Streaming has been getting all the attention but TV is still doing the heavy lifting

Liz RossIn this guest post Freeview CEO Liz Ross argues while streaming services have had an undue amount of press TV is still the dominant video medium.

Reading the local media, you would be forgiven for thinking that, in 2015, Australians abandoned free-­to-­air television in favour of watching streaming services on their mobile phones.

So, you may be surprised to learn, that in fact, all of the top 200 programs of the ratings year were on free-­to-­air TV. All of them. Every single one.

The top 10 programs on FTA had an average of over 2.3million viewers. By comparison, the top 10 pay TV shows had an average of 398,728 viewers.

The frankly hysterical coverage of streaming services certainly hasn’t reflected the reality of how the vast majority of people are consuming television.

It’s not just Australia where TV is still very much the dominant medium­ this pattern is echoed across the world.

I continue to be amazed at how the relative audience scale of FTA TV vs Pay TV and other IP delivered services is forgotten in media coverage and industry forums.

Whilst there is a consumer trend towards an ‘a la carte’ approach to TV through the addition of other devices or any IP delivered service, the majority of time spent across the population is continuing to be with television.

I attended the IBC conference in Amsterdam in September, a gathering of all the leading operators and suppliers in international broadcasting, to discuss technology and the future of broadcast.

One of the key themes that emerged during the conference was that watching TV on a TV is the dominant global trend. And, in the US, TV still represents 93% of content consumed with video on demand still maintaining a relatively small portion of viewing.

TV viewing in the US is increasing overall – it’s up 16.4%.

That’s not to ignore the fact that the landscape is changing. But rather than purely cannibalising TV audiences, new technologies such as streaming actually increase overall viewing.

The increasing availability of mobile video on demand devices has also sparked an interesting trend – noted at IBC by a panel with some of the world’s leading media executives including Time Warner Cable Media’s Joan Giliman and Havas’s Julia Jordan. The larger the screen, the longer a person spends with a show.

A long-­form drama is going to generally be viewed on a TV and a 30 second clip more likely to be viewed on a mobile device, so people choose the best screen at the time. That’s all quite logical, and so is the fact then that with the resurgence in popularity of longform drama and comedy, the fastest growing screen for VOD is the TV.

It seems reports of the demise of so called “lean­back” TV experience have been greatly exaggerated. Technology has allowed expansion – FreeviewPlus is a great example of this.

It provides intuitive features for search and discovery of content making choices expand significantly at any time and giving the viewer complete control of their viewing experience.

Of course, we must accept that the consumer is in charge, and that the old broadcast paradigm is over.

Viewers want the features that they want anywhere, anytime and on any device or they’ll leave.

But in my view, that provides us with an exciting opportunity. FTA broadcasters accept audiences want to watch broadcast and they will binge through on demand services.

They understand the need to provide technologies that deliver what consumer want. These need to be more personalised, more elegant, available across devices and easy.

There’s no doubt in my mind that 2016 is going to be a year of transformation for the FTA television industry and I am confident that we will see a substantial increase in innovation. By leveraging new technologies, improved revenues and profits will follow.

  • Liz Ross is CEO of TV industry body Freeview

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