Did streaming platforms defeat the TV?A battle between broadcasters

It has been long time coming for the streaming platforms to kill the traditional television in Northern Ireland and take over the role of the family entertainer, and the fight of keeping this role has been intense. However, the question still stands – who is winning?

In the last couple of years, the popularity of on-demand video streaming platforms became overwhelmingly big, and most of us by now have used Netflix, Amazon Prime or YouTube to enjoy shows and films at any given time of the day. Such interest in consuming content online, rather than watching programmes on traditional Television had sky-rocketed because of its convenience, accessibility and modernness.

 YouTube had shown a dramatic rise of audience engagement over the last couple of years, with younger age groups choosing to either watch or create content on the platform, making it mainstream and very easily accessible to anyone.

Both television and streaming platforms mostly aim to please the regular consumer in the quickest, most convenient way possible, and keeping their image modern. However, both consumers and the providers have noticed a significant rise in online platforms gaining more leverage and attention, as well as broadening their audiences across the internet.

 With statistics showing high numbers of young adults, as well as people over the age of 40 subscribing to one of many on-demand streaming platforms instead of turning on the TV and watching the evening episode of Emmerdale or the news, we can predict how detrimental and serious of a threat this could be to the main providers in the country. James Stinson- an Ofcom consumer affairs and broadcasting representative, revealed for that to be true.

James mentioned how in the recent years the popularity and trend of such source of entertainment has truly proved to put some of local and bigger provider bodies at an uneasy state, forcing broadcasters to find other, more appealing ways of keeping decent rates and consumer engagement. The decline in average TV watch time had shown to increase over the last year, and the industry got to feel an additional punch in the guts, as the pandemic struck its gold with online platforms.

‘It has been quite a serious issue for the main broadcasters, especially over the lockdown, and the decline of traditional television rates had been discussed for nearly a decade now’,- adds James.

‘Most of providers have already switched their content onto such platforms like ITV, BBC iPlayer and Netflix, in hopes of reaching the same audiences and bringing them back to TV’, -shared the representative.

 According to numbers, provided by a governmental institution for broadcasting and consumer affairs in the UK, Ofcom- ’ The lockdown saw people in Northern Ireland spending significantly more time (+78 per cent) watching video-on-demand services such as Netflix, Disney+, YouTube and other non-broadcast content – an hour and 18 minutes per day on average in April 2020.’.

However, even with streaming platforms climbing success in the past years, traditional television still seems to be doing well gaining significant numbers of watch time, and with current lockdown being a big factor, and announced by Ofcom in 2020, who have noticed a surge in television programme consumption over the last 11 months:’ When lockdown was announced towards the end of March, average daily viewing of broadcast television peaked at three hours 42 minutes in Northern Ireland, driven by demand for the latest news on the pandemic. TV and radio services from traditional broadcasters like the BBC and UTV were the most-used sources of news for people in Northern Ireland, some way ahead of social media.’.

With numbers consistently showing an incredibly high interest of online platform consumption amongst young people, it came as no surprise that more adults have signed up to such video streaming platforms to enjoy their favourite shows there instead. Additionally, audiences over the ages of 40 confessed to use such platforms on their smart TV’s, instead of watching programmes on cable television or traditional television programmes. Which Editorial team back in 2020 released an article, which states, that ’ The appeal of TV streaming services is obvious – rather than shelling out for a cinema ticket, they offer an ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffet of content to watch online’-, says the article.

Throughout the last couple of years some streaming providers have definitely climbed their way to the top of successful streamers, and it is no secret that Netflix- is the top one by far. The platform had shown to provide massive amounts of different genres and shows to a regular consumer, as well as some exclusive, exclusive release shows up its sleeve.

 However, when comparing the platforms by their selections of shows, accessibility and price range, it has shown that Amazon Prime video takes the name of the most convenient streaming platform, letting the person to enjoy its full experience for its monthly worth. Which Editorial team also adds ‘Ultimately, the best service for you is likely to come down to content – each streaming service has a slightly different offering, but all offer exclusive content to hook you in. 

Netflix may be the first option that springs to mind, but now Amazon Prime and Now TV also offer widely used services – and they’re all similarly priced.’.

The movement of monthly subscriptions had become so popular, in fact, that some of the biggest television production providers have moved their content onto these platforms, making a deal to widen their audiences and get a percentage of revenue for collaborating.

For example, ITV and BBC had made a deal with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to move their most popular shows on the platforms to keep the rates consistent and revenue- high.

 The Guardian had a look at this rising issue and made some excellent points on how television providers are dealing with it: ‘Nobody wins a prize for predicting that streaming TV will move up a gear in any upcoming year – but television on demand really is about to hit a whole new level in 2021. How much of the telly you watch this year will be on a live, linear channel, at the scheduled hour, with millions of others tuning in at exactly the same time? For many of us, the answer is getting dangerously close to none. Channel 4 is modernising the fastest.

 Advertising revenues from broadcasting were dwindling already, and cratered during the pandemic, prompting it to place even more emphasis on its on-demand offering. Usage of its streaming service All 4 increased by a quarter in 2020 and will, it’s hoped, double over the next five years, with chief executive Alex Mahon observing that Channel 4’s younger audience means “We will make choices that prioritise digital when it comes to types of shows, windowing the shows and how we monetise them. That is a big switch.”,- reported the Guardian.

