The Transformation Of TV

TV trundles on with the help of streaming devices

Take a look at any statistics or research site and the picture is clear: more and more people are turning off their TVs. Thanks to better connectivity and the growing number of personal devices, on demand viewing has gradually eroded traditional television. But while TV itself might be in decline, content viewing is not. Online streaming has become one of the most popular internet activities worldwide, which has not gone unnoticed by content distributors. Interestingly, instead of writing off TV, companies are attempting to merge television with on demand viewing.

Cutting the cord

When traditional TV reigned supreme, it was the cable companies who held all of the cards. Unfortunately for them, the popularity of consumer centric services like Amazon Prime, Hulu, and of course Netflix mean that this is no longer the case. Many content distributors have developed their own streaming devices that can be plugged into a television set to deliver a whole library of online, on demand content. This allows consumers to access what they want, when they want, with the added option of switching on the TV. So, how popular are these devices? According to Nielsen, just over 23 per cent of US homes owned a TV streaming device at the beginning of 2017. A further 29 per cent owned a smart TV, which does essentially the same thing as streaming devices but without needing an extra appliance. Either way, content streaming is on the rise, and although this would appear to make television pointless, the reality is that TV is now just another way to watch.

Streaming on the big(ger) screen

As on demand content viewing via TV becomes more popular, it comes as no surprise that there is a plethora of streaming devices to choose from. Nielsen’s survey found that the most popular options are Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast. Each device has its own merits, with price tags ranging from £30.00 for a basic package to around £200.00 for premium, high resolution options. Smart TVs offer another alternative. They are generally more expensive than Roku and its various competitors, but this doesn’t seem to have affected their adoption.

To an extent, the merging of on demand content with traditional viewing habits depends on demographics. In a family household, an Amazon Fire TV Stick might be a worthwhile investment because watching TV is a family activity. Personal devices have long been seen as damaging family dynamics, but bringing on demand to a communal screen could remedy this complaint. On the other hand, a millennial living in a house share would be less likely to buy an additional streaming device as they would already have access to multiple personal devices and content sites.

Another important factor to consider is location. Developing countries, for example, rely heavily on mobile. In these emerging digital markets, streaming is overwhelmingly confined to smartphones. Then there are the ever present regulatory questions. How are the private and therefore less regulated channels on Roku, for example, going to stand up to regulation? At the moment, anyone can create a Roku channel. Making content creation more open to all is in some ways a good thing, but it is not without risk.

The real threat

Television sets are now being used in a different way. Consumer demand for choice and customisation have swept aside traditional viewing habits, and while we are certainly watching less TV, it remains an important medium for content consumption. Streaming devices and smart TVs have made it easy to access on demand, but without the reliance on tablets, laptops and mobile. The real threat to legacy businesses is not to TV itself, but to the companies that used to control it, as increasingly the platform providers are becoming the content creators and are beginning to own the entire ecosystem.

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