TV Is Dying… Can It Be Saved?

November 4, 2018
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Features, TV

I think it’s quite interesting that traditional television is dwindling in popularity. After stumbling upon a small poll in the Twittersphere recently, it would seem that the Golden Age of TV is over. Without a doubt, there’s always more and more sources providing content, and we don’t even have to be sitting around a physical television in order to consume it. However, I don’t believe that this contest is entirely one-sided. TV stations are also playing a significant part in their own undoing.

One thing I was very quick to notice a while back is how responsive streaming platforms are to their audiences. They are very good at looking at where demand is and then supplying it. Netflix, for example, seems to hear people’s cries for more risky and original content – the type that traditional channels wouldn’t perhaps take further than the pilot episode. Admittedly, the gambles don’t always pay off, but when they do they are epic and get people talking. It’s also had a hand in resurrecting some well-loved TV shows which lit fires in a lot of hearts.

On a similar note, Amazon Prime has also succeeded in delivering what audiences want by rescuing shows like Ripper Street and The Grand Tour (which is still basically Top Gear as it should be, let’s face it) after they were culled by the channels that brought them to life in the first place.

The point is streaming platforms know that they must listen to their subscribers. It is these subscribers that got them into business in the first place, and it is these subscribers that continue to keep them in business. They cannot afford to get complacent. They must value the viewpoints of their audiences in order to stay afloat, and to their credit, it is something that they are very good at.

On the flip side, TV channels don’t seem to have the same level of appreciation for their audiences. They are terrible at giving people what they really want because they are so reluctant to forego their stupidly regimented broadcasting schedules. At least that’s the rule for TV channels here in the UK, at least, especially the satellite options. I could give you – right here, right now – a rundown of one of these channels for the week ahead. Up until about 9am every day, it’s the same five news stories on loop interspersed with weather forecasts that you could do a better job of yourself if you just looked out of the window. This is followed up with consumer information programs that, if they were as useful as they made out, would be shown at a far more accessible time of the day. Then for the next few hours, it’s a mix of property and antiques shows. Property shows are the worst in my opinion. They are guaranteed to do one of two things – bore you to tears, or throw the house-hunting woes of the country’s elite in your face. Spirits can then be shattered further by a lunchtime dose of the news, which is usually no different to what we’ve been subjected to for three hours at the start of the day. Afternoons consist of daytime soaps that prominently feature poor actors in the bit parts, then we move onto quiz shows and more antiques. At 6pm, we get more news (the same old stuff all over again), and then evening viewing sets in, which is the only part of the day that anybody remotely cares about.

Hopefully, you’ll see that live TV wastes a lot of time. Satellite TV especially only shows about 4-6 hours’ worth of content each day that people would actively engage with, regardless of whether they’re working or not. In the BBC’s case, this is even worse because by law we have to pay for a TV licence which currently costs £150.50 per year. Content aside, that is terrible value considering the top band Netflix charge is £9.99 a month. In all honestly, live TV just isn’t worth what we have to pay for it anymore. In the last year, I’ve changed providers for my cable TV because what I had been paying for it through another company just wasn’t worth it anymore. The service I was getting didn’t warrant the costs, and I think that is a massively important point to make. Streaming platforms not only meet their audiences’ needs, but they do so at great value. Sure, there are dry spells here and there, but even then there is always something you can devote your full attention to without the fear that it will lobotomize you. That simply isn’t the case with live TV, and what’s worse is that it doesn’t look like something that is going to change any time soon.

In my ideal world, we could get rid of the 9pm watershed and show programs with some flavour at any time of the day. They could be anything and be about anything. But TV channels would take risks and work on releasing new projects that captured the imaginations of all who watched them. They would abandon the formulas that they’ve followed so religiously for the past 20 years. Some people may very well complain – I say let them. Humans will always try to resist change in any way possible. Genuine complaints will be heard and dealt with accordingly, but trivial matters of personal preference will be tried in the court of public opinion.

That is how you get people watching TV again. Give them something that’s worth watching and is worth whatever fee they’ll have to pay for it. Bring people new concepts and ideas – all the stuff they’ve not seen before. Get them talking about it. Weed out all the wet lettuces that are keeping TV rooted in tradition because they are the ones stopping it from evolving. Evolution is key. Without it, you get left behind. A lack of evolution is what TV is lacking at the minute, but there is time to save it, provided it takes a look at what its competition is doing and takes notes. It needs to take risks. It needs to listen to its audience, and it needs to start providing value once again. Without that, TV is on its last legs, and before any of us will know it, it will be dead.