Mass Media & Technology

The Future of Linear TV Channels

(August 2012)

This site closed in March 2021 and is now a read-only archive
There's been a big shift in recent years from traditional print to online only news publications. Even things like the Dandy comic are to go exclusively digital by the end of the year. Now, I know we've had this debate before, but I thought it might be interesting to discuss it again, particularly with the launch of this new forum; might the same happen for TV?

We've tended to conclude with 'traditional TV broadcasts are safe for the foreseeable future' but it is nevertheless interesting to note the various pros and cons of each mode of viewing, and perhaps reach a different verdict.

Here are a few of my thoughts.

Arguments for the survival of linear TV

One can simply stick the telly on at any point, and flick channels . You can find some exciting documentary to watch that you hadn't known about and wouldn't have thought to put on, or you can simply kill ten minutes without ever having really stuck to one channel. Sure you can search for something on iPlayer, but that requires a little more effort and willing. Essentially, I'm saying that for the moment, online viewing - sites such as 4oD, Demand Five and the rest - require a bit effort. iPlayer is probably the best at promoting shows to the viewer/browser, but for the most part, television takes away the need for the viewer to be proactive.

Picture quality issues mean that, although internet speeds are constantly improving, for an almost-guaranteed good quality, reliable picture, a television signal received by Freeview, Freesat, Sky, Virgin or whatever is probably your best bet. However, as I say, things are always improving and I imagine that for many people, within a few years this won't be so much of an issue. But then there's the issue of screen size.

The need for a premiere or first showing of a programme is often stated as a big strength of broadcast TV. For iPlayer and similar, which have a 7 day viewing window, this is especially important. And the promotion associated with this first airing is important. But I do question if this can't be replaced in some way. A first showing could be online only, couldn't it? With a change in attitude, it could have the same effect.

The branding of TV channels provides a certain image, voice, and assurance of quality. iPlayer, 4oD and the like get their popularity through their association with their TV channels - YouTube channels, for instance, just don't have the same effect. Anybody can be on YouTube, not everybody can be on Sky 1. Of course, currently these services have the big brands, but without their broadcast equivalents, would the brand pull go within a few years?

Arguments for the shift to online-only

The cost of having a TV could arguably be a luxury to some. The TV licence (though of course, to many, good value) plus the cost of a subscription (for many options of viewing) mean that some might opt for a laptop only. Though, as mentioned, screen size becomes a potential problem.

Less need to fill airtime - you don't need to fill up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, like current TV channels do (or at least a majority of that). There could be a shift from quantity to quality . Budgets could be concentrated into certain series.

On demand ! Of course, the obvious one - no waiting around, fitting in with the broadcasters' schedules - you can choose your own! But equally, PVRs are making this less of an issue too.

One can discover internet pages far more easily (maybe not in ITV's case...) than they can a TV schedule, certainly in my opinion anyway. I can search by genre, by related shows, by actor, and so on, and then watch straight away. This makes online viewing more... exciting(?) in many ways, or more useful.

These are just a few initial thoughts. Just because I've provided a point here, doesn't mean I necessarily agree with it - I'm just putting a few things up for discussion. I imagine there's tonnes I've missed out, and I haven't even gotten onto things like YouView yet. Neither have I considered whether reality supports these ideas, for example, ratings. I mean, big events like the Opening Ceremony, The X Factor final and the Apprentice still get huge viewing figures on broadcast, to take just one example.

I just wondered what your thoughts were - I think it's a very interesting topic.
Last edited by Joe on 16 August 2012 11:03pm

8 days later

Extremely glad I wrote this.
bilky asko
Joe posted:
Extremely glad I wrote this.

It's either because nobody dares argue with such a well written argument, or too many people are using the old site and can't get to this board.

Newer posts