Is Linear TV Dead or Stronger Than Ever?

The question of whether linear TV is dead or stronger than ever was addressed in one of the last sessions of CCW 2015. With TV changing from the linear TV model to a more mobile and on-demand structure, the question is how healthy linear TV really is in the USA?

The panel discussing this topic was Joe Mandese (Media Post), Harold Geller (Ad-ID), Charles Chunn (Graham Media Group) and Catherine Warburton (Assembly) in the last session of the conference. One would think that this topic was of somewhat greater importance, unless most already assumed they knew the answer to the question.

As the panel discussed, linear TV is still the 600 pound gorilla in the TV space and dominates video viewing by the consumer. According to data from Nielsen, as shown in the graphic, consumer video viewing is still growing at a small but steady pace.

The data shows the number of minutes the average viewer spends per day watching TV via the various platforms. The large light blue bar shows the time for linear TV, while the purple bar shows the minutes viewing streamed content. DVD/Blu-ray, video on demand and DVR viewing has not changed significantly over the last three years (2011 to 2014). The clear message from this data set is that streaming is commanding a measurable part of the daily time used for watching video. There are certain definitions on how the data is measured that may indicate an even more positive view on the linear TV time. For example, only programs that carry the same advertising are counted in this comparison. If you watch a program via YouTube, for example, that does not contain the advertisements from the original programming, this is not considered in this comparison. The time for linear TV decreased from 31:41 minutes in 2011 to 30:08 minutes in 2014. This represents a decrease in viewing time for linear TV from 89% of daily viewing time in 2011 to 80% in 2014.

The decreasing time consumers spend with linear TV makes advertisers more willing to address other media like digital and mobile advertising networks. This fragmentation of video viewing will be increasingly echoed by the advertising dollars spent in the various channels. The panel said that this trend will continue in coming years. – Norbert Hildebrand

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When I asked the panel where they see this trend going and what percentage linear TV will have of daily video viewing in 2014, the answers were somewhat diverging. While the network provider and agency on the panel are still hoping that the current model doesn’t change too much (they forecast that 70% to 75% of TV watching will still be via linear TV) the industry consultant expects more changes to come with a total of only 50% of the video watching time being attributed to linear TV by 2014.

This does raise the question, where are we going? Independent of what your personal view is in this industry, changes are coming and old models will have to adopt or become obsolete. This does include how we see and report on this market. Until recently home entertainment was clearly an application driving the large display market. This will change as well, as small display devices like smartphones and tablets become an integral part of this market. (NH)