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Growing evidence that TV viewing habits are changing – expert

Tuesday, June 2nd 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

There is mounting evidence to suggest that TV viewing habits are changing, according to a boss at communications company Arqiva.

Yet in spite of this, views on the subject are polarised, according to Nick Moreno, Arqiva's head of strategy, satellite and media.

Writing in a blog post, he described positions at either end of the debate as ‘broadcast TV is dead’ and the ‘flat Earther’ view.

“The first view says it’s only a short matter of time before live, linear viewing on TV sets becomes a minority of viewing,” said Mr Moreno.

“While the second says that live, linear viewing on TV set is barely changing, if at all – and will not change significantly in the foreseeable future.

“The problem with this debate is that nearly everyone starts out from pre-defined positions, based on where their company or organisation stands in the current value chain.”

He gave the example of Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, who has predicted that internet streaming will replace linear TV within 20 years.

“Similarly if you’re Thinkbox (which is funded by broadcasters) then you may well state – as they did – that ‘UK linear viewing (in 2014) is down because of the vastly improved weather and economy which has encouraged people out of their homes more and naturally lead to a little less linear TV being watched’.”

Mr Moreno said there are “precious few” facts on which to form an unbiased opinion but pointed to the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB), the research company responsible for official UK audience measurement.

'Changing dramatically'

BARB figures show that the average TV viewing time fell by 5% in 2014 compared with 2013.

In the first four months of 2015 it fell by a further 2.8% year-on-year.

Mr Moreno said the debate has moved on in North America, where “most people accept the broadcast world is changing dramatically”.

He said one thing those on both sides of the argument agree on is that the viewing habits of millennials – people who reached young adulthood around the year 2000 – are different from everyone else.

The question is whether those habits of millennials will change as they get older and richer, said Mr Moreno, and evidence in the US suggests they have not reverted to their parents’ viewing habits.

“Instead, they prefer their OTT (over the top) viewing on ‘second’ screens; they also (and this is a trend that many in the industry bury their heads over) continue to stream some content illegally; and they really, really love choosing and watching the exact content they want to watch – rather than be at the mercy of schedulers.

“Will that fundamental shift in viewing habits happen in the UK once our millennials get through university and are into their first salaried positions?

“Is a significant shift in viewing away from the TV set occurring now anyway?”

Mr Moreno said no-one knows for certain, but BARB’s data is starting to provide evidence that things are changing.

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