VOD Vs Live TV: away win

Jamie Carter

August 25, 2011

I can go days without watching a live TV broadcast.

My TiVo records all of my favourite shows, and others it thinks I’ll like, too, so what’s the point of live TV?

Football. My summer TV habits are hardly typical of my overall use of TV, and a silly season spent ‘out doing stuff’ and without the distraction of live footie every other day certainly isn’t the TV norm.

Every industry based around the home, and home entertainment, takes a dive in the summer months (TV sales decline, magazine sales fall to nothing, and furniture stays in warehouses, unless it’s garden-related).

The ideal conditions, then, for top execs in broadcast TV to needlessly worry about both viewing figures and the inexorable rise of ‘non-linear’ TV. Their fear of the popularity of time-shifters like Virgin’s TiVo, Sky+ and other PVRs is, it seems, unfounded.

IHS Screen Digest TV Intelligence Service report that the vast majority of consumer viewing time will be spent watching real-time, linear programming through to 2015.

In the US, recorded, on-demand and other non-linear programming will make-up just 15.8 percent of all TV viewed by 2015 – a rise of just six percent on 2010 – while in the UK we’ll have reached 12.7 percent from the present 7.8 percent.

Big deal. “The rise of nonlinear television has struck panic into the television industry, with broadcasters dreading the impact of new technologies on their revenue streams,” said Richard Broughton, senior analyst, television, for IHS.

“However, even in the leading countries for nonlinear television viewing – the United States and the United Kingdom – linear will account for the vast majority of television viewing through 2015. This means that for the television industry, DVR and on-demand viewing may not be as much of an imminent threat to profitability as feared.”

Perhaps it’s because they don’t have on-demand brands as strong as the BBC’s iPlayer, but the likes of France, Germany, Italy and Spain are even less keen on non-live TV.

This is all despite the creeping popularity of personal video recorders, which already occupy a third of US households.

There is evidence to the contrary. Virgin Media recently reported that its entire subscriber base made 19 percent more on-demand viewing in the first half of 2011 than in the same period in 2010. It also revealed that among its TiVo customers a quarter of channel views did not originate from the EPG.

“The discovery tools for the next generation will be search, browsable collections and recommendations,” said Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media. “There’s such a vast world of great entertainment that it’s exciting our early adopters are already exploring what the TiVo Service can do.”

That does, however, mean that the majority of TiVo users – who are early adopters, so should be regarded as the keenest audience possible for on-demand TV – are watching live TV for 75 percent of the time.

One reason for live TV’s continued domination could be that on-demand services offered by any given box are still very limited – especially when compared to the number of channels available.

Even when catch-up TV apps from all the major terrestrial broadcasters in the UK are placed within a slick user interface, it’s still going to be easier to flick through endless channels until something catches the eye.

That’s my post-pub routine, anyway; any series links I’ve got can wait until a rainy August evening unless, of course, it’s Match of the Day.


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