The rise of Netflix and Disney+ doesn’t spell the end for BBC, ITV and Channel 4 – and lockdown proves it

Lindsey Clay, CEO of Thinkbox, looks at the future of broadcast TV versus on-demand, exclusively for RadioTimes.com

TV

by: Lindsey Clay, CEO of Thinkbox

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When constraints force us into doing things a new way, we often carry on with our new ways when the constraints are removed.

For example, online grocery shopping has boomed since lockdown began. Many of those doing it a lot now didn’t do it a lot before. It would be odd if they went back to their old ways entirely once normality resumes. If normality resumes, of course.

TV habits too have been affected in lockdown. People have been experimenting – daytime TV viewing has soared for example. And we’ve turned to certain genres to help us through – comedy shows and classic series have thrived as we’ve sought out laughter and enjoyed the comfort of nostalgia.

But the most obvious change in TV has been the sheer amount we’ve been watching – about four hours a week more than pre-lockdown.

And that’s just linear broadcaster TV; it doesn’t include the other ways we now enjoy TV, such as via subscription streaming services and the broadcasters’ free streaming services.

Viewers are spoilt for TV choice. The lockdown has coincided with the most competitive TV environment ever. The streaming wars between providers like Netflix and Amazon and Apple were already well under way before we found ourselves with a lot more time at home to fill.

So, it is no surprise that, just as lockdown has turbo-charged our linear viewing, it has boosted other forms of TV too.

Viewing of the broadcasters’ streaming services has soared, with All 4, ITV Hub and Sky on demand experiencing record viewing levels.

Likewise, subscription streaming services like Netflix are attracting more subscribers. Disney+, which only launched weeks ago, is forecast to rocket into second place in the subscription streaming market by 2025. What parent faced with closed schools and kids to entertain wasn’t pleased to have the world of Disney made available to them? A lockdown was a good time to launch, if it can ever be described as a good time.

So, all forms of TV are thriving under lockdown. But what does the future hold?

Let’s take stock of the present. We’re watching as much TV as we ever have – about four hours a day – but the shape of it is shifting as we re-distribute our viewing across watching live and watching on demand.

Currently, Netflix and the other subscription streaming services account for just under 10% of all the video we watch; it was zero just a few years ago. Broadcaster TV – live and streamed – is 68%; it used to be all of it, and all of it watched live.

There is a re-balancing going on. But new things don’t always replace existing things, especially if what we already have, we still want.

During lockdown, for example, we’ve had plenty of time to consider our near-unlimited choice of TV. And what have we been doing? We’ve been watching more of all types of TV.

Netflix user interface

In fact, those who before lockdown watched the least broadcaster TV increased their broadcaster viewing more than anyone else, up some 51%. Have these people formed a new habit under constraint?

Possibly. What we do know is that people enjoy the different things different TV services offer and are happy to have multiple sources of TV in their lives.

UK broadcasters, for example, are experts in the UK shows that people in the UK spend most of their time watching. Netflix is dominated by US shows (and by broadcaster TV shows in fact: its top three shows are Friends, The Big Bang Theory and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which all started out – and are still on – broadcaster TV). They offer different things.

No one has a crystal ball, but lockdown has shown that we don’t ditch the BBC because we’ve got Netflix, and we don’t ignore Channel 4 because of Disney. Different TV services co-exist now when we have more time on our hands to choose between them, and they will continue to do so in the future.

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