Viacom’s 2014 acquisition of Channel 5 from Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell occurred while the maelstrom encircling linear television viewing—sparked by the allure of SVODs and other digital distractions—was well underway

Nevertheless, with increased content spend, development of new titles and clarity as to its targeted audience, the broadcaster has increased its channel (and group) share amongst 16-34s and ABC1s, and has directed further benefits back to its owner's existing entertainment suite

Outside of the post-lunch and 8-10pm slots, however, work needs to be done: Channel 5’s BVOD proposition and social media offering leaves much to be desired, while the reliance on two major titles, Big Brother and Neighbours will be unsustainable in a post-linear world  

BARB data indicates that the amount of average daily TV set viewing to linear TV channels is continuing to fall: the pie is shrinking. Just under 20% of TV set usage so far in 2017 is to non-linear activity, and viewing to SVOD services and YouTube is likely to account for most of this growth in 'unmatched' viewing

The pie is shrinking faster amongst younger audiences: just under one third of TV set usage is 'unmatched' now for 16-34s. However 35+ unmatched use is growing at a faster rate than 16-34 unmatched use in 2017

Within this smaller pie, the PSB channels continue to hold share of viewing against pay channels. Within the PSBs, ITV and the ITV digital channel family have gained most share so far this year, although BBC1 is having a strong autumn in spite of the loss of Great British Bake Off to C4

Public service broadcasting (PSB) and the entire unique broadcasting ecosystem face huge challenges from global tech giants with deep pockets, data insights and scant regard for PSB prominence

All three pillars of the PSB model are threatened: content supply, distribution and advertising. The further threat of digital terrestrial TV (DTT) spectrum being reduced or turned off in c.2030 is real and PSBs must have a migration path in place

PSBs can counter some challenges through increased investment in content relevant to the UK consumer. But, recognising the aligned interests with pay-TV platforms of Sky and Virgin Media, collaboration between the parties is integral to the long-term future of PSB

Even though Facebook is not a producer of news, 6.5 million UK internet users claim to mainly source their news from the platform. Posts and shares by friends in the user's network, in the context of Facebook's algorithm, determine the order of stories in the personalised News Feed, removing the control of the news agenda that publishers have for their websites

Premium publishers operating a paywall (The Times, The Financial Times) have a lower key approach to Facebook than publishers generating advertising revenue from referral traffic to their websites or from on-platform consumption of Instant Articles. The latter will seek to stimulate social media engagement, optimising stories through attention-grabbing headlines, and installing Facebook’s share and like buttons on their websites

Case studies of the news stories that were prominent on Facebook (measured by likes, comments and shares) in the periods leading up to the Brexit Referendum and General Election 2017 votes respectively demonstrate that newspaper brands (the Express for Brexit, and The Guardian for the General Election) achieved the highest reach on Facebook during these periods, despite being ranked below other news brands (BBC in particular) in terms of traffic to their websites

Channel 4 revenues and content spend hit record levels in 2016, but the company faces a declining TV advertising market in 2017 due to a weaker economy and competition

The company’s ability to deliver its unique remit to audiences and producers is also under pressure from Government proposals to move staff outside London

Because Channel 4 can only commission, a move will not stimulate a creative cluster. Risks to the remit include the loss of talent and lower content spend due to higher opex 

2016 has seen Channel 4 break new records in growing revenues and investing in content origination, whilst making further progress in delivering its remit and maintaining audience share for its main channel

However, the second half of 2016 and early months of this year promise a significantly tougher 2017 as the economic and TV advertising climate has worsened and the future is clouded with uncertainties

Channel 4 nonetheless starts from a relatively strong position financially and we expect it to be well capable of sustaining its remit under the leadership of its new CEO Alex Mahon, though much hinges on the outcome of the Government consultation on relocation 

The US scripted content boom is spilling over into Europe: Free-to-air TV drama ratings have proven resilient but as costs and audience expectations have risen budgets are under pressure, necessitating flexible co-financing arrangements with American broadcasters, and Netflix and Amazon. Pay channels have boosted output—with uneven results

Long-term IP control is a key factor behind independent production consolidation, led by broadcasters seeking a secure stream of content and diversification away from advertising

Notable developments include the new wave of Berlin-based, internationally-financed series, the rise of domestic French content and Sky Italia’s edgy originals, Telefónica’s giant leap into Spanish dramas, and the continuation of Britain as an export powerhouse

The debate over the entitlement of free-to-air PSBs to retransmission fees from pay-TV platforms has simmered for the last few years, yet promises to boil over once the Digital Economy Act 2017 (DEA 2017) comes into force; as expected in late July/early August

The repeal of section 73 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988) has removed a barrier to negotiations between the PSBs and the cable operator Virgin Media over retransmission fees, seen by some as the thin end of a wedge for obtaining such fees across all pay-TV platforms

However, pressing for retransmission fees could have the opposite effect of what the PSBs – in particular the commercial PSBs – wish for, threatening as it does to undermine the principles of universality and free access at the point of use, so long the bedrock of public service broadcasting in the UK

The first half of 2017 has seen the announced departure of three CEOs from the commercial PSBs within the space of less than two months: David Abraham of Channel 4 (14th March), Rob Woodward of STV (25th April) and lastly Adam Crozier of ITV (3rd May)

Responding to the challenges of digital switchover and the advertising recession of 2008/09, as well as their own specific company issues, one of the first tasks for all three CEOs has been to raise staff morale

The last seven to ten years may have been taxing at times. The next seven to ten promise to be no easier, and may yet be harder, as the successor CEOs chart their way through the continuing transformation of the UK digital landscape

Linear television's audience is ageing; with the drop in viewing by younger demographics, consistent viewership by the over 65s has seen them increase their share of total viewing since 2010 from 24% to 31%

The difficulties and efforts to re-engage with the younger cohorts are well documented. But what of the resilient, older group that forms the stable core of the television audience?

Conspicuous attempts are being made to create specific shows targeted at the oldest viewers, but outside of limited categories, creating relevant programming may be more difficult than expected