Television has become an integral part of our lives ever since its invention. For decades, families and individuals have depended on TV not just for entertainment but also as an important source of news and information. However, in recent years, the TV seems to be disappearing from households with the advent of streaming services and mobile devices. In this article, we will examine the various factors that have led to the steady decline of traditional television viewing.
Rise of Internet TV and Streaming Services
One of the biggest reasons for the disappearing TV is the rise of internet TV and streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video etc. The convenience, flexibility and affordable pricing of these online streaming platforms have made them immensely popular. In comparison, cable TV is losing its charm due to the high costs of subscriptions and lack of control over content. Streaming platforms allow users to watch their favorite shows and movies anytime, anywhere on their preferred devices. The massive content libraries available on streaming have reduced reliance on traditional TV channels.
Flexibility and Convenience
Streaming platforms offer greater flexibility and control over content consumption compared to scheduled programming on cable TV. Viewers can watch shows on-demand at their convenience instead of having to adhere to fixed telecast timings. Pausing, rewinding, fast-forwarding live TV is possible using streaming devices. This allows for a customized and interruption-free viewing experience.
With rising cable subscription costs, streaming emerged as an affordable alternative for budget-conscious viewers. Basic plans on popular services start at less than $10 per month compared to $50+ for cable bundles. Streaming apps can be accessed via multiple devices after a single subscription, enhancing the value proposition. Traditional pay-TV is losing customers who are cutting cords to reduce monthly expenses.
Streaming services utilize algorithms and viewer data to offer a personalized content experience. Curated recommendations are provided based on individual watching patterns and preferences. This level of personalization is missing in linear TV where channels have fixed schedules. The tailored content served by streaming platforms increases engagement and satisfaction levels.
Mobile Devices and Apps
The mobile revolution has also contributed to declining TV screen time as people are now watching content mostly on smartphones and tablets. According to eMarketer, US adults spent 38 minutes a day watching video on mobile devices, reducing the hours spent on TVs. They provide portability and easy access to video content via apps anywhere, anytime. Smartphones have changed viewing habits from communal family viewing in living rooms to more solitary viewing on mobiles. The smaller screens are better suited for watching on-the-go rather than for an immersive, cinematic experience. Mobile video consumption is rising steadily as content providers focus their efforts on developing intuitive apps and optimizing for smaller displays. However, mobiles adversely impact aspects like shared viewing, limiting social engagement.
Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube have emerged as competitors for people’s screen time. An average person spends 2.5 hours daily on social networks, eating into traditional TV viewing. 70% of this time is now devoted to mobile social media usage alone, facilitated by push notifications and infinite scrolling features designed to hook users. Brightcolors, quick cuts, and algorithmic feeds full of fresh, snackable content make social networks hard to tear away from. In contrast, TV programming seems dull and slow-paced to many users today. Social media delivers customized content based on interests and provides instant gratification via likes and comments.
Favoring Bite-sized Content
The short form videos popularised by apps like TikTok and Reels make longevity demanding linear TV viewing unappealing. Viewers raised on snackable content have lower patience thresholds and attention spans. Even established long-form mediums like YouTube are now dominated by videos under 20 minutes. Short videos allow quicker context switching for distracted viewers. On social media, multiple clips and threads can be browsed seamlessly within minutes.
TV has traditionally been a passive lean-back experience while social platforms enable active participation. Social networking fosters a sense of community via interactions like commenting, sharing, reacting. This interactivity and instant feedback loop enhances engagement and satisfaction levels for users.
Declining Broadcast TV Relevance Among Millennials and Gen Z
Younger generations find TV antiquated and seek stimulation from interactive digital content. Millennials and Gen Z grew up in an on-demand world with unlimited entertainment at their fingertips. Only 29% of millennials watch broadcast TV while 60% prefer streaming services. They value mobility, flexibility, personalization over broadcast TV’s rigid structure. Average traditional TV viewership drops rapidly for younger age groups as they switch loyalties to YouTube, TikTok, Twitch. Familiarity and ease with technology drive this shift towards digital platforms. Linear TV fails to evolve at the rapid pace they are accustomed to. Hence it appears outdated and ill-suited for younger cohorts who prefer decentralized content options.
Lack of Relatability
Millennials and Gen Z find traditional TV content unrelatable as the programming and advertising is still targeted at older demographics. They crave authenticity and diversity which streaming and social media content delivers more effectively through unfiltered creator-driven stories. Broadcast networks face criticism for lack of representation and stale formulas.
Young viewers strongly dislike excessive, irrelevant advertising on traditional TV. Streaming services offer ad-free or limited ad models that resonate more. Similarly, influencer marketing on social media feels less intrusive and forced than conventional TV ads. Paid brand integrations and collaborations feel more organic and tailored when woven into the content itself.
Decline of Appointment Viewing
The entire TV experience has shifted from “appointment viewing” where people structured lives around show timings to “binge watching” as popularized by video-on-demand. With unlimited content accessible 24/7, many don’t feel the need anymore to tune in at the same time every week. Time-shifting features like DVRs and next-day streaming on Hulu also erosion the urgency around live telecasts. Viewers can now choose when and how much they want to watch instead of scheduling lives around TV grids. This flexibility has diminished the power of appointment-based programming to dominate national conversations as more viewers operate on individual timelines.
Fragmentation Across More Channels
While the average US household received around 60 TV channels in the 1990s, today there are over 500 channels plus endless streaming apps. With limitless options at their fingertips, modern viewers are less likely to unite around common programs. No single network can command national audiences at the scale NBC, ABC or CBS once did. Fragmentation makes it impossible for any show to capture shared cultural moments as the zeitgeist is split. There is also a paradox of choice-facing excessive choice, people are more likely to be overwhelmed and dissatisfied due to FOMO.
Ensuring Linear TV’s Relevance in the Future
Despite the worrying signs, linear TV retains loyalty among older viewers and for major live events. To stay relevant, broadcasters must rethink content and business models. Some strategies include:
- Producing quality original programming to take on streaming competitors
- Launching standalone streaming offshoots e.g. ESPN+ and Paramount+
- Partnering with digital platforms for wider reach e.g. airing on YouTube TV
- Targeting underserved demographics like Gen Z with fresh show concepts
- Developing TV companions apps with bonus content and interactions
- Plugging programming on social media using clips, memes, hashtags
- Emphasizing value of communal viewing to bring families and friends together
- Reducing advertising clutter and making ads contextually relevant
- Broadcasting in 4K/8K ultra-HD to showcase technological superiority
- Leveraging 5G to enhance broadcast efficiency and interactive features
The meteoric rise of streaming media, mobile devices, and social networking has profoundly impacted television viewing habits. While traditional linear TV viewership is waning among younger viewers, it retains nostalgic appeal for older generations. Broadcast TV faces immense disruption but has promising possibilities to evolve and complement, rather than compete with, digital platforms. With strategic changes to programming, advertising and technology, television can continue engaging audiences for decades to come. But the glory days of families huddling around the sole TV set are long gone now. In an on-demand world, the power now rests with individual viewers and their content preferences across devices.