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Will Traditional TV Ever Be Replaced by Streaming?


14th Apr 2020 Film & TV

For a long time, people had to listen to the radio to get news, drama, and music at home. This all changed with the development of the television in the early 20th century. Suddenly, we were able to see what was going on, not just listen along.


In the UK, the adoption of the television was exponentially increased by the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. This one event saw a rush to build new masts around the country, many of which were thrown together hastily in a classic British bodge

Several days of build up programming as broadcast, with recipes for party food and advice on how to avoid burglaries during the coronation were aired. On the day, multiple families from each street piled into one home to crowd around the tiny black and white screens.

Since then, British TV viewers have enjoyed the launch of commercial TV, the addition of Channel 4, and then Channel 5, and finally the birth of paid services through satellite and cable. 

A Slow Decline

While the uptake of TV ownership exploded thanks to the patriotic desire to see the crowning of a new monarch, the decline of television’s dominance has been slow and has been going on for the last couple of decades.

For most of TV’s history, we have fit our lives around the whims of the schedulers, with millions fitting their weekday evenings around broadcasts of Eastenders, Emmerdale and Coronation Street. 

Except that’s no longer the case. Today, we have the power to watch whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want. Streaming services have given us access to more content than was ever possible, including back catalogues of classic shows and blockbuster movies. 

It's not just the big name streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and now Disney+ that are taking away audiences from traditional TV channels either. Niche streaming services that provide a lot of content in a particular genre are also a threat. 

For example, PokerStars TV offers full length TV shows, live events and classic clips to poker fans; while Eros Now offers Bollywood movies and other TV shows in 12 different languages

Social media sites like Instagram and Facebook also provide competition to traditional TV since both allow the uploading of video content, meaning users can watch shorter, but more relevant clips at their convenience.


Changing Viewing Habits

In the UK, adults are spending more time watching content on YouTube and streaming services than ever before. In 2018, these figures were 30 minutes and 26 minutes per day respectively. This has been the trend for the past decade and it doesn’t look like it will be changing any time soon. 

Still the King

While demand for streaming services is growing, the main UK channels continue to be the most watched overall. For example, in 2018 UK adults continued to watch BBC One for an average of 41 minutes per day, more than any streaming service.

Average viewing time for all traditional TV channels continues to decline though, despite much larger quantities of original content being produced by these organisations. The original content has included massively popular shows like Sir David Attenborough’s Planet Earth which attracted around 10 million average concurrent viewers. 

While the traditional TV networks have seen a decline, the television set itself doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere any time soon. 

Most major TV channels have their own catch up streaming service, which significantly increases their viewing figures. It is the 21st-century equivalent of recording shows to VHS tape to watch back later.  

Additionally, the BBC began making content that’s only available through its iPlayer service. BBC II!, which replaced BBC Three in 2016 allows viewers to watch original content at their convenience without having to wait for the show to air on TV first. 

The majority of catch up viewing, and the watching of streaming services continues to be through the TV. Internet connected smart TVs and devices like Google’s Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV mean that older devices can be used to watch streamed content too. 

So, while around 50% of all households now subscribe to at least one streaming service, it doesn’t look like TV as we know it is going anywhere soon. 

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