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Chris Hall

Published on

March 28, 2024


PR, TV Commercials

Last month, Piers Morgan announced that his show “Uncensored” will move from its prime-time TalkTV slot to YouTube. He cited the “unnecessary straitjacket” of TV schedules. It means that the broadcaster will become the latest in a growing line of TV hosts to leave traditional TV formats behind, following in the footsteps of US shock jocks Don Lemon and Tucker Carlson.

So, what does this mean for the future of linear TV?

The death knell for traditional broadcasting has been sounded endlessly. Yet here we are in a world where linear telly can still pull in millions of viewers and grab headlines.

Linear TV has faced bigger and bolder challenges before. It will have to keep up that same shape shifting spirit to square up to changing viewing habits.

But before we bang the linear death drum too loudly, let’s not discount the millions of viewers tuning into hit primetime shows like The Traitors, Gladiators and all within the first few weeks of 2024.

Despite the streaming age being in full swing, it seems that old style, plain and simple live linear television can still pack enough of a punch to keep us on the edge of our seats.

Is linear TV set to experience a glitzy revival?

Netflix is certainly banking against it. The streaming giant’s CEO Reed Hastings predicts that linear TV will be dead in the water in the next 5 to 10 years. Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? After all, at this point in the game, it’s likely that streaming platforms will have attracted as many paying customers as they ever will. The only untapped market segment left to convince is linear TV viewers, who to date have been unprepared and unwilling to take the streaming plunge.

Why can broadcast TV still draw in the viewers?

Let’s start with the obvious point here – it’s free! You get all the entertainment benefits without any of the abject horror of dealing with your bank statement at the end of the month.

Traditional broadcast channels offer a curated schedule of content that takes away the browsing misery. In many cases, viewers might find something they wouldn’t ordinarily have watched. Or they might take comfort from watching some of the many linear staples like a soap opera or even just the News at 10. These classic programmes still have a special place in the national consciouness and offer up a certain rose-tinted comfort that streaming hasn’t managed to achieve yet.

A huge challenge to battle is fast declining ad revenue.

There’s no doubt TV viewership has waned in recent years. These days, 7 million viewers are enough to take a show to number 1 in the weekly ratings and that already includes catch-up and streaming figures. Ad spending in the digital space has enjoyed something of a bounce-back but TV broadcasters haven’t enjoyed a slice of the pie. Advertisers have been quick to change the channel, opting to splash their cash online. Leaving some of the UK’s household name broadcasters to grapple with the most serious decline in advertising in 15 years.

With the UK’s biggest broadcasters now scrambling to squeeze every penny, there’s an all too real prospect that we’ll see a creative downturn. In a tough market, there’ll be zero appetite for risk, meaning a slash in programming budget and a lack of bold and exciting new formats. At a pivotal time in the digital age, TV needs to be building its competitive edge, not shying away from innovation and new ideas.

What’s next?

Brits’ broadcast diets are broader, wider and more fragmented than ever before but linear TV still has a vital place in hearts and minds. Call The Midwife, Death in Paradise and The Antiques Roadshow are consistently among the most viewed programmes across the UK. Local news draws in significant audiences every day. I believe that linear TV will always exist in some form. But crucially, it’s what happens now that will determine whether the future is bright.

The broadcast landscape will continue to evolve across channels and formats. Embracing the very best of digital innovation and storytelling, forging interactive moments and creating television that must be watched live are all part and parcel of the pathway forward. For businesses with a hardworking media strategy, television can still be the most effective way to communicate. Carefully crafted messaging, well-trained, compelling spokespeople continue to be key to success. An agile shape shifting approach to telling your brand story at every touchpoint will become the new gold standard.

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