Traditional television, like radio before it, is dying. A recent study from Accenture shows large drops in the consumption of televised media, ranging from a massive 33% decline in 14-17 year-olds watching Movies and shows on television, to a more sedate 6% of over 55s.
Why is this? Well, the title above should tell you all you need to know. Consumers have apparently decided that they want to watch shows on their own timetable, rather than that dictated by the television networks. On-Demand TV and stable streaming services have exploded in popularity, allowing consumers to choose when to watch the shows they want to watch.
(It has also allowed/encouraged many hours to be lost to the phenomenon of ‘binge watching’, but that’s a blog post for another day…)
Netflix is one of the most recognisable names currently working the streaming market, although the big television networks and cable companies are getting in on the action as well. HBO recently launched their On-Demand services with HBO GO, HBO On Demand and HBO NOW. BBC iPlayer has been available for a few years now, along with 4OD. Even Channel 5 in the UK has their own On-Demand service. Not to mention Sky, Virgin Media, LoveFilm, Blinkbox and a host of others. Surely this is a great time to be a fan of TV shows?
Um, not necessarily. You see, in order to watch all the shows I would like to see (and I don’t actually watch a lot of television), I would have to sign up to around half a dozen different services and watch one or two shows on each. That simply is not worth the money. I would still rather wait until they get a DVD release and binge-watch to my heart’s content. Much cheaper in the long run. Netflix may only be around £6 per month, but I want to watch Game of Thrones, which is on HBO (which means a subscription to Sky as HBO’s services aren’t getting a UK release until at least 2020). They will charge me £2.49 per episode via iTunes: a total of nearly £100 for the first four seasons. Since I can get the first three seasons on DVD for less than £30, I don’t see any point in getting it streamed.
Let me make something clear – I know that these series cost money to make (in some cases, a lot of money! Game of Thrones, for example, costs around $6 million per episode) and that the production needs to be paid for. I’m not suggesting for a second that we should be able to watch these shows for free, as nice as that would be. No, we clearly need to make a contribution to the cost of development. Having said that, in the US alone, an episode of GoT season four attracts around 6-7 million, and that’s just the first airing figures. If they are all paying around $3.50 per episode (they aren’t, I know that. It’s just an easy figure based on the iTunes cost), HBO are making up to $24.5 million every time Cersei sneers at camera. And that doesn’t take into account the advertising revenue.
But I haven’t even mentioned the most successful streaming site of them all. YouTube. They’ve been allowing people to watch TV series for over a decade now, for free. Admittedly, many of the series on there are uploaded illegally and are often removed in short order, but why? Surely an organisation like the BBC, for example, can afford to release some of their older series on YouTube for free? Especially series that they won’t make available either on DVD or iPlayer. Documentaries, panel shows, even old shows and specials. The BBC has been going for nearly 100 years! They must have plenty of old shows that people would love to see, but not necessarily to pay for.
The BBC in particular needs to pay attention to the decline in traditional audience figures. They are inextricably linked to broadcast television and, unless they change their business model, they will lose out. And that would be a crying shame. For reasons that should be obvious…