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Enders Analysis warns of troubling trends for broadcast television

Analysts warn of inevitable fatigue around "stale" TV schedules

Enders Analysis has warned linear TV viewing is already returning to its 2019 levels following the peak brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, and it could drop even further as viewers tire of “stale” content.

In its latest report, Troubling Trends in Lockdown, Enders says the decline in viewing is due to the “inevitable fatigue” around Covid-19 news, as well as the growing “staleness” of the schedules caused by the like of new content.

The report adds that lockdown has seen an increased use of the television set, by eliminating almost all competition and reinforcing its position as the entertainment centrepiece of the home and the distributer of news.

It states that both traditional linear viewing and unmatched TV set use—time when the TV is used for purposes other than live or catch-up viewing within 28 days of broadcast, i.e. predominantly the use of video streaming services and gaming—experienced similar uplift, about 40-45 minutes extra per person per day, but unmatched rose greater proportionally. From 16 March-19 April, while consolidated viewing (live and catch-up) had risen 23 per cent YOY, unmatched was up 75 per cent, says the report.

The report also warns broadcasters about trying to attract viewers with content they’ve already seen, possibly multiple times before. It notes that in an ideal world, Euro 2020 would have started this Friday, Love Island would have already begun reaching large numbers of 16-34s six nights a week to ITV2 and the Hub, and there would be just six weeks until the Tokyo Olympics. Without all of these events, broadcasters are dealing with “gaping holes in the schedule.”

“Some of these gaps were filled early on by quick-turnaround programming about the virus. These are also affected by news fatigue and were therefore only temporary fixes,” adds Enders. “With production largely stalled and the need to conserve some scripted content for later in the year—when the broadcasters would have been expecting now delayed content—the schedule has gradually been populated with more programming repeats. This has now spread to the primetime slots on the major channels.”

The report concludes broadcasters face problems as viewing trends return to 2019 levels, and could accelerate beyond what was predicted prior to lockdown.

“Looking towards 2025, with streaming having a proportionally greater viewing uplift than live and catch-up (and greater retention of it), post-Covid-19 this muscle memory should hand the likes of Netflix the inertia to take a bigger share of the available viewing pie than prior to the pandemic—although naturally engagement will decline in real terms,” it says.

“Netflix’s buoyant Q1 results will embolden it to continue to raise its spend on content (while mollifying the attitude of some of the bears in the market) at a time when the programming budgets of traditional broadcasters are being progressively challenged. Old episodes of Vera, while great, will only get you so far.”