditional linear television sets is falling. In the UK, Ofcom’s latest public service broadcasting report contained the fact that:
“In the last five years there have been declines in time spent watching measured TV among all age groups but which was considerably more among those under 35 (including children).
“In the last year, the rate of decline in viewing seen since 2012 slowed for all age groups under 65, apart from 16-24s where it speeded up.”
So where are those 16-24 year olds going? It won’t come as a surprise that they’re largely heading to video platforms like YouTube and Twitch. As the Guardian’s Stuart Dredge reports, a lot of YouTube’s most successful channels as of May 2016 were specifically aimed at children:
“‘Children are talking about YouTube in the same breath as TV,’ said Jane Rumble, director of market intelligence at Ofcom, who added that since 2010 there has been a 25% decline in children’s viewing of linear TV – even if it still represents half their media time.”
Additionally, fully a third of television content consumed by 16 – 24 year olds is via on-demand services like Netflix and HBO Go. Ofcom also reported that people in the UK watched 26 minutes less of broadcast television but were more likely to pay for on-demand or OTT services:
“Viewing to paid on-demand services has especially increased, rising 14 percentage points to 20 percent in two years.”
Ofcom’s report does note, however, that viewing levels of the UK’s public service broadcasters actually increased among the over 65s. So don’t expect those adverts that offer a free pen for calling to go away any time soon.
TV is partnering with new mediums
Television doesn’t exist in a vacuum, completely set apart from the rest of the media. As it sees its utter dominance eroded, we’re seeing closer partnerships between broadcasters and other forms of media.
That works well for new players who are looking to capitalise on the rush for live video online; traditional broacasters still have a huge advantage when it comes to broadcasting live. As an example, Twitter is now partnering with CBS to stream live video of the US Democratic and Republican conventions, as Mathew Ingram explains for Fortune:
“Twitter has been placing an increasing focus on live content—specifically live video. To date, most of its efforts have been related to sports, with the most high-profile announcement being its $10 million deal with the NFL to stream live Thursday night football games.”
But broadcasters are also switching up the types of content they produce, with growth industries like esports being especially popular for partnerships. ESPN2 is set to broadcast the highlights of the Evo fighting games tournament this week, a partnership about which its vice president of programming and acquisitions John Lasker said:
“The Street Fighter V World Championship will be one of the must-see competitions from the Evo finals.
“We are always exploring ways to serve the growing and passionate audience of competitive gaming, and we look forward to delivering this event to fans.”
Broadcasters still have valuable expertise
The benefits of a background in broadcasting are broader than just having a lot of infrastructure and cameras to hand. There are also practical lessons, hard-won through experience, that can be applied to new means of distribution.
Speaking to Digiday yesterday, for instance, ABC News’ head of live video Sarah Amos discussed how the broadcaster is approaching livestreams, now that it isn’t simply limited to broadcasting on the channels it owns:
“Cable news has gotten trapped in this very set world of five stories of what we’re going to do and then people know what to expect. We want live video to be organic and unpredictable.”
Live video also has advantages that traditional broadcasters understand extremely well.
Despite all the changes in distribution and content type, the inherent value of live video remains the same: Scarcity. By its nature live video is transitory; there are only so many events happening at once that can attract truly huge audiences.
Livestation’s CEO Lippe Oosterhof has previously said “if you have a live engagement with your audience that’s the best place to place ads”, and broadcasters and publishers have resources beyond those of the public which allow them to invest create live video of a high quality and the brand recognition that allows them to potentially cover those huge audience-baiting events.