Broadcast TV viewing resumed its downwards trajectory in 2021, following a pandemic-inflated boost in 2020. The effect has been compounded by streaming services retaining much of their lockdown gains, consolidating their place at the heart of people's viewing habits

Within the shrinking pie of broadcast TV viewing—still c.70% of total TV set use—the PSBs have held relatively steady, whilst Channel 5 has increased both its share and absolute volume of viewing

However, further decline seems inevitable, with the largest components of the programming landscape, namely longstanding formats and the soaps suffering badly since the beginning of the pandemic. We await the effect of various new scheduling strategies

Channel 5 has been a rare recent success story in linear television, growing overall viewing and share while beginning to shake off the perception of being the home of cheaper, exploitative programming, consolidated under the ownership of Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell

The programming shift—most notably in investment in lower-price-point British drama—has been made possible with savings from axing schedule centerpieces Big Brother and soon, Neighbours. However, this will result in continued declines in 16-34 viewing share

The other channel brands of Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS) are in a gradual downswing: My5 is subscale, while Pluto TV makes less sense in the UK than in other markets. We wait with interest as to how upcoming SVOD, Paramount+, will differentiate

Growth in European content supply may soon reach a tipping point as streamers shift from market grabs to profitability, while resources poured into production from states, consumers and advertisers are declining

The perceived value of long-form video content is dropping as consumers pay smaller amounts for a greater volume of choice, from which they are watching less

However, factors converge to prop up the European independent model: broadcasters’ resilient financing, the public favouring ‘deep’ local fare, talent’s preference for independents, market consolidation and new EU regulation

Advertising income has been the lifeblood of commercial TV for decades, but declining linear audiences—combined with digital video alternatives—mean the TV advertising model must evolve to ensure it remains as potent a medium for brands as ever.

Lack of effective audience measurement and somewhat opaque advertiser/agency/sales house relationships are hampering linear TV advertising revenues. Both issues need resolving to underpin a healthier ecosystem overall.

Flexibility is key to this evolution. A move to audience buys across most linear and BVOD inventory would provide greater flexibility and targeting for advertisers, and would sit alongside some premium context buys. A greater onus on volume deals would give broadcasters more certainty to invest in content and their advertising propositions.

Despite relying on a narrow IP base, US content production is booming, overwhelming other markets and seeking alternative distribution to cinema.

Responding to the rise of Netflix and Amazon Prime, studios seek to shift distribution from wholesale to retail—but only Disney may succeed.

Most content is likely to remain accessed by consumers through bundles. Provided they engage with aggregation, European broadcasters can adjust to the new studio model.

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

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 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).