A Global Look At The State Of Broadcast TV Today

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MANHATTAN BEACH, CALIF. — Among the many articles about broadcast media shared with RBR+TVBR in recent days a piece from U.K.-based globalwebindex, which enjoys a U.S. office just minutes east of The Strand in this placid beach city south of LAX.


As calm as the surf can be, globalwebindex is tracking waves of disruption to broadcast TV on a worldwide scale, with OTT, CTV and vMVPD common acronyms disrupting both over-the-air and cable channels. So, what’s the state of broadcast TV in 2019?

“Any serious discussion about the future of television in the media landscape needs to address the fact that broadcast TV is not dead,” writer Chase Buckle, a globalwebindex Senior Trends Analyst notes. “While in most cases this is widely understood, dismissing this common misconception appears to be a prerequisite before tackling the matter at hand.”

In Buckle’s view, broadcast TV in 2019 faces a media landscape that, in many ways, is challenging or toppling its once prime position. But, he declares, “it cannot, and will not, be squeezed out of the picture that easily.”

Buckle points to The Walt Disney Co.’s merger with FOX and deals that made Comcast and AT&T even stronger players, on a macro level, in the TV industry.

He did not point to Gray Television’s merger with Raycom or Nexstar Media Group’s desired acquisition of Tribune Broadcasting — two mega-deals that show over-the-air TV still has high value to viewers.

That said, there are a few challenges Buckle lays out for the broadcast TV station owner.

  • STAYING RELEVANT

Graphic: Time spent on linear tv

“Our data confirms that Gen Z and millennials are devoting significantly longer periods of their day watching online forms of TV,” Buckle notes, offering insight that is hardly a new piece of news.

As noted in commentary on February 18 by RBR+TVBR Editor-in-Chief Adam R Jacobson, “binge watching” and delayed viewing within the same week of broadcast of network shows is more common than ever — and is being done not via broadcast TV but via OTT-based platforms that require WiFi and a smartphone, if not a tablet or laptop computer.

Buckle says, “It’s not difficult to see why the linear format of traditional TV may struggle to serve those needs. Online TV, with its anytime/anywhere access and its vast content library offering every genre from an increasing list of non-U.S. or UK production companies, has a distinct advantage here.”

This, he adds, “has forced the hand of traditional broadcasters and content creators, leading them to introduce their own on-demand or catch-up services to maintain relevance.”

While this may appear to look like a blow for linear TV distribution, Buckle reminds his readers that OTT, CTV and on-demand services are more than likely “places to catch up on content or consume it at a more convenient time.”

Live “linear” viewing still represents “the mainstay for many of the major Western powerhouses in original programming and broadcasting, and this will be the case for some time,” Buckle believes.

This, of course, requires knowledge of just what the consumer wants.

As a result, competition for consumer attention will make broadcast TV’s programming executives think harder — and smarter — about what to offer.

Graphic: The competition for free time

“With the exception of social media, linear TV captures the largest share of daily media time among consumers, standing at 18%, significantly above online TV’s 12%,” Buckle finds. “Considering social media engagement happens frequently throughout the day whereas TV engagement is mostly in long durations, that’s an impressive feat.”

It is also interesting to note where print press and broadcast radio place, on a global level.

  • KEEPING ITS ADVERTISING TITLE

Regardless of age, Buckle says, TV ads consistently appear in the top three sources of brand discovery among consumers. “This is one of the most powerful examples why linear TV will continue to be a central pillar in the media landscape,” he says.

But, look at the under-35 year old responses. This shows that, like AM radio use, the future will require different thinking.

Graphic: Top 3 brand discovery channels by age

Buckle concludes that there is still  a long way to go before addressable advertising saturates the linear TV market. Even so, he says, “it’s an important reminder of why we shouldn’t take our eyes off linear TV’s future growth potential.”