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Entertainment    |   #tv

Linear vs. On-Demand TV

By Metin Bilman
 Getty / Joe Raedle / Staff
Television. For years, it’s been a pillar of society – setting trends and creating memorable moments and bigger-than-life characters. It’s the most popular form of communication the world has ever seen.
But as technology gives us faster broadband and more means to consume content, will linear TV stay the same, adapt or become obsolete? In the future, will the dominant TV consumption mean using the remote to see what’s on the network (CBS, ABC NBC etc.) or connecting to an app (Netflix, Amazon etc) and picking your show?
Here are arguments of the future of linear TV vs. on-demand TV:


Why linear TV is here to stay


Bigger events have to be seen in real time

There are four major television events that people still watch when they’re scheduled to appear. These include the news, sports, interactive shows and event TV series (like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, etc…). The bigger budgets and byproducts of sports events have made the Super Bowl the most watched event in the world.  Additionally, WOW moments on popular shows oblige you to watch each episode as it airs, because a minute after the shows end, social media starts discussing what just happened in them. Interactive programming, such as game shows or talent competitions where viewers can vote, answer trivia questions and engage in real time, enhances the TV-watching experience. All of these elements will keep linear television around for the upcoming future.


Because the majority of TV viewers are older

Research shows that in most parts of the world the majority of TV viewers are older, ranging between the ages of 36 and 65. In fact, “adults aged 50-64 watched 39 hours and 54 minutes per week, representing a 1.4% increase year-over-year(for the past 6 years)”.

Some of these viewers are technically challenged and don’t want to deal with new gadgets and means of viewing their favorite content. However, behavior also plays a role. Most of Western society is still programmed to watch TV after dinner, at prime time, because that’s when the most talked-about and interesting shows air. Recent surveys show that although younger audiences are watching less traditional TV, the older age group still prefers to watch their favorite shows at specific times on linear television, especially as there is better and more diverse content.


It’s all about money

We live in the new golden age of television, where drama series, reality shows and sports events are bigger and better. The most talented stars, screenwriters and directors, and of course the huge sets, are all creating the most popular shows ever, as the ratings confirm. And costs are high. An average episode in the sixth season of Game of Thrones cost about $10 million to make, and these budgets are still not available for non-linear television.


Why On-Demand TV is the future


Create your own schedule

Many professionals assert that in the future, when you press the power button, you won’t be immediately transferred to a specific channel but rather to a page full of app icons, each representing a channel. As we’re all diverse individuals with specific interests, we wish to watch what interests us. On-demand TV lets us be the God of our own television – composing a schedule that’s fully personalized to our tastes. The future of TV is apps, according to Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple.

On-demand TV allows viewers to watch from any device, and not be confined to the original airtime of each show. As we are more multifunctional, we also wish to pause when we want, resume the next day, watch our favorite show in the bathroom or on the bus.


TV has adapted to 21st century technology

Technology is advancing so fast that new means of consuming entertainment are introduced to us almost weekly. These include gadgets (like Chromecast) that connect our computer to TV sets, better head phones and smarter televisions, and of course virtual and augmented reality.  Whether viewers put on their VR goggles or the best headphones available, consuming content becomes quite an individualized experience, and on-demand TV aims to personalize your consuming experience.


Because it’s all about money

Broadcasters have made their leap into on-demand TV because they realized it’s the future. To keep their viewers watching their existing brands and launching new ones, they must expand to other facilitated viewing methods. According to research , global Internet advertising will rise a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 11.1% over the coming five years, from US$153.65bn in 2015 to US$260.36bn in 2020.

It’s been said that it’s much harder to bring advertisers to Internet-based content. But advertisers now know much more about their viewers than ever before. Using big data analysis, advertisers know who’s watching what shows, on what device and at what time. This gives them many more possibilities to engage with their potential customers and personalize the ads they watch.


The Bottom Line:

Linear TV fits with modes of viewing that have defined that TV era. It caters to the prime time, which is also our down time of the day. TV on demand feels like an extension of our on-demand economy and it makes no sense for TV to evolve to anything else. Maybe the debate should be about what is TV itself has become, because whether you watched the last episode of Westworld on mobile on in your living room, at the time of broadcast or in the middle of the night, the underlying experience is that of watching TV.

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