Over the past few months we have outlined the evolving challenges that the pandemic has presented broadcasters—from plummeting ad revenues and production stoppages, to increasing SVOD viewing share

Now, however, is the time to shift thinking towards what can be taken forward from this time. There are strategies that were launched through necessity that will provide continued value beyond this period

The opportunity to reduce cost bases, leverage the greater reach of online services, forge better relationships with advertisers and better understand operational needs and limits presents the potential for more nimble, streetwise businesses

The UK lockdown since mid-March has boosted TV time to levels not seen since 2014, with broadcast TV and online video each growing by nearly 40 minutes/person/day.

While trends vary significantly by demographic, news consumption has been a common catalyst for linear TV’s growth, benefitting the BBC above all. Although Sky News has also flourished, Sky’s portfolio has been seriously impacted by the lack of live sport.

2019 extended many of the long-running trends of the last decade, but, notably, online video’s growth rate appeared to slow among youngsters, in contrast to older demographics. 35-54-year-olds watching more VOD will have significant implications for linear broadcasters down the line.

Analysis of peak time TV programming on the main five PSB channels from 2002 to today shows a decline in the number of UK dramas broadcast—predominantly due to a contraction by ITV—though this has steadied since 2010

The resolve of the PSBs to maintain the number of dramas broadcast, despite rising costs, will mean an inevitable increase in the number of repeats and cheaper programming

A number of other observations are eye-catching: a greater turnover of drama series, entertainment formats failing at a higher rate and celebrity being treated as a panacea

The UK government is now consulting on a wider TV advertising ban until 9pm for food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS), to combat childhood obesity

TV and TV advertising are not the cause of children being overweight or obese (O+O). Policy change in this area should inform and educate parents and young children, as they have in Leeds and Amsterdam

With 64% of the UK population being O+O, obesity is a complex societal issue requiring a multifaceted approach. The evidence from existing rules, and plummeting TV viewing amongst children, says that further restrictions on TV advertising will be ineffective in curbing the rise of obesity in the UK

Addressable linear TV advertising, where precision-targeted ads overlay default linear ads, could enhance the TV proposition for advertisers, agencies and viewers, benefiting all broadcasters

In the context of dwindling linear viewing and rocketing online video ad spends, the adoption of Sky AdSmart and similar services on YouView and Freeview could take addressable TV ads from a sideshow to a pillar of revenue

Addressable linear is a bigger and more strategic prize for broadcasters than BVOD ads. Sky holds the key to wider adoption of its AdSmart platform if it can find a way – or a price – to bring ITV Sales and/or 4 Sales on board 

2018 was another bad year for traditional TV set viewing of broadcast channels, with a 5% decline year-on-year—its steepest since 2011. The decline accelerated among most demographics, but particularly for 16-34s, down 13% YOY from their already relatively low levels of TV viewing

Unmatched use, which includes viewing to Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, continues to grow, up 16% YOY, with both linear viewing and unmatched use becoming increasingly solitary activities. While heavier linear TV viewers are accounting for a greater proportion of linear TV viewing, it is the lighter TV viewers that are accounting for a greater proportion of unmatched use

Within the broadcast ecosystem, ITV had the strongest 2018 thanks to the FIFA World Cup, more Coronation Street, and Love Island. Most other broadcasters struggled in terms of viewing share, but the maturity of the market means major shifts continue to be rare

There is a belief in some quarters that there is space for a myriad of large SVOD services in the UK. We question whether there is room for more than the current three pacesetters; Netflix, Amazon and NOW TV

Like the UK, the US market is dominated by three services, and there is evidence of an appetite for further offerings. But the US market is conspicuously different to the UK's, with the forces behind cord-cutting in the States less apparent this side of the Atlantic

Potential domestic UK services would struggle to compete with the resources—supported by debt-funded and loss-leading models—that foreign tech giants can marshal

PSB SVOD

The Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) have been mulling a possible SVOD service, a decade after their ad-supported Project Kangaroo was blocked on competition grounds

Even if a reboot between the BBC and ITV were this time to be approved, we do not think Kangaroo 2 can succeed as a significant SVOD entrant in its home turf of the UK, above all because it’s too late

Other flaws in the offer are that it would be too small, non-premium, too old (archive), and too old (viewing profile), plus lacking sufficient financial resource to produce a pipeline of unique series

The Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) are in the process of sliding from TV dominance to middling contenders, in terms of content expenditure and significance to viewers

There are calls from many sides that the PSBs need to collaborate in order to thrive, in an era when global debt-funded SVOD services are making all the running

This note explores what can realistically be achieved by PSB collaboration; where partnerships work best; and the areas best avoided

There has been no shortage of attention paid to declining TV viewing over recent years, but much of it focuses on overall viewing time rather than advertising delivery.

This is to overlook the engine driving most of the UK’s television industry. Commercial impact delivery has held up well relative to overall viewing, and is strong for certain key demographics.

Nonetheless there are generational and behavioural changes afoot which are exerting downward pressures on impacts, especially for younger audiences. An archipelago of Love Islands is needed (Stranger Things have happened).