RadioTimes.com turns 25: TV has evolved since 1997, and so have we
Much like the programming we cover, RadioTimes.com has shifted and transformed dramatically over the years.
Twenty-five years is a lifetime in television. Rewind to 1997 and you’ll find a fledgling Channel 5 having just joined "the big four" on broadcast television, Magnus Magnusson still sat in the Mastermind host’s chair, and the likes of Jonathan Creek, Cold Feet and the Teletubbies just making their debuts (and, in that last case, also rivalling the Spice Girls for the coveted Christmas no. 1 spot in the music charts). A quarter of a century on and the TV landscape is almost unrecognisable – though Midsomer Murders, another child of '97, continues unabated, even if it’s swapped out one DCI Barnaby for another.
It was a year that marked the beginning of enormous change for small-screen entertainment with the dawn of what’s since been termed the "golden age" of television, sparked in the US by the launch of such groundbreaking fare as HBO’s Oz and The Sopranos and furthered on this side of the pond by the bold storytelling of the BBC’s Spooks and State of Play, Channel 4’s Queer as Folk and many more. It was a reinvention of what TV could look and feel like, and a re-examining of the stories it was able to tell.
It was also the year that Radio Times went online, with RadioTimes.com celebrating its 25th birthday in 2022, our anniversary arriving one year prior to the magazine’s centenary (we’ll get there!). The website’s mission statement is the same now as it was then – we aim to serve as an essential digital companion to your entertainment experience – but much like the programming we cover, RadioTimes.com has shifted and transformed dramatically over the years. We’ve branched out, taken risks and always looked to improve and enhance our offering to readers.
In 1997, we began predominantly as a TV listings service – and we continue to offer industry-best listings, with our TV guide grid recently being revamped to accommodate streaming picks, with new updates also allowing for greater personalisation and providing an all-round better user experience.
As the years went by, the site evolved and expanded to include a diverse editorial product alongside the much-valued scheduling data and recommendations. RadioTimes.com today is the home of breaking news stories that set the entertainment agenda, with our exclusives regularly being reported on, discussed and dissected across TV and radio, as well as elsewhere online.
Who can forget the fervour that resulted from our interview last year with Amanda Stavri - ITV’s Commissioning Editor, Factual Entertainment - where the "logistical difficulty" of including LGBTQ+ contestants on ITV2’s hit Love Island was discussed? In the past six months, we also broke the news of The Handmaid's Tale scoring a sixth season renewal, as well as plans for a second run of The Tourist starring Jamie Dornan, and had the inside scoop on James McAvoy's His Dark Materials comeback and Daredevil star Charlie Cox’s return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
We also host a wide array of thought-provoking opinion and comment pieces, some authored by our own award-winning editorial team, others written by outside experts and heads of industry, many of whom also contribute to our annual TV 100 list, a yearly celebration of the biggest power players in television. (In case you were wondering, this year’s no. 1 spot went to Russell T Davies, who reflected on the success of It’s A Sin and looked ahead to his next project, ITV’s Noelle Gordon biopic Nolly, and his then-imminent return to the worlds of Doctor Who.)
Working in tandem with the magazine, we look to complement our print counterpart’s output with a more reactive, multimedia approach – since 2013, our interviews with the biggest names in TV and film have racked up over 60 million views on YouTube – and most recently, we’ve diversified our offering again to include coverage of technology and gaming, with this content proving to be among the site’s most-read following its launch in 2021. RadioTimes.com still aims to be that essential digital companion to your entertainment experience, always keeping pace as that experience itself changes and broadens. We’ve changed as it’s changed, and we’ll continue to do so as it does.
As we’ve segued from the much-cited "watercooler moment" to a world of multiple screens and TV’s biggest moments being chewed over and unpacked as they happen, our hundreds of thousands of followers across multiple social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – have given us the power to react to, engage with and indeed provoke the biggest discussions around entertainment.
In more recent years, our TV Champion tournament – a Twitter contest that asked readers to vote for their favourite face from across a wealth of different genres, from Soaps to Sci-Fi – has attracted tens of millions of individual votes, not to mention countless additional social posts from David Tennant fans, Outlander obsessives and the many other highly engaged fandoms we cater to.
The shift from the five terrestrial channels (one still a relative novelty!) of 25 years ago to a far larger - and still growing - pool of channels and streaming services has also meant, of course, that online discourse around entertainment has expanded and diversified in a way we couldn’t have possibly predicted back in 1997. We’re a long way away from new episodes of your favourite shows being watched at a time and pace dictated by a small handful of broadcasters.
There are more shows to watch now than at any other point in the history of television and while the blockbuster overnight figures for hit dramas including Line of Duty, sport tournaments like the 2020 Euros and, most recently, the nationwide event that was the Queen's Platinum Jubilee prove that appointment-to-view programming is alive and kicking, audiences now have the option of setting their own schedules and enjoying those shows at a time that best suits them.
It’s a hugely exciting time to be a part of that audience – the only real challenges are identifying what’s actually worth watching amongst the torrent of telly being thrown our way and keeping track of exactly what’s available and when, for fear of missing out. That’s where we come in, with that wealth of choice meaning that the service we provide – a one-stop online hub for TV listings, reviews and recommendations, exclusive news and insightful interviews that always puts the reader first, fosters a sense of community and welcomes an energetic exchange of views – is hopefully more valuable than ever.
To celebrate our anniversary, RadioTimes.com wants you to help us crown the greatest television show of the past 25 years. Our expert team of TV enthusiasts have pulled together a shortlist of 25 series that debuted between 1997 and 2022 and wowed audiences – but you get the deciding vote on which ends up at the very top of the pile.
To nominate your favourite from our list, head to radiotimes.com/tvtop25 now.
The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale now – subscribe now and get the next 12 issues for only £1. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.