The Crown: Netflix show earned five Bafta nominations
The Crown: Netflix show earned five Bafta nominations
A view from Frith Janes

TV is thriving and changing at break-neck pace

The media industry has been speculating the "death of TV" for some time now. Yet the industry is both thriving and changing at break-neck pace.

The politics of what counts as "proper" TV or film are unfolding.

Despite five nominations, Netflix’s The Crown (pictured above) failed to take home an award at the Bafta ceremony last weekend. Fans might argue this was a second snub from the traditional TV industry powers, after the Cannes Film Festival announced a controversial ban against streaming-only films entering the prestigious Palme D'Or.

When viewed in context of the generational shifts in viewing behaviour, it’s clear a dramatic industry shake-up is on the horizon.

According to Enders, just 56% of 16- to 34-year-olds’ total "video time" is now spent watching TV live. 

Of course, it’s clear that TV isn’t dead. The latest Barb figures show adult impacts were up 1% in 2016, with 86% of TV viewing still live. The industry might be hand-wringing, but viewers aren’t. I don’t own a TV set and haven’t done for six years. I do still watch "TV" – a lot of it in-fact – I just engage with it in a completely different way.

According to Barb data, I’m not alone. I make up one of the 1.3 million (and growing) households in the UK that does not own a TV, the majority of who – like me – are under 35 years with no kids.

According to Enders, just 56% of 16- to 34-year-olds’ total "video time" is now spent watching TV live. This age group has a much more fluid definition of what constitutes TV.

Younger audiences are now well-versed in seeking out good video content, a discovery mind-set makes this audience not only more selective but platform agnostic – they will find and watch great quality content wherever it exists. And as long as Netflix continues to produce some of the UK’s most talked-about series, so this audience will continue to gravitate away from traditional TV.

By applying traditional rules to modern viewing habits, the likes of Cannes are ignoring a fundamental change that impacts every element of TV and film consumption.

We tend to fixate on millennials as the generation of TV disrupters, but the most significant change for brands and broadcasters is yet to come.

Ofcom reported a historic change at the end of 2016. Children aged 5 to 15 are now spending more time online than watching TV and what’s more, a quarter of 8- to 15-year-olds prefer YouTube to TV. Content creators and brands need to future proof for an audience who will view "TV" in a much more multifaceted way.

We’ve already started to see signs of an industry shake-up, as major digital players hanker for a bite of the TV pie.

Mark Zuckerberg has been unusually blunt in his ambitions for Facebook to produce high-quality TV content. He wants people to think of Facebook first for video content.

Then there’s Snapchat, a platform with 10 million active daily users, who have announced they will be ramping up their original content series – Snapchat Shows – over the next two years.

From branded content in the style of the surrounding programme to serialised "native style" ads, brands, agencies and broadcasters will need to work collaboratively and think creatively to engage ad-sceptic viewers.

Meanwhile Amazon has firmly laid a stake in the ground for the future of pay-TV with their recent NFL streaming deal. All of these platforms command large global and engaged audiences (especially under 35s) and if they get content creation and data application right, have the potential to further disrupt the way we view TV in the next five years.

As future consumers continue to move towards ad-free platforms and investment into online video grows, we need to re-think the whole TV and film ad experience. From branded content in the style of the surrounding programme to serialised "native style" ads, brands, agencies and broadcasters will need to work collaboratively and think creatively to engage ad-sceptic viewers.

The onus is on agencies to better reflect nuances in consumer viewing behaviour across platforms. A well targeted, 20-second ad might work on All4, but simply won’t engage an audience on Snapchat, whose attention span and frame of mind is entirely different.

It’s paramount that media and creative agencies jointly identify the right video platforms and environments upfront and ensure any creative idea stretches across these in a way that makes best use of each platform.

In the next 10 years the industry must prepare for a generation who spend more time watching video online, subscribe en masse to ad-free video platforms and who may not even have a TV set.

This will necessitate better measurement, smarter targeting and more inter-agency collaboration, but more importantly it will require a shift in mindset of mammoth proportions.

There’s no doubt the new world is more complex, but it’s also more exciting. It’s a great canvas for creativity and it’s ours for the taking.

Frith Janes is the strategy director at Arena Media.