Every year, around this time, when Thinkbox releases its commercial television viewing report, there’s an almost audible sigh in some quarters of the media industry. Or worse – there are those unashamedly willing to herald it as "bad news".
And that’s because the report tends to be filled with evidence that broadcast TV’s version of the apocalypse has been rescheduled. Again.
The medium proves stubbornly unwilling to conform to glib social theory. The time-shifted TV meltdown, predicted as a consummating act of the dotcom boom, didn’t take place (not significantly, at any rate); the Clay Shirky-style internet TV revolution also failed to materialise in the years that followed; and the mobile TV reckoning, heralded from countless conference platforms from 2007 onwards, has also declined to manifest itself, despite the arrival of the requisite hardware.
For some ideologues, this is a matter of profound irritation. For the rest of us, what we are faced with is a continuing success story. We watch a lot of commercial telly in this country and we’re watching slightly more each year. And we like watching it in conventional ways. Thinkbox figures for 2012 show that, on average, we viewed just over four hours of programming on our TV sets each day. Compare that to the three minutes we consumed via other devices, both fixed-line and mobile.
TV is the most emotive communications channel ever invented; and linear TV is peerless as a social medium – social in that we consume it in the sitting room among those whose air we share.
The truth (one that dare not speak its name in App World) is that this is all terrific news for advertisers, the advertising industry, the media landscape generally – and, it thus follows, the wider economy.
And yet the storm clouds continue to gather. Even though audience figures are good, broadcasters are subject to increasing economic pressures – as witnessed, say, by Group M’s recent skirmish with Channel 4. The drive is on to get broadcast quality at internet prices.
So, yes, the Thinkbox figures are nice. But the reality may be that the ad industry is continuing to question whether it’s getting value for its TV money these days.