The death of broadcast TV is coming fast

The death of broadcast TV is coming fast

A fair few years ago now – long before I started this website, so you’ll have to take my word for it! – I made a bold prediction that traditional ‘scheduled broadcast TV’ would soon become a thing of the past.

This was also at a time when Netflix was in its infancy, and when people were generally smarter than their TVs.

It was when BBC launched it’s iPlayer “catch-up TV” service, and other channels started doing the same. Then of course you started having the “plus one” channels on digital TV, which ran an hour behind, and allowed people to watch shows they may have just missed.

Of course at the time, home broadband speeds weren’t that fast, so most of the time the quality wasn’t that good, plus you could only watch this stuff on a desktop or laptop PC in a web browser.

But the idea of watching TV shows ‘on-demand’ was born. I was fascinated by the concept, and imagined a future when there would no longer be any programme schedules, and people could just sit and watch the shows they wanted to see whenever they liked.

Why have to wait until 9pm to watch the next episode of ‘Quantum Leap’, when you could just watch it now at 6:37pm? Why have to sit through other shows you don’t want to watch, or have to flick through channels in order to find something interesting to watch? If all TV shows were made available ‘on-demand’, people could essentially create their own programme schedule in the form of a ‘playlist’.

So here we are in 2024, and as well as Netflix and Amazon Prime, there are a multitude of other streaming services available now, for a monthly cost of course, which pretty much allows this.

So what future for ‘scheduled’ TV programming? Certainly within the next five years, I think we’ll see more TV channels being closed down or ‘moved online’, as is about to happen to Talk TV.

Rupert Murdoch’s Talk TV network is to cease broadcasting as a traditional television channel in the summer and move solely online.

The network launched in 2022 but has struggled to attract viewers on its linear platform.

In contrast, many videos clipped up from its shows perform well on YouTube.

It comes a month after its star presenter, Piers Morgan, also saw his show moved from its terrestrial weekday evening slot to being solely online.

Scott Taunton, Talk TV’s president of broadcasting, said in a briefing to staff: “Two years ago, we would not have been brave enough to launch a channel without a linear presence.

“But audiences of all ages have moved fast and smartphones are now the primary device where news is consumed. We need to adapt to this as a priority.”

He added: “We are therefore intending that Talk comes off linear television from early summer and our focus will be on streaming.”

“Talk TV: Rupert Murdoch network to be taken off air and moved online” – BBC News, 5th March 2024

Particularly amongst the younger generations, we now live in an age where people expect everything “on demand”, and more and more people are watching news and TV programmes (and even movies) on smartphones and tablets, rather than sitting in front of a TV.

Across cable, satellite and digital terrestrial, there are hundreds of TV channels broadcasting “linear television”, and beyond the mainstream channels such as BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Sky One, Channel 4, some of these channels can’t really be getting very high viewing figures.

Why do they do it? As with anything – with the honourable exception of the BBC of course – it’s all about advertising.

These TV channels are nothing more than advertising platforms, with the actual TV shows just being the ‘breaks between the adverts’. But the reality is that advertisers increasingly won’t want to pay for adverts on channels that hardly anyone watches.

Which is why on many TV channels that merely repeat old shows on a loop, most of the ads now are from charities begging you to give £xx a month to their cause.

TV audience figures are dropping, so I think it would make sense to cull a load of TV channels, especially when most are just showing cheaply made rubbish or endless old repeats.

As I mentioned earlier, the younger audience isn’t waiting until 8pm to sit down and watch Coronation Street or Eastenders, or waiting until 10pm to watch the News At Ten.

This is where social media comes in too. Most people don’t seem to have the attention span to sit and watch a 30 minute TV show, let alone a 2 hour documentary; these people prefer to be ‘entertained’ by short video clips on YouTube, Instagram or TikTok.

And there’s no escaping the advertising either – this ‘short-form’ format is ideal as more adverts can be delivered in-between the videos, so over the course of an hour, you’ve probably had to endure more adverts than the content you actually wanted to watch.

So yeah, I really do think the concept of scheduled TV programming – or ‘linear’ as the bods seem to refer to it – is nearing an end, and I wasn’t surprised to read recently about the BBC ‘mooting’ the possibility of adopting a subscription model, to potentially replace the archaic ‘TV licensing’ tax, which sees households forced to pay £150 a year, even if they don’t watch any BBC channels.

Give it another couple of years and most household TVs will be ‘smart’ – internet connected, and with all the ‘apps’ installed for viewers to stream and watch all their favourite shows as and when they choose, rather than being beholden to the whims of ‘schedule planners’.

Now it makes sense why so much money is being pumped into broadband infrastructure, whether that be through installing fibre cable networks, or through 5G ‘wireless’ networks – they can’t turn off the transmitters until the vast majority of people have got fast broadband at home.