For a long time, television played the role of a metronome in the home, dictating the tempo of the day with the high point of the 8 o’clock news. The sudden arrival of video streaming platforms such as Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+, as well as social networks such as TikTok and Instagram, have completely disrupted the established order. Increasingly turned towards the web, will younger generations completely abandon linear television in favor of streaming, VOD and social networks?
Linear TV undermined by VOD
As you can see, it is not the medium that is being disputed, but rather the way programs are consumed. The second half of the 20th century was the era of linear television. In the heart of homes, the TV screen quickly became a central element. It sparked conversations about the TV programs broadcast the day before, which were not to be missed under any circumstances. At the time, there was no way to catch up on anything you’d missed. The cassette remedied this for a while before being abandoned because of its many drawbacks (storage, quality, programming) and technological evolutions.
The arrival of video-on-demand streaming platforms, led by Netflix and YouTube, revolutionized television viewing habits. These services provided both spontaneity and flexibility. There was no more need to be in front of your TV at a specific time to watch a series. VOD platforms adapted to users’ new requirements and to mobile viewing habits.
Sport: live TV’s last bastion?
Inevitably, television channel audiences numbers have plummeted and are struggling to be renewed. Every year, studies confirm that television audiences are ageing. The majority of young consumers are turning to the Internet (YouTube, Twitch, etc.) and VOD platforms. To counter-attack, TV channels are looking to offer packages that combine linear channels and video on demand, like the recent Warner Pass. However, this new Pass is only available on Prime Video, proving that platforms now have the upper hand.
Faced with the supremacy of streaming platforms, only sports remain a safe bet. Live TV represents the very essence of sports broadcasts due to the tension it generates and the uncertainty of the result. While a movie can be watched several times, a sports match is almost always watched in real-time. On February 12, 2023, the Super Bowl managed to gather 113 million Americans in front of the television. The last World Cup final even broke the absolute record in France, with an average of 24 million viewers and a peak of 29.4 million at the end of the match.
What does the future hold for television?
Faced with ever-increasing competition (Paramount+, Pass Warner, etc.), the future of linear television looks bleak. While replay allows some flexibility for viewers of traditional channels, industry experts predict an end to linear broadcasting of non-sports television programs in the near future. The latter are becoming more and more expensive to produce while audience numbers are in free fall. Channels are therefore likely to focus their spending on sports broadcasts and gradually abandon other content.
One thing is certain, television will have to reinvent itself. Jeff Zucker, ex-president of CNN, expects to see sports betting or gambling directly on television during matches, for example The head of the Starz channel, Jeffrey Hirsch, imagines live subtitles on series and news programs for border-free television. This would allow viewers to consume content broadcast from any country without encountering a language barrier. For Entertainment Studios founder Byron Allen, there is an urgent need to integrate artificial intelligence. He states that the latter should, in the long run, help the viewer in the face of infinite content choices, but also improve programs that are produced.