Life’s a Screen: The Stories Behind TV’s Enduring Appeal

With the publication of the latest half-year report from Thinkbox revealing a year-on-year increase in commercial TV viewing, it’s time to pour cold water on talk of its demise, and instead focus on understanding just what it is about the medium that gives it enduring appeal.

But first, what exactly has Thinkbox revealed? Let's summarise some of the headline figures that have emerged from the report:

  • TV viewing on a television set increased by 1 minute to 2 hours 24 minutes per day in the first half of 2016, and 7 minutes compared to a decade ago. This, in spite of BBC viewing dropping by 8 minutes per day - a result of BBC3's move online.
  • Of all TV content viewed in the opening six months of 2016, 67.4% was attributed to commercial television, marking a year-on-year increase of 1.4%.
  • 86% of TV viewed between January and June was to the live schedule.
  • Among 16-34 year-olds, commercial TV viewing increased by 1 minute to 1 hour 49 minutes, despite the removal of BBC3 from EPGs.

So with commercial TV delivering yet another year of consecutive growth, we were keen to ask viewers of various ages just what it about the small screen that continues to attract their interest. This week we've selected three, with more to follow over the coming weeks.

“TV is a social experience. You’re watching your favourite show along with your friends, and talking about it online at the same time.”

Asked what it is about watching TV on the live schedule that attracts her to the television set, 17-year-old Harriett from Morden, London, cited its connected, social dimension as a key attraction: “I like how, now, watching telly is a shared thing – and not just in the living room with your parents, whose stupid questions you have to tolerate!

“I’ll often watch a show like Made in Chelsea or Celebrity Big Brother for something to talk about with my friends on social media. Whenever I’m in front of the TV, my phone is also in hand, so it’s really easy to Tweet or Whatsapp about the latest silly thing somebody in the Big Brother house has done. Since I know a lot of my friends will also be tuning in, it becomes a bit of a social occasion, which on those boring Tuesday nights, is quite nice!

And what about the TV ads? “To be honest, I know a lot of people complain about them, but there seems to be loads of ads now that are like mini TV shows themselves! I think they’re quite entertaining – in a good way or bad way, doesn’t matter really – and sometimes I’ll even look up a product, actor or soundtrack on my phone as it plays. The number of ads needs to be controlled, but they have their place, I think.”

“The quality of programming seems to have improved drastically over the past few years, and with loads of channels airing a wider range of content, channel hopping has become a voyage of discovery!”

Sagaar, who is 44 and hails from Ledbury, Herefordshire, thought the reason live TV on commercial channels remains so robust is because of the quality and variety of shows now available to viewers: “In all honestly, I was never that big a TV viewer – other than at the weekends for sport – until a few of years ago, when I got a new job with longer hours. I was getting home and, out of sheer bone idleness, just switching the television on and passively flicking through channels.

“I was really surprised by the actual quality of the shows that were on. Sky Atlantic in particular is actually quite incredible for the programmes it airs; Boardwalk Empire, Ray Donovan, Fortitude… I’m now an avid fan of all of them, and have a weekday schedule in place around it all. Luckily, my wife also quite likes these shows, though I do have to compromise and sit through Come Dine with Me from time to time!

“The other thing I like about TV now is the sheer variety of content available. I’ve always been a stickler for documentaries – nature, history… that kind of thing – but never really got on with YouTube because of buffering and poor quality. Now, with a Sky package under my belt, I’ve found myself flicking through the likes of Discovery, History and Yesterday, and invariably stumble across something that I end up getting into with my teenage son… when my wife is on the night shift, of course!”

“It’s an opportunity for me and my husband to just recharge the batteries with a glass of wine in tow. Since retiring, we’ve never been so active, so it’s nice to unwind and catch up with the world.”

Wendy and her husband John, who are both 68 and from Durham, like to settle down in the early evening - when not making the most of their retirement by holidaying around Europe and spending time with the grandchildren.

“We like the soaps and things like Google Box on Channel 4, but also enjoy the arts and cookery programmes, though neither of us amount to much in the culinary department. We’re not particularly computer savvy, nor do we really like the politically-heavy newspapers, so we often use the TV set as a means of keeping up to date with news and current affairs too. There’s also the children’s TV we watch with our young grandkids; John has become quite the fan of Peppa Pig, though he doesn’t like to admit it.

“Essentially, I suppose it’s a way of connecting with the world, spending time with people we love, and taking a step back from our busy schedule – though we did book a holiday a couple of weeks ago after seeing an advert on the screen, so we’ve always got one eye on our next little adventure.”

If you would like to find out more about the TV viewing behaviours central to your target audience, why not give the Guerillascope team a call today on 0800 088 6789, or take a quick moment to complete our TV planning form.