 And so, it seems like this year for such broadcasters will surely bring loads of decisions to making, as well as coming up with new ideas on how to revive the tradition of having the telly on in nearly every house in NI –

“This is the simple truth that might ultimately do for linear TV channels,” says McGolpin. “Much as some viewers may insist that they would rather watch whatever happens to be on, once you give them the option to pick programmes themselves, they tend not to go back.”

He says that’s true not just of younger BBC viewers, but of older audiences, too. “People are moving towards environments where they’ve got more control.”

 Global interest of consuming content, produced by huge broadcasting companies have risen dramatically, making the process of promoting and targeting certain audiences easier. When asked what type/genre of content most of the people enjoy putting on during their free time, and during the long months of quarantine, consumption of YouTube content had shown which genres of videos people prefer to watch more than others.

According to a survey, done by SurveyMonkey, those genres include lifestyle and entertainment type videos, music videos, and a huge rise in home workout videos. They also suggest that an average consumer usually spends  anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours every day watching YouTube content containing 50 per cent of individuals, for instance if it is a two-hour podcast, or it being a playlist of workout videos. Other than the genre, such factors as age can  often determine the rate of YouTube and on-demand streaming platform content consumption, and so, the average content consumer age is had been found to be between 18-24 years old.

To understand the difference on just how YouTube and the major streaming platforms have made a difference for traditional television and its audiences, we need to compare and see  what specific type of media and content to most people are more convenient to consume.

As well as a different outlook on the topic from the viewer perspective- a different approach, from the Youtuber’s stance and details into how the platform had influenced and changed their professional and personal life. YouTube has been around since 2005, and with its huge rise in popularity over the decade, it is fair to say that many different generations were and are still influenced by creating and consuming content from this platform, creating a wide-range community of people who seem to make a change and show different sides of the media and its abilities.

The Volgun, originally from Belfast, who’s been making YouTube content for nearly 10 years now, was sharing his experience and moments from creating commentary and voice over content on the platform.

The YouTuber shared how sometimes it can be very unpredictable with gaining views, clicks and bringing new subscribers to the channel, even though the person has been using YouTube’ since its  start on the internet, being inspired and starting their own journey to entertain many by telling detailed and interesting stories on his channel: ‘In the last year, the number of views and new subscribers have gone down, as the channel’s interest became harder to upkeep, with new content produces not gaining as much exposure as before’.

Although it comes across as unpleasant news, The Volgun seemed to know mostly why this issue is happening- ‘It can become difficult at times to keep specific audiences constantly pleased with the content out there and fit into the criteria which some sponsors have set, which is most of the youtuber’s revenue made from working for YouTube’, explained the youtuber. That goes to show just  how unpredictable this profession could be sometimes.

The Volgun also said how traditional television programmes have become non-existent in his environment, with most entertainment and news coming from social media and on-demand streaming platforms, and only his significant other sitting down to watch the evening news on the TV from time to time.

The YouTuber had also mentioned how his interest in making videos began with spending loads of time watching other people’s content, engaging with it and gaining knowledge of what equipment is being used, what techniques of editing are applied and how to make the content interesting and fun to watch. And that proved to be one of the key elements to attract significant number of audiences to consume your content:’ I have basically grown up watching YouTube since it was made, I think I was around 13 at the time. I liked watching the silly vlogs that everyone was making, short films and animations were also my favourite, most of the content back in the day was entertaining’, remembers The Volgun,

And as well as learning the ins and outs of the job, the person had enjoyed all the content, watching vlog-style videos, documentaries and short films in his spare time. ‘Most of my time is being spent in front of the computer, mostly editing videos, creating thumbnails and watching YouTube, which kind of counts as research now’,- jokingly says the creator.

With online platforms showing such big increase and interest in consumer engagement and new audiences joining their services, it is crucial for a lot of content creators to stand out, whilst making sure the quality of their content remains high. Some people choose to change their creative paths, starting new docu series, with longer videos, more interviews from other creators, and loads more: ‘I think it can be hard sometimes to make your best content possible, when certain criteria is in place, like sponsors requesting specific themes and topics in some sections of the video, or that not really meeting your goals’, says the youtuber.

It is clear how the streaming services are here to stay, only gaining bigger and stronger position between the biggest broadcasting providers in the country.

For most of us this could mean completely switching to consuming only mainstream shows online, using the beloved streaming platforms and only a small percentage of people to lean towards enjoying their programmes on TV. Young and old viewers also still enjoy a type of telly that is strongly associated with regular broadcasting: the shared experience.

“There’s something social we lose when we all go off on our own journeys, watching things in our own time,” says McGolpin. Seale states, how: “The BBC is at its best when it’s bringing the nation together. Sometimes things are happening that you really want to join in with in the moment, like Strictly or the FA Cup. Thankfully, in 2021, there should be a lot more live event than there were in 2020.”

However, even if traditional television providers attempt to restructure and revive their programmes and image, chances of wining back the audiences of wide age groups are still slim, as at the end of the day- comfort and convenience always wins.

And so, it seems how the traditional media has lost this round of the most intense media and broadcasting battle in the whole country, for now.

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