7 on-demand viewing facts

Just as TV didn't end up killing the radio star, it doesn't look like on-demand is going to kill linear TV. Current evidence suggests that on-demand is actually enhancing the live TV schedule, rather than replacing it.

Here are seven facts that are testament to on-demand's positive influence on the live TV schedule:

Fact 1 Most catch-up is close to first broadcast
The bulk of PVR and iPlayer viewing is in the first 24 hours after live transmission - suggesting that the bulk of 'on-demand' is in fact catch-up and still anchored to the live channel schedule.

Fact 2 Young people still 'do' live TV
For 16 to 24s, live viewing still accounts for over 90% of the TV they watch. In fact, for the whole audience, catch-up viewing (including PVRs, VCRs and iPlayer) only accounts for 5% of the TV we watch. This is growing, but very slowly.

Fact 3 Audiences can only take so many channels

The number of channels viewed per person per week has only grown from 7.1 in 2001 to 8.5 in 2009. But there are hundreds of channels available in the UK.

Fact 4 iPlayer is not the main catch-up device

50% of all BBC time-shifting is via the PVR compared to 15% via PC iPlayer. For 16 to 24s, iPlayer usage rises to 31% of all time-shifting and PVRs is 46%.

Fact 5 TV viewing is not in decline
TV hours watched per head in the UK have remained stable since 2001 at approximately 25 hours per week. There is no evidence of decline - the latest quarter of figures has actually shown a slight increase.

Fact 6 Time-shifted viewing gets higher AIs
The ability to view content you want at your convenience has led to AIs (Audience Appreciation Index) for all programmes going up and especially for those programmes that audiences have time-shifted, by approximately 5 percentage points.

Fact 7 We still love our TV sets
10m people watch any kind of online video in the UK but only 0.4% of the population watch TV through online alone.

Future viewing
There will be a crucial role for on-demand in audiences' lives and it will undoubtedly become greater as it makes the journey from the PC to the television through IPTV (Internet protocol TV).

But predictions suggest that it will only ever account for a relatively small percentage of overall viewing and the bulk of it will revolve around the immediate linear schedule.

Why is the live schedule so robust?
This doesn't seem to be for technological, commercial or structural reasons, but human ones.
For all that we claim we want personalisation, choice and control, our ability to digest the information and time required to exercise it is limited; we need guidance, simplicity and someone to do the hard work for us.

We're also still led by the fundamental desire to be part of something, to share experiences and to use TV as a social currency. The live schedule is the only place to do this.

On-demand may never compete with live TV in terms of overall viewing - but it provides convenience and choice, and crucially, the sense that TV is still innovative and relevant, 50 years after it was 'new media' itself.

(Justin Bairamian is Head of Audiences, BBC Vision)


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