Are New Technologies A Threat To Live TV Viewing?

In an age of on-demand content, catch-up services and digital television recorders, how is traditional TV viewing holding up? Should advertisers be alarmed by the infiltration of these disruptive technologies, or is live television making light of the perceived threat? Matt Hill, research & planning director at Thinkbox, shared his insights with a packed audience of businesses new to TV advertising.


"The fact is that, even though 75% of the population now has access to a Digital Television Recorder, 87% of our viewing is still live – it’s by far the most preferred way of watching content, and continues to be the preferred way."

“Over the last 10-years there’s been a huge amount of potentially disruptive services that could impact on how we’re watching TV: we’ve got YouTube; we’ve got Video On-Demand; we’ve got new SVOD players like Netflix and Amazon Prime… But you can see that, over the long-term, there’s been very little overall change in how much time we spend watching TV.”

So, according to Matt, TV, despite the advent of technologies that have the capacity to fundamentally change the ways we engage with content, has remained resilient in terms of viewing time. Ultimately, the UK population is still watching tons of television.

“The average person last year watched over a thousand hours of TV, so it’s the equivalent of watching every single series of Breaking Bad, every single series of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, ten times over. So even if you are taking on these new services, it’s still not competing with the pure volume of time that we spend watching TV.”

However, whilst the British public may be watching as much TV content as it was a decade ago, does this mean that we’re still watching the ad breaks too? Matt had the answer for us: “I think another interesting thing is the fact that we also have a number of different devices that we can record TV on: We can watch it back at a time that’s most suitable for us, and if we want we can fast-forward through the advertising.

“So what does this mean for advertisers? Does this mean that the opportunities are changing? The fact is that, even though 75% of the population now has access to a Digital Television Recorder, 87% of our viewing is still live – it’s by far the most preferred way of watching content, and continues to be the preferred way.

“If we look at just homes that have these services, we still see that 82% of their viewing is live, so we know that, even in a world 5-10 years from now where everyone is able to record TV and play it back when they want, the majority of viewing is going to be live TV, where they’re still exposed to the advertising.”

So, why has live TV viewing remained so robust over the last decade? What is it about sticking to the programming schedule that still appeals to so many people? “I think probably one of the final things about TV that continues to make it so important for us is the way it brings people together. We love watching TV together; we love sharing it; it brings families together; it’s a point of commonality.

“For people at the water-cooler, or at work, it’s something that we can talk about, that we can all have in common. We’re finding that there’s this brilliant relationship between TV and social media, where people will want to watch something live, so that they can Tweet on and keep up with their friends whilst they watch content.”