Are big screens still ruling the world?

July 26, 2021

by Owen Goddard

With the OTT revolution in full swing, consumers have more choices than ever. The broadcast industry is in a time of flux: audiences can now access content at any time and on a range of services. Not least with regards to devices – which for the longest time had been either TV or nothing – now viewers can choose between mobile, tablet, laptops, and more.

The idea that TV as a platform is dying has been bandied around the industry long enough. It’s worth examining whether it has any merit, and to peek into the pros and cons of this multi-platform experience against the good old ‘box’.

To better dig into the topic, we dissected the question that made it to the title of this blog post (are big screens still ruling the world?) and identified at least three key points to articulate an informed response. Take a look for yourself.

#1. Seamless, multi-platform access

One of the benefits brought by the so-called ‘streaming revolution’ is the massive growth in terms of hours users are now able to  enjoy content. Needless to say, this aspect naturally impacts both content-owners and consumers.

With the advent of mobile OTT, also, consumers are able to consume content anywhere. From watching their favourite TV series while commuting or during lunch-breaks at work, viewers can conveniently pull up content in bite-sized chunks. TVs do naturally not share this mobility, and relate to a much more sedentary experience.

#2. It’s a content war, baby!

The availability of content is a massive contributing factor to the user’s choice of platform. That’s a fact. Put simply, there will be no viewers if there is nothing to view.

So, what content is available? On traditional, linear TV that answer is limited to whatever the various channels they have access to have decided to put up. On a Smart TV, however, the scenario changes, as the options drastically expand. All major streaming services have some kind of TV platform where consumers can access the entire catalogue of content, and a number of channels even offer exclusive ad-supported catch-up services which can’t be accessed on other devices.

So, while traditional broadcasting struggles in this content war, users on Smart TVs have access to all of as much content as other devices, if not more.

#3. Experience is a key factor

The experience is the driving force behind a viewer’s platform decision. Yes, it’s great to be able to enjoy your content when on the go, but these are situations where the TV as a device is not an option. So, what devices do users choose when at home?

The answer to that question is all about the depth of the viewing experience, the real key factor to decide what’s the most enjoyable option. You only need to imagine your living room to see the answer: large sofas people can sink into after a long day all directed towards the ‘little big screen’. The TV becomes the centerpiece of the lounge and a large part of the evening ritual of any family, as long as the array of options we mentioned above is available.


What does the market say?

Traditional broadcast channels and stations have maintained a steady share of viewership, in spite of the increase in internet viewership, with an only 7% total drop over a period of 8 years, between 2011 and 2019. How then, can the TV be competing with all of these new and innovative companies? The answer is rather straightforward: by providing the same, over-the-top service on a larger screen. Especially on big screens – according to the Media Nations 2020 report published for the UK – live TV appears to be in decline, while streaming internet platforms with VOD functionalities are rapidly expanding.

There are some other stats that support this thesis. In the past six months – in times of global pandemic – our video engagement data shows that users on big screen devices (thinks of a Smart TV) averaged 165 minutes of effective playtime (the average, real view time for each unique user in the platform). This figure is four times greater than on small screens devices (such as a smartphone), where average playtimes were 39 minutes.

Conclusions

When talking about the ‘death of TV’, it’s not television as a device we are referring to. OTT services cannot make the mistake of relegating TV screens as devices of the past. In fact, it’s paramount for larger screens to remain a core part of their content offering. And the reason is simple: large parts of their audience are still there.

Broadcasters who are not thinking of streaming will encounter obstacles when trying to reach new audiences. OTT services without space on the big screen are most likely condemned to struggle, as viewers would only be able to only enjoy their content on small screens, deprived of that freedom of choice across platforms. And as we stated above, this is a particularly important factor in the fierce competition for eyeballs we call ‘content war’.

So, big screens still play a key role in the ecosystem of video experiences. They might not be ruling the world as we knew traditional TV did in the past decades, but they are still integral to most consumers’ lives. It’s all about the experience, in the end: uncountable hours of content, to be seamlessly consumed across a variety of platforms.


➡️ What are your thoughts about big screens and multi-device streaming access? Join the conversation over on Twitter or on our LinkedIn page. Any question? We'd love to hear from you.