The Changing Landscape of TV: Reflections
It’s remarkable how TV consumption has changed over the past two decades. In 2001 ITV’s adult share of commercial viewing was 46% – it has now halved to 23%. Around that time there was much frenzied hysteria surrounding ITV’s audience (literally) dying. Old stalwarts like The Bill were deemed to no longer cut the mustard and were axed. For a while it seemed that it was solely soaps which were propping up ITV’s portfolio (and its share price dropped like a stone). Incredible as it seems now, there were even hushed speculations of ITV going bust.
Then something incredible happened – reality TV kicked in with a vengeance, initially via Endemol’s Big Brother in 2000. Buoyed by its success, Simon Fuller thrust onto the fray with Pop Idol in 2001, which proved the catalyst for the subsequent tidal wave of peak-time reality TV – X Factor in 2004 and Britain’s Got Talent in 2007. Without the latter two shows it’s difficult to see how ITV would have flourished as it has.
The elephant in the room is now multi-channel i.e. all the non-terrestrial stations (including ITV digital, 4/5 digital and Sky), which continues to grow at a staggering rate (currently 61% of all adult viewing). Since the digital switchover (completed with Ulster in 2012), this effect has been compounded. Sky were already riding the crest of a wave from their acquisition of ten million homes in 2010 (now approaching 12m). Bizarrely (yet predictably) we’re heading towards an inversion with ITV’s share reflective of multi-channel back in 2001, and the latter hitting levels akin to ITV’s peak in 1996.
However, ITV remain anything but sitting ducks. 2010’s arrival of ex-Royal Mail man Adam Crozier generated exploration (and creation) of new revenue streams – non-exclusive to conventional broadcast, including VOD (video-on-demand) and Online.
A greater emphasis was placed on the high-quality programmes, the vast majority of which have been sold abroad (including Downton Abbey, Jekyll & Hyde and The Durrells). This provided a valuable global cash cow for the corporation. Yet, whilst ITV continues to diversify, other players distort and metamorphose, most recently with Sky’s acquisition of Channel 5’s sales-platform. Channel 5’s acquisition of Big Brother back in 2011 also threw a curve-ball, prior to owner Richard Desmond selling the channel to Viacom for £450 million in May 2014. After struggling for a good few years with their impacts haemorrhaging alarmingly, ITV Breakfast (formerly GMTV) now looks to have finally stabilised with viewing rising YoY. The monster that is Sky continues to lead with their launching of Adsmart, and more recently Advance, enabling granular geo/social targeting of Homes.
Yet the predator, cunning and relentless, remains the Mariana trench that is Online; teeming with viewing possibilities that include Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hayu, YouTube, the vlogger community, time-shifting and monsters as yet unforeseen/unimagined. All threaten to undermine the traditional model via relentless attrition. However, linear TV remains resolute and strong, the cornerstone and indeed vital component within the vast proportion of campaigns. How media-owners continue to adapt to this sea-change remains a subject for conjecture and limitless intrigue.