Does linear TV still fit into our schedules?

Does linear TV still fit into our schedules?

Let’s face it: we all have guilty pleasures. For some, it could be celebrity gossip or cheesy television shows and for others, it may be chocolate profiteroles. We all have them but more often than not, we like to keep them to ourselves. However, there’s one guilty pleasure Brits are not ashamed to admit to and that’s the Great British Bake Off (GBBO).

Week after week, viewers return to watch the show, which sees baking enthusiasts compete in creating mouth-watering desserts and judges and hosts delight audiences with controversial but thoroughly enjoyable wit and innuendo.

When the show came back this summer after its lucrative move from BBC to Channel 4, viewing figures showed a drop of over four million. Some ardent fans were not too coy to blame the commercial broadcaster’s adverts as the main reason, to which one of the new judges on GBBO retorted, “Well, you don’t have to watch (the show) in real-time, do you?”

But don’t you?

With streaming and pure-play service providers offering viewers a chance to binge-watch their favourite programmes, you can’t help but wonder if scheduled television still fits in within the modern consumers’ time-poor schedule? And more so, whether or not the more mainstream “linear TV” is still relevant?

Surprisingly, 91% of people in the UK still watch linear TV, which is the traditional television set-up by which a viewer watches a TV program at the scheduled time it’s offered and on one particular channel.

Programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing, X Factor and Great British Bake Off draw millions of viewers, week in and week out.  Even though there are many TV shows available for streaming or catch-up, it’s just not quite the same for audiences as watching a show together with the rest of the nation and sharing their excitement and disappointment on social media while the show’s airing. Another great example is the airing of the annual Song festival, which mobilizes the country at that very moment.

Real-time, live content continues to have material advantages over on-demand streaming services. Viewers want to watch football matches and live news as they happen. It is not completely impossible for pure-play service providers to step in and purchase the distribution rights to broadcast sport via live streaming services, for example, Amazon has recently have won rights to stream Thursday-night NFL games; however linear TV remains the first choice for many watching live television. On the other hand, do people free up their evening to watch the newest episode of their favorite show on Netflix?

Even with busy schedules the desire to have everything available on-demand, sport matches and programmes such as GBBO still manage to gather millions in front of their TVs at the exact time the programme is scheduled to run. So, yes, we want to be able to watch what we want, when we want to, but at the end of the day, it really comes down to content and its relevance to instant viewing.

Whether you know what you want to watch or just feel like filtering through the channels until something interesting pops up, linear television enables viewers to fulfill that learned consumer habit.

There’s no doubt that on-demand streaming service providers have facilitated a significant shift in people’s viewing habits and the rise of such services might indeed put linear TV as we know it at risk of erosion. But one thing is certain: the extent of this erosion will be based on the quality of the content over anything else and this will form the real battleground for the next face-off.

When it comes to viewing content, customers have choices and they are willing to use them. In order for linear channels to stay relevant, they have to capture a customer’s interest in the relevant part of their journey. To do so they need to gauge why customers watch what they are watching and whether they’re losing interest. Their feedback in turn should drive content and scheduling strategies.

Inge Brandt

Head of Customer Journey