Redefining TV in the age of the empowered consumer

Don't believe the naysayers. Television isn't dying...but it is evolving to attract a changing audience through seamless viewing, customized content and more.

A man and a woman watch TV together while sitting closely together on a couch

The resilience of TV

Reports of the death of television may be greatly exaggerated.

Martyn Whistler, Lead Analyst, Media and Entertainment at EY, says he firmly believes there is a future for TV, although it may not be in the form that we know it today. “Yes, lots of young people watch TV on mobiles and tablets,” he says. “But if you’re 15 you don’t own a TV. When they get to the age of 35, they will own one. I’m pretty confident that TV as a box in the sitting room will remain a key thing for people as they get older.”

Empowered audiences

Although TV will endure, audiences are changing. Viewers are no longer passive, sitting meekly in their living rooms waiting for their favorite show. Instead, they are empowered, expecting their viewing to be ubiquitous (any time, any place and any device); integrated (a seamless experience across all their different devices) and contextual (with content that is tailored to when, where and how it’s consumed).

There is an analogy here with the automotive industry. “For over 100 years, automotive has been a manufacturing business,” Whistler says. “Now it’s a mobility business. TV is the same. You can’t think about linear broadcasts at specific times, you have to think about a continuous experience, from the moment the viewer gets up to the moment they go to bed. You have to think about how you manage that relationship.”

Seamless viewing

Providers are finding intelligent ways to satisfy these evolving demands. Apple’s streaming service allows you to start watching a movie on your mobile phone while traveling home from work and then continue watching it on your TV, where it will automatically resume at the same place you left off.*  Meanwhile, the BBC has relaunched its news website with bite-sized video clips, because it knows its audience is often watching while on the move.

“I want TV to be personal to me — if I customize my viewing with playlists and libraries then I want them available across all my devices,” Whistler says. “And I want it to know where I am — suggesting cookery programs while I’m in the kitchen preparing a meal, and live sport highlights as they happen.”

Content is changing too, he says. “People love local content — sports and news. But they also love blockbuster brands such as the globally popular show Game of Thrones. This means content will become more polarized.”

What about advertising?

The rise of the empowered consumer has many knock-on effects, not least for revenues. For example, ratings for advertisers used to be based on overnight viewing figures, but this model is no longer relevant now that many people watch shows several weeks after their initial broadcast, via online catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer.

“Broadcasters may find it hard to make money if they can’t deliver audiences to advertisers,” Whistler says. “They have to use data about their audience to allow ads to be really tailored to a particular demographic."

That’s something that will appeal to advertisers, who will keep selling as long as consumers — through one device or another — keep tuning in.

*, accessed June 2016.