The changing behaviour of the TV viewer

It’s been more than half a century since televisions started to become commonplace in living rooms across the UK.

The changing behaviour of the TV viewer

The changing behaviour of the TV viewer

Throughout the decades that followed, you could find families up and down the country glued to their sofas at least a couple of evenings a week. It became the default entertainment form.

The industry has come a long way since then. The 1960s brought the introduction of colour broadcasting, followed by the VHS tape in the 1970s and the rise to popularity of cable television in the 1980s. In the 1990s, it was all about the DVD, which, if nothing else, saved consumers the hassle of rewinding movies before returning them to the rental shop. More recently, the focus has been on slimming screens and improving display quality.

As we turn to take a closer look at what’s happening now, it’s clear that connectivity is the next big step on this exciting journey. Internet-connected TV is already a big deal, but we really are only just getting started.

Whenever, wherever, whatever

All of the major breakthroughs have benefited consumers greatly, but few have changed people’s viewing habits quite like this new wave of connectivity - it’s giving us considerable power.

Firstly, we have newfound content freedom. We’re no longer bound by broadcasting schedules, and no longer forced to watch whatever’s on when we sit down in front of the screen. On-demand services mean we can essentially curate our own channels. You could spend a whole day watching only hard-hitting documentaries, for example, or enjoy a mix of soaps and sports. Even the watershed becomes irrelevant, if you’re old enough and have the required passwords.

It’s not just about what you watch; it’s about where you watch it too. The connected broadcasting revolution has already sparked a surge in mobile consumption, with on-the-go viewing now a normal part of many people’s lives. It seems the days of families fighting for the remote may well be over.

Why now?

Demand will always play a part in these major shifts, but the right technology must be ready to support it. In the case of connected TV – and everything else ‘connected’ for that matter – a number of major advances have been crucial.

For one, internet accessibility has been growing exponentially for some time now. By the end of 2014, 84 per cent of British households had access, up from 57 per cent in 2006. The growth will only continue as the government continues its broadband push.

The cloud has also played significant part. We’re now surrounded by high-quality content, but its owners have to store it somewhere. Ten years ago, the answer would’ve been costly hard drives. Today, it’s the cloud. With this invaluable technology, we have unlimited power to stream and enjoy content as we wish. There are no restrictions.

Last, but certainly not least, we have the devices on which this content can actually be viewed; from smart TVs at home, through tablet computers and laptops to the smartphones in our pockets. These gadgets are everywhere, and our collections only seem to be growing.

The knock-on effects

As the prominence of connected TV continues to grow, we’re seeing some real changes not only in consumer behaviour, but in the content being created. With restrictions around time and variety lifted, the power is very much in the consumer’s hands. This puts pressure on broadcasters of all kinds to produce better original content. The results can be seen in the growth of exclusive programming being delivered by some of the biggest streaming services.

Another trend to consider here is second-screening. Even if people aren’t watching content straight from their connected devices, it doesn’t mean their changing behaviour isn’t having an impact on the sector and its output. No longer is TV a one-way thing, we now have the power to respond to what we see, often in real-time. Just think about the tweets you so often see running across the bottom of the screen, or the additional information we can access about the shows we watch. This is particularly prominent with live TV, which may otherwise be a little more immune to some of the changes brought about by connectivity.

Talking of live TV, we can expect the pay-per-view (PPV) model to play a significant part in the future, especially when it comes to sporting events. At present, it’s the high profile football matches and motorsports events that keep people coming back to subscription services every year, but the OTT model allows content owners to cut out the middle man and deliver direct to the customer on a per-event basis. As a result, monetisation opportunities are improved and the customer isn’t left paying for a load of content they’re never going to consume, just to gain access to ten football matches a season. Everybody wins. It’s essentially a case of taking the model used for most major boxing events and extending it to other sports, allowing the internet to take care of delivery, account management and payment solutions.

Constant evolution

The shift towards connected broadcasting is well underway already, but it’s a transition that will never be complete. It’s an ongoing evolution – one that will continue to change the way people consume TV content.  It’s important to realise that it’s a two-way thing, though. As consumers’ needs change, the TV industry must respond.

This isn’t just about moving from traditional broadcasting to internet TV, however. It’s about the power of connectivity to enhance what’s already being offered. Thanks to the new capabilities it creates, the viewing experience is improving rapidly. As consumers, we’re being given more choice, more convenience and more information – for which we’re paying less.

It’s exciting to see things changing like this, but we’re still in the early stages. It’s impossible to say exactly how we’ll be watching in ten years’ time; the possibilities are endless.