Netflix Is Coming For ITV's Family Audience

Something big is starting in the UK tonight, and as ever, it's through something that may appear to be a small happening. For the broadcasters hoping to get big family audiences at the weekend, however, it may be the start of a, dare I say, "series of unfortunate events."

Netflix is coming after the big-money family audience that will routinely switch the television on early evening at the weekend to watch that night's big show. Typically this will involve a wannabe kid with a sad backstory wanting to be the next Gary Barlow or, since last weekend, actually getting the nod from the "Take That" star himself to be a band member in his upcoming West End show. Now, such shows have already taken a beating on commercial television this year. "The Great British Bake Off" and "Strictly Come Dancing," on the ad-free BBC, dominated the ratings last year and, in factual, Sir Richard Attenborough wiped the floor with anything ad-funded channels could throw at him. "The X Factor" and "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here," ITV's flagship shows, hardly made an impression on the top 40 shows of last year.

Now, just to add salt to the wound, Netflix is coming after this early evening "family on the sofa" audience for the first time with Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events." OK -- so there is a long tail of family shows and movies on the service, but this is the first big launch of a major show aimed at families. Just think about it. The Netflix "just one more episode" experience is nearly always a solo or couples experience watching the likes of "Prison Break" or "House of Cards." It's the type of television people binge on when at a loose end or of an evening when they can't bring themselves to watch another "Midsomer Murders" or "Holby City."

Not now, though, tonight the whole family has a new big budget Netflix drama to watch together. The streaming service has promised to put one in five of its production dollars in to 'multigenerational' shows and, let's not forget, it is estimated to have a drama-making budget roughly double that of the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 put together. 

Make no mistake -- it may be just one show launching today but this is the start of a Netflix coming after the family sofa gathering. It already owns the mid to late evening "just one more" viewing behaviour once the kids are in bed, but now it's after the early evening cash cow of commercial television. Sure, this is non-linear television, so it could be watched at any time. But traditionally, early evenings -- particularly on the weekends -- is when most families have made a so-called appointment to view. It's also a time at which commercial television is currently struggling to secure their attention across the year, in contrast to the BBC.

So ITV shows have been knocked down the charts by the BBC during 2016, and now it -- and other commercial stations -- have the prospect of Netflix coming after its early evening viewers. As I say, just a single big show for now, but this could be the start of something pretty big in commercial tv. 

Next story loading loading..