Posted by The TV Team,
Aug 25, 2011
Television as a medium has rapidly changed. Channel 4 launched in 1982, 1 month after I was born at which point it was only the fourth TV channel available to UK viewers. Now 29 years later, with TV having evolved probably faster than any other medium, viewers can now choose from over 500 channels, each one trying to tap into a niche audience.
The way we view TV has changed too. We can now watch in full HD and 3D, we can pause live TV, we can record without video tapes, and by clicking TV Guide on the ol’ remote your entire TV schedule is available to you. It would appear that 2011 TV viewing is the best it has ever been.
Though possibly the biggest evolution of the last few years has been the increase in VOD services, PVRs and Catch up TV. These new-fangled devices were predicted to spell doom for the old tradition of the family sitting down in front of the TV to watch their favourite show together, though research carried out by Television trade body Thinkbox shows that in fact people are watching more TV than ever!
Whether it is via one of the many on demand services accessed on the web, like BBC iPlayer, ITV player or via a set top box like the freshly launched Sky Anytime+, viewers can now catch up on their favourite TV shows at the press of a button or the click of a mouse or even via their games console. With such opportunities, one might think “That’s it, burn the Radio Times; I can make my own schedule, watch whatever I want whenever I want”.
But TV is such an emotive medium and people are creatures of habit, they like the comfort of knowing that Tuesday is Undercover Boss night, Wednesday is Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance night, on Sunday they can settle down with Law and Order UK. People often plan their week around TV, and it’s the way it has been for 50 years; it’s part of family life and it plays a massive part in our working and social life.
How familiar is this scenario: Walk into the office, “Morning, how was your evening? Did you watch…?” It’s the classic water cooler moment, and it’s this talkability, combined with VOD, that is driving people back to live TV.
From my own personal experience, I can testify to how VOD has driven me back to live TV viewing, having missed the first episode of the Inbetweeners I arrived into work the next day to find people raving about this “new comedy on E4” so much so that in my lunch hour I settled down with a Boots meal deal, logged on to 4OD and chuckled away. Subsequently I watched every single episode live so that I didn’t miss out on the water cooler moment the next time round.
This behaviour is of course enforced by new technology. Sites such as Twitter and Facebook combined with new technology e.g. Smartphones and Tablets mean that information is at our fingertips at all times. Recent research suggests that 44% of viewers have used social network sites whilst watching TV and 37% have chatted online about TV content. How many of you reading this have recorded an episode of The X-Factor with the idea of settling down later that night to watch the results, only to go on Facebook for the briefest of seconds and discover that Jedward have been voted off? Social Media is the new ‘instant’ water cooler, and if you want to be part of it you need to be watching, there and then, live, as it happens, because nowadays by the time you get to the actual water cooler, Jedward’s demise would be old news.
I believe that video on demand presents some fantastic opportunities for viewers and advertisers alike. The various catch up services means viewers need never miss a moment of their favourite shows and advertisers can add an extra element to their campaigns. This is how I feel it should be considered, as an extra element to provide incremental coverage, not as a substitute to TV.
Currently VOD accounts for 2% of ‘Television’ viewing (source: BARB/IPA Touchpoints) and it provides fantastic support to the box in the corner. But will this always be the case? Will it always be just a support, primarily used to catch-up? Or will VOD replace the traditional live viewing habits?
I’m a big user of VOD, I think it’s a great service, but there is no disputing that like many other viewers, it has driven me back to live viewing. For this reason, combined with my desire to be a part of the Social Media water cooler moment, I believe the schedule is here to stay. I won’t be ripping up my Radio Times just yet.
But this is just my opinion, do you agree? How much TV do you watch ‘live’? Is the schedule here to stay?
Written by Sam Olive