The Death Of TV? Not Likely
The death of TV – I’m sure it’s something we’ve all thought about, with streaming services becoming more popular, as well as much more numerous – but is it actually going to happen? Of course no one knows for sure (unless you can see the future, in which case winning lottery numbers please), but as far as I’m concerned I think it’s safe to say that no, TV isn’t going to die any time soon.
The world now is very different to the old world. We as a society are so materially obsessed that even when something becomes obsolete, we’re loathe to throw it away. It’s not like a few hundred years ago, when one tool was replaced by another, and the previous tool was ditched. Now, the new tool and the old tool run side by side, hand in hand – there’s always someone hankering for the old, for the safe, for the known. We as a society hoard, it’s what we do. We as a society love a bit of nostalgia, there’s a part of everyone that yearns for a simpler time. This is really why I think TV will be around for a while yet.
Take vinyl for example – vinyl is the ultimate format that just won’t die, no matter how often we try and replace it. First tapes, then CDs, then the short lived mini discs, and now digital downloads and streaming services – vinyl’s challengers have been many, and often, and yet vinyl is still standing. Granted, sales are very low, but so are sales for all types of music, but vinyl is still selling nonetheless. And long will it continue, whether we like it or not.
I think TV will go the same route – if anything it may get even stronger in the face of competition. We’re currently living in what is probably, objectively, the golden age of TV. Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, Mr Robot, American Horror Story, Orange is the New Black, etc., the quality of programme being produced is currently so high. Now a lot of the aforementioned have been specifically produced for steaming services – the amount of Netflix, Amazon, etc., exclusive programmes we’re seeing is growing – but the biggest are still for TV. Game of Thrones is arguably the biggest TV series in history, and there’s no chance of that becoming streaming only anytime soon. No chance.
And even if TV did start to die, would people want it to? Obviously there’s a generational gap, as with all new technology – my parents, both retired, watch TV like no one’s business. My dad has Netflix, but is still in the free 30 days, and my mum has no interest in it whatsoever, but this isn’t the only reason. Take ITV, for example – would they be any better off if they became a streaming channel? A quick Google search tells me that to advertise on ITV, you can pay anywhere from £2000 to over £1m – I can’t see ITV taking a risk on becoming online only, and potentially losing those sums. We already have a living example of a channel becoming online only – BBC3. Formerly a Freeview channel, it’s now available to stream only, and the impact hasn’t been positive.
Since becoming online only, BBC3 has lost 20% of its viewers – 1 in every 5 people turned off. I’ll admit, I’m one of them. BBC3 used to be easily accessible, simply pressing 7 on my remote and seeing what was on – now it requires setting up. How much, I don’t know, I haven’t watched it once since it became online only. I think this says it all. On top of this, not only has BBC3’s viewership dropped, but the figures suggest these viewers are instead watching ITV2 or E4 – BBC’s direct and immediate rivals. So not only have they weakened their own proposition, they’ve strengthened others.
BBC doesn’t have advertising revenue to worry about, so this issue isn’t immediately a big problem. But if it were the other way around, and ITV2 and E4 viewers were jumping ship to BBC, then the advertisers would be asking questions. A drop in demand means a drop in price, and this is only going to hurt the networks. So why would they do this? If anything BBC3 has been the guinea pig for any potential online moves, and the experiment hasn’t worked. ITV and E4 must be thanking them not only for the added viewers, but for the warning too. Whilst online streaming is great, it isn’t the be all and end all. And TV is going to be around for a while yet.