How will ‘prosumerism’ shape the future of TV viewing?

Long gone is the simple passive sit back and watch whatever is put in front of you TV consumption, perhaps with the remote in hand to channel surf as the only way to be entertained in the 2020s.          

The industry has been gearing up for a number of years now to stay ahead of consumer demand and simultaneously delivering what current audiences still wants from linear TV. You only have to look at the back pages of Broadcast to see that there are still large numbers of the UK population that are devoted to some of the big name terrestial shows, Coronation Street and Call the Midwife to name a couple – both with healthy and consistent ratings – which is especially good news with so much scrutiny and discussion for the PSB and of course the hotly anticipated new DG role at the BBC. Plus the British TV viewing public still has a strong habit for ‘event viewing’ and a love of traditional family primetime entertainment slots – Six Nations and The Masked Singer equally prove so.

So what’s changed or changing?

Stats show that the family are not always sitting on the sofa together. Tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices enable viewing almost anywhere. We are likely to be multitasking on at least one other activity whilst watching – inbox clear out, social media scrolling or commenting. So whilst the EPG clearly still has a place, it hasn’t always got 100% attention of the viewer when it’s being used.

We’re seeing some growing dynamic and key consumer habits all at play in what’s behind the evolution of TV viewing and what both commissioners and production companies are working around:

  1. Demand for an ‘a la carte’ TV menu – from content genres to the type of service (eg  terrestrial vs streaming and VOD) so we can watch what we want when we want
  2. Unbundling – we no longer want to sign up to a subscription and accept the wastage that we won’t watch half of the content we’re paying for. More often the average household may have freeview, multiple subscriptions and stream content as part of their personalised entertainment package. The winner will be the provider that can house everything under one bundle
  3. The reliability and seamless quality of the tech is expected as the norm so not to impact the viewing experience – nothing more frustrating than the wheel of doom at that crucial edge of your seat ‘who dunnit’ moment
  4. Ad free or at the least the capability to skip or block – there’s still a huge abundance of the consumer not in control in this respect. If you watch any amount of kids entertainment on You Tube where the AVOD is slammed in front of the future TV viewer. (Even the toddler knows how to find the mouse on the Mac and skip the ads…at age 3!)
  5. Better time shifting – more than just live pause and only being able to fast forward, rewind or stop when it’s recorded
  6. Even more interactivity – where will VR and wearable tech take consumer engagement? This could go well beyond the gaming content where you’d think it majors most. It will be interesting to see which players cease and master it first

So with all this in mind? It makes for another conversation to come of who’s really in control of the future of content – supply vs demand – is it really the viewer? ‘Give me what I want’ vs ‘show me something I don’t know that I need’…yet? Then the proverbial remote control goes right back into the hands of the scriptwriter, the director, the commissioner, even the investors. Franklin Rae PR will be watching.