Stream This! - Is traditional TV viewing becoming a thing of the past?
With the world of entertainment at the mere press of a button in 2017, the way we now view our media has drastically changed in a relatively short period of time. Ask yourself, when was the last time you actually watched traditional 'terrestrial' (ie the main four channels) channels? Nowadays, I feel we don't watch TV 'live' nowhere near as much as we used to. We simply catch a show on demand, when we want to and not when we are told to. You want to watch EastEnders at 8pm on a Monday? Not really, you'll probably watch it on iplayer at a later date and continue watching your fourth episode of House of Cards on Netflix into the twilight hours.
Back in the late 90's soaps ruled the viewing public's evenings. Take for example the three primary soaps here in the UK, EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale. In July 1997, all three soaps had viewing figures close to 20 million homes each and every night they were on. The National Grid would have to be on guard to supply electricity to more homes as people surged to have a cup of tea during the adverts. The Office of National Statistics shows the UK population was roughly around the 60 million mark in 1997, so that means nearly a third of the UK population was watching one of those three soaps at any one point; that's an incredible figure. Nowadays, with the UK population at roughly 65 million, those figures are now around seven million. This is a marked change in viewing habits.
BBC iPlayer launched in 2007, Netflix UK on January 4th 2012 and Amazon Instant Video on 26th February 2014 (after taking over LoveFilm). These are key dates in the timeline of the rise of streaming and the decline of traditional TV. As people's habits change so do their viewing needs. Here are some factors...
When so called Smart TV's first appeared on the market the price was out of reach of most households. Starting around the £2,000 mark for the most basic of models, consumers stayed away. Nowadays, you can get a pretty decent model for the likes of £650. Included in the make up of these TVs are apps for various platforms. You're free to view YouTube and the terrestrial iplayers (BBC, ITV, More 4 and Demand 5) and of course, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. With easy access to features like this, to watch when you want, where you want, the writing was already on the wall for traditional terrestrial TV.
The cheapest plans across each streaming platform ranges from £4.99 up to £8.99. Some might say that's too expensive but the majority of households even if they chipped in together could afford at least the smaller plans. If you factor in satellite packages which can cost up to £100 a month like Sky, its a no brainer to go for the cheaper option.
Apps are a basic inclusion in any decent Smart TV package, and their ease of access and abundance is a major factor in access for the viewing public. Whether you have the latest and greatest model of TV or whether you have the earliest types, the inclusion of the streaming apps are available. You don't have to mess about with waiting around for your programme to come on; you simply click on the app and there it is.
In today's modern world where everyone is on the go for the majority of the day, we simply don't have the time to stop, so what better way than to watch your favourite programme then on the go? With the advent of Smart TV's came the advent of Smartphones and with the revolution that was the iPhone in 2007 came the ability to do what you want on the go. Yes, there is a bigger conversation to be had about us all becoming zombies to our phones, everyone getting sore necks from looking down constantly, but there is a positive to this.
Whereas before you could be stuck on a long commute with nothing to do, now you can watch the latest House of Cards and zone out as you sit next to the man in the suit next to you shouting down his phone about "singing from the same hymn sheet". Now you can ignore him and drown him out. Plus you save time when you do get home so you don't have to sit on the couch getting fat. You can now do the same thing at the gym; as you hit mile two on the treadmill and your legs are about to fall off, you can watch Rocky IV and get motivated while you observe Stallone punch meat and lift logs.
Water- Cooler TV and the Golden - Age of TV
In the last ten years we have been hit a rich flow of quality TV and this comes alongside the shift towards streaming services. Every year a show seems to be produced that everyone talks about, reaching every section of pop culture. A good example of this is Amazon's Transparent starring Jeffrey Tambor as a father of a family, who comes out as transgender, which went on to win Golden Globes or Making a Murderer, the true crime documentary about the murder of a local photographer, by Steven Avery, a man who had already been cleared of murder once before.
These shows you can't be seen elsewhere and are not cross pollinated across platforms. Transparent is an Amazon Original and Making a Murderer a Netflix Original. Shows like these are talked about in offices, schools, public spaces and even influencing real life with the case of the Making a Murderer case being reinvestigated purely from the increased visibility from the public.
As the population grows so do families. Families have small children and small children love to watch their favourite shows over and over again. Kids will bug their parents to buy the latest Peppa Pig or Disney DVD at the local supermarket to the point where it will get scratched and unplayable. That DVD will cost the best part of £10 a time. To save money, time and arguments, streaming is their friend. Click on any 'Kids' section of a streaming service and hundreds upon hundreds of hours of kids shows are available at the click of a button, all for a fraction of the price and more importantly the grief. A major factor in the upward trend of these services.
So what does the future of the public's viewing habitats hold? Nobody can really predict the future but you can influence it. This year's Cannes Film Festival had a historical first when Netflix produced film, Okja, by Korean director Bong Joon-Ho was shown. Met with boos and cheers (plus a 4 minute standing ovation) the film skipped a theatrical release schedule and was available on Netflix shortly after. What this means for the future of theatrical viewing is anybody's guess but now that Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services have conquered the small screen, maybe the big screen will be revolutionised next.
Can you think of any further factors that might be affecting the way we watch media these days? Disagree with any of my choices, then comment below and add your voice to the discussion.