By Vicky Witts | Head of Comment
Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+; the number of online streaming services available in 2021 seems to cover almost every genre and show that someone could possibly want. Netflix alone is estimated to boast over 500 TV shows, and 2000 movies in the UK alone. These include the service’s original shows, as well as films that are uploaded to the platform immediately after their release date.
With a huge range of media available on all of these online platforms, it seems that live television is often being forgotten, as more people are making the jump to on-demand viewing. In 2018, the BBC admitted that there were some concerns regarding the number of young people watching BBC TV, as it was discovered that 16–24-year-old on average spent more time on Netflix in a week than all of BBC TV and iPlayer.
There are still shows which have been huge successes within this demographic, such as ITV’s Love Island, which amassed 3.3 million viewers to its first episode earlier this year.
However, with online platforms still being the dominant forces of entertainment to the 16-24-year-old demographic, there are obvious questions and concerns about why live TV is becoming less popular, and what this will mean for the future of broadcasting.
What is making online streaming so popular?
In recent years, streaming services have seen huge figures for the number of users watching shows and movies on their platforms. Notably, Netflix’s Squid Game broke records with 111 million households having watched at least part of the show, whilst earlier this year Black Widow earned $60 million on Disney+’s subscription service.
With such massive figures, it is understandable to question what is making these online services so popular.
Binge-watching is one major possibility. A problem with live television which was brought to light recently in the public’s responses to BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing. The show, currently in its 19th season, has been criticised as results are frequently being leaked before the Sunday night results show. In response, many viewers are calling for the second show to be scrapped entirely.
These problems with spoilers and leaks may be one of the reasons why people are choosing to move over to binge-watching and online streaming services. These platforms typically release all episodes of a season of their shows at once, which means that viewers are able to avoid spoilers if they so choose to, by streaming immediately on the release-date of new shows.
Bulk-uploading also means that there is no issue, unlike with live tv, of missing episodes, as there are no specific timings or requirements to online streaming.
Is an end of live television concerning?
All the benefits of online streaming over live television does create concerns about if traditional broadcast TV will become outdated in the future, and whilst this is understandable to some degree, live television does offer some things that cannot currently be provided elsewhere.
Truly live shows with audience participation and voting have not yet appeared on the likes of Netflix and Prime, perhaps as this clashes with the sheer scale of the mass production of content on these sites.
Despite criticism of shows such as Strictly Come Dancing, live voting and donations require live broadcasting which only live TV offers, and not everyone can currently afford the considerable fees of online platforms.
Though it is unclear what the state of TV and film will be like in the future, at present it is clear that live TV and online streaming will remain in tension, competing for the views of millions each year.Victoria Witts Comment