The decline of traditional TV and what it means for advertisers
by David Cecil

Traditional (Linear) TV hit the headlines last week when Ofcom finally put a dimension on something we’ve all been observing for some time. People are watching less traditional TV than ever before.

With the proliferation of alternatives, that can’t surprise anyone. Competition for eyeballs has never been greater, from the big streamers (Disney and Netflix), to broadcaster’s catch-up services (BBC iPlayer, ITVX), and online social platforms (TikTok, YouTube), choice has never been greater.

Yes, it’s useful to know that TV’s weekly reach has slipped from 83% to 79% of the population, and that there’s been a significant decline in the over 65’s viewing for the first time. But that’s not a defeat, that’s a challenge.

Yes, it’s interesting to know that at 20% and 13% BBC1 and ITV1 are still the top two first destinations when folk turn on their TV. But that’s function of the machinery we use. TV’s aren’t the cumbersome box with the big tube sticking out the back anymore. They are wall mounted flat screens connected to the internet.

The first display may well be a horizontal reminder of recent and popular stations, but that’s only one of the many ways we watch TV in 2023. ITVX accounted for 10% of total viewing in the first half of 2023 while BBC iPlayer rose from 14% to 18% over the same period.

The rise of video on social

Rather than focusing on the extent of changes we should be looking to harness the opportunities presented by them. Look at 15-24’s – 5.2 million (85%) spend an average of 58 mins on Social Video Platforms – daily.  With average viewing being 58 mins to TikTok, 38 mins to YouTube.

‘Snackable’ short form content lasting 10 mins or less is popular, with 68% of the demographic claiming to view this format daily.

That’s an attention span challenge. How will broadcasters (we are gonna have to find a satisfactory new collective noun) deal with that in their content provision? How will advertising ‘hang’ into that viewing behaviour?

In the shorter term, there are many minority interest CTV channels popping up. There’s even one devoted entirely to Baywatch – How niche can you get?

In this new diverse environment, it’s somewhat surprising that 1,184 transmissions were watched by over 4 million viewers. That said, the huge audiences of the past (32.3 million watched the 1966 World Cup Final) are a thing of the past. It’s also worth remembering that, on current counting, only 48 of those 1184 weren’t on BBC or ITV.

Getting the best value

When seeking value for our advertisers, we should be looking carefully at the available measurement systems. Making sure they are true arbiters of value, statistically sound and robust enough to measure viewing not just connectivity.

Having satisfied ourselves that the currency is sound we can exploit the wider range of choices to extend target audience penetration and reduce wastage. Things have changed since Signal Toothpaste bought the first UK spot back in 1955. The market needs to reflect that.

August 10, 2023

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