Is Television Dying?

Television Commercials

Everything you read online these days would have you believing that television is dying. We’ve been told for so long that the internet will kill traditional TV to a point where TVs would be seen as old relics and obsolete.

While the increase is digital streaming services like Netflix, Apple, Stan, Foxtel Now, YouTube Red, hayu, and Amazon Prime Video, has to some extent decreased viewing numbers on Foxtel and Free-To-Air TV, it is nothing of real note to write home about.

So, let’s look at the main two assumptions being shouted from the mountains:

  1. The TV unit (the actual TV) will soon be obsolete because of new technology and more portable devices.
  2. Free-To-Air audiences will drop dramatically because of other services.

Quickly do a mental calculation in your head on the number of TVs in your house. More than likely you have more than one TV in the house. My mental maths tells me there are 4 in our home, but we only have 3 people living here. I do like to watch TV.

According to Statista there are currently 9.65 million households with a TV in Australia (click here), and this is expected to grow next year in 2019. So, the sales of TVs are increasing in Australia? Why would this be the case considering all we have read about is the decline of the TV? The reason – TVs are big, all are now digital, and the majority of new sets can connect to the internet. New TVs have everything you need, and they are big.

I hear you muttering they’re not mobile. Yes, this is true, but think about when you are likely to use a mobile device (such as a Smartphone, Notebook or Tablet) to watch a movie or program. Would you watch it on a mobile device when you are home instead of using a massive TV, I think not? Smartphones are smaller and harder to watch. Try holding your Smartphone for 1½ hours to watch a movie or placing it on a surface so you don’t have to hold it, only to find its too far away to see. Most people use Smartphones when they are away from their home and have nothing else to do. If you’re on a train or bus and want to finish watching the latest season of Luke Cage on Netflix, ok go for it. If you are passenger in a car and you need your fix of Real Housewifes on Catch Up TV, no better time.

I now hear you clambering on about Tablets (like iPads) and Notebooks and how they have a bigger viewing surface. You are right again, but with an iPad you have the same issue of holding something for a long time that is even heavier than a Smartphone, and if the latest sales figures on Notebooks (6 year decline of Notebooks and PCs) and Tablets (maturing and in some brands declining) are anything to go by, these new technologies are not the new messiah. While there are many new ways we consume content, Australians are having their cake and eating it too.

Let’s now look at the second assumption that Free-To-Air audiences will drop dramatically because of other services. (Note: We won’t discuss Catch-up TV in this article as they’re seen as extensions of their Free-To-Air offerings).

TV Commercials

The rise of streaming services like Netflix, Apple, Stan, Foxtel Now, YouTube Red, hayu and Amazon Prime Video is undeniable. From as little as $9 per month, a person can have access to the content from any of these services.

The first thing to consider is you need to pay to use these services. Free-To-Air as the name implies is free. While the basic monthly subscription for one of these services is no more than a couple of Lattes, it’s still a cost.

The second thing to consider is that the services rely on internet access, while Free-To-Air does not. Thus, there is another cost either in data for your mobile service (with download limits), or internet at home.

Finally (and more importantly) there are the download speeds in Australia. Until every household in Australia has NBN (I could be dead and buried before this happens), many Australians only have access to ADSL2+ in their homes, and in many areas still 3G on their Smartphones. Depending on where you live or where you are moving in a train, bus, or car, you could be waiting long periods during the programme you are trying to watch because of the buffering. Look at the recent fiasco with Optus and the World Cup in Russia. Optus did not expect the high demand here in Australia, and there were major issues with the broadcast over the internet on all platforms. Who came to the rescue of Optus, Free-To-Air SBS. Optus tried to fix the issue, but eventually gave up. SBS ended up airing all the games in Russia.

In summary, mobile devices are great to catch up on shows while you are out and about but there are trade-offs such as cost for these services and internet connection, the frustrating download speeds and buffering, and smaller screen sizes. Sporting events are appearing as King when it comes to TV. Australians love watching sports on large TV screens (the bigger the better), and mobile devices just don’t cut the muster when inviting friends over for a BBQ and to watch the footy.

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