Another Tick in the Box for TV

Dominic Mills: It's time the digital zealots checked their facts and shut up about the demise of television; as here's the reality.

Of those who regularly forecast the death of TV (as both a viewing and advertising medium) they would be well-advised to take a look at the latest state of the nation report from BARB, published a couple of weeks ago.

The sage of adland, Jeremy Bullmore, refers to these people as pioneers, zealots, fanatics and evangelists who, he says, "are invariably wrong in the scale of the revolutions they so confidently forecast."

He continues: "The exaggeration, the hyperbole, the unbridled enthusiasm with which new ideas are heralded serve a valuable purpose, not despite being inaccurate but precisely because they are."

The result, he says, is that the establishment (i.e. TV), fearful of obliteration, gives itself a rigorous quality check.

In other words the threat of extinction causes established media brands to re-examine what they are good at, and focus on that. This is not a new phenomenon; radio did not wipe out outdoor; TV did not wipe out radio or cinema; newspapers did not wipe out magazines. They re-grouped, re-focused, and came out fighting.

The BARB document is great for explaining this is full, but as a summary here are some snippets of wisdom for dispelling the myths:

1. The death of long-form spells trouble for TV

Short-form content is not taking over. It's easy to believe, when there is so much hype about the latest YouTube sensation, that we are moving into an era of short-form, snackable content. Yes, we watch more videos on our mobiles and so on, but it's incremental viewing.

Put it another way, Psy's Gangnam Style video, with 2.2bn YouTube views, has racked up 159m hours globally. Last year's Strictly Come Dancing series, including results shows, was watched for 321m hours in the UK alone.

2. Declines in TV viewing can be explained by other weather

Remember 2014? Stats nerds will say that was the year in which, in Q1, TV viewing dropped 7.2% year-on-year. Digi-zealots will say that was the start of TV's decline.

Perhaps it was simply the weather. During that period, the average daily temperature increased from 5.7% to 9.0%, and average daily hours of sunshine from 2.2 to 2.7. With this in mind, BARB concludes that for every degree Celsius in maximum temperature, viewing drops by 0.76%; and for every increase in daily sunshine hour, viewing drops by 0.7%.

So before anyone jumps to write-off TV, especially in the summer, it's best to consult the weatherman.

3. Netflix is going to kill TV

But maybe not...In fact, as the BARB data shows, the people who watch Netflix and other subscription VOD services are already big TV watchers.

In other words, it's incremental viewing.

That's because Netflix viewers are:

- 10% more likely to be cable subscribers, and 7% more likely to be Sky subscribers
- 9% more likely to have children
- 7% more likely to have three or more TVs
- 12% more likely to have at least one 50-inch plus TV screen.

Yes, they're telly addicts. Netflix is just an extra.

4. There's a whole generation that won't bother with TV

Conventional wisdom has it that there is a whole generation that increasingly won't bother with TV. But what's the reality? According to BARB, there were 1.07 million households with broadband but no TV (i.e. able to access TV-type content via a screen), rising to 1.1 million in 2014.

All told, that's 4.3% of households, but when you look at the number of households with 16-24 year-olds in metropolitan areas with broadband but no TV (i.e students, young professionals) it rises to 12.4%.

But the question is whether this figure is so bad, and really what happens when this generation grows up, settles down and has families. As BARB's data shows, there is a significant pick-up in satellite digital subscriptions as people move into the 'young family' life stage - from 40% penetration to 55%.

This suggests that, as people age, their TV viewing habits become more conventional, or as the zealots would put it, 'old-fashioned'.

Another tick in the box for TV.

Of course, we live on ever-shifting sands, but the next time you meet someone who tells you TV is 'so last century', shrug your shoulders, say 'whevs'...and hand them a copy of BARB's Viewing Report. 


Read the full article here.

Download the full BARB report here.