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.

Media coverage of women’s sport escalated this summer thanks to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which ignited national interest. The Lionesses attracted an exceptional peak TV audience of 11.8 million for England’s semi-final match against the USA

Still, coverage of women's sport remains minimal outside of major events: only 4% of printed sports articles reference female athletes. Quality press are leading the way—the launch of Telegraph Women’s Sport being the prime example—but the popular press are yet to follow

Freely-accessible coverage will generate greater interest and audiences for women’s sport, but continuous investment from all media will be needed to fulfil its potential

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).
 

Despite the continued decline of linear TV set viewing through 2017 (-4%) and the first 12 weeks of 2018 (-3%), overall TV set usage remains flat at 4 hours/day due to the continued rise of unmatched activities (+19% in both cases)

We consider the recent growth of unmatched use to be predominantly due to viewing of online-only services (i.e. Netflix, Amazon and YouTube), since time spent gaming is unlikely to have changed dramatically. The increase in unmatched usage since 2014 exceeds the total viewing to the most-watched broadcast channels for all age groups under 35

Within the shrinking pie of consolidated TV set viewing, market shares remain broadly flat. However, several key digital channels have shown surprising signs of recent decline, reflecting stalling growth from the multichannel long tail versus the main PSB channels

The market for addressable TV looks constrained despite its benefits, with Sky AdSmart taking less than 2% of overall TV ad revenues. Meanwhile, online video revenues for Google, Facebook and others have surged dramatically

Agencies are seemingly enraptured by online video – a highly profitable medium to buy – despite concerns about a lack of effectiveness, safety and transparency 

For broadcasters to compete, better radical collaborative action is needed, including industry-wide adoption of AdSmart, and overhauling the trading agreements which hinder its take-up

 

 

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