Given the oncoming avalanche of new digital platform platforms -- from Disney (with Disney+), NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia and others, industry executives may wonder: Are we still in the golden age of so-called peak TV?
Netflix continues on track to spend $8 billion per year on original content and $13 billion overall. Amazon, Hulu, Apple and perhaps others, spend anywhere from $2 billion to $4 billion each. We haven’t even touched on future TV and film production costs for Disney+, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia.
The definition of peak TV now comes annually from FX Networks.
At the end of last year, the cable TV network group (now part of Walt Disney) worried about the 495 “premium” scripted TV shows on broadcast, ad-supported cable, premium no-ad cable, and subscription video services.
How can all these shows survive? (Those 495 shows are up versus 487 the year before.)
We don’t know. Premium shows continue so grow, with estimates that perhaps a bigger explosion of more original TV and movie content is coming.
Who is watching all this? Better yet, who has the time? Research confirms consumers already have trouble consuming what is already out there.
Maybe the answer is that TV series are becoming more easily digestible. On Netflix, for example, we have many recent TV series only lasting, one, two, or three seasons. The big SVOD service then moves on to other stuff.
There are still time constraints. Total media time among consumers is now around 11 hours a day. Does that mean sleep-time, eating-time, commuting-time, are in danger of being inundated with even more content?
Quibi, the new digital OTT platform from longtime TV/movie executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and veteran technology executive Meg Whitman, is fighting for time around the fringes. Short-form TV-like series will make up the bulk of the service, packaged around 7-to-10 minute TV episodes.
Specifically, Quibi is for mobile consumption -- targeted for those moments when we are in line at a bank, a doctor’s waiting room, or a gas station. Quibi says it has sold $100 million in advertising, which comes on top of a collective $1 billion in financial investments.
But this isn’t the premium TV stuff, “quality” TV shows. How can we measure this? Perhaps we should find critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes for all TV shows, then compare them to a decade ago. A higher number now might talk up that quality descriptor.
Overall, if you believe there is higher quality TV shows now -- and more of them -- you can also blame it on marketing. Perhaps, we are just lured into more consumption. What could go wrong?
You pose an interesting question, Wayne. Despite all of the emphasis on "premium scripted shows" being too numerous, we should remember that most TV viewing is devoted to what might be called "non-premium unscripted fare"---for example news, sports, talk shows, so-called reality shows, cooking shows, game shows, etc. etc. as well as reruns of scripted sitcoms and dramas, etc. Toss in documentaries and movies and this very varied menu is what generates much of our TV comsumption.
As for who has the time, that's easy. Ten percent of the adult population consumes about 25%-30% of all TV fare. Add the next decile of couch potatos to create a heavy viewing quintile and you will find that 20% of the population accounts for 50-55% of all time spent with "TV". As we note in "TV Dimensions 2019", 54% of these heaviest viewers are aged 55+ and only 43% have had one or more years of college education. This compares to only 15% of the lightest viewers being millennials and 66% having college credentials. Go a bit deeper and explore the vocational status of TV's heaviest viewers and you will find that a very high percentage are not employed outside their homes, or are retired or are currently out-of-work. Which means that many are home for much of the day---hence they watch lots and lots of TV---including a fair share of those "premium scripted shows". As for those who are in the full time labor force or at school and the younger, on-the-go or "swinging singles" groupings, they simply don't have the time to watch lots of TV--and this is nothing new---it has always been the case.
One last observation concerns the effects of increased program supply. We did an analysis for our sunscribers which corelated tha amount of time spent by adults with TV over the years with the vast increase in available program content over the same years. Invariably, viewing time rose as available content increased---but the incremental viewing time was far smaller, proportionally. For example, between the early 1990s and the early 2010s the amount of programming available on "linear TV" rose five- fold, but viewing time increased by only 15%.
My advice for producers of "premium scripted shows" ,or wannabies of same, is simpy this, "Sorry guys, but audience fragmentataion is here to stay so you might as well stop complaining about the"glut" of "quality" programs and do the best job you can with your projects."
For me, to truly understand what is happen, you need the total number of viewers and the amount of time they are watching. Second, there is competition from websites that also cut into time. I know I have a pretty hardcore members who enter the sweepstakes 7 days a week and one hour per day. There are many sites on the net that can say the same. Many members says the reason is the quality of entertainment. In short there will be a bubble coming between consumers free time and the total number of show hours and shows.
Craig, people always decry the "low" quality of most TV shows---that has shown up in every study I've seen for many decades---it's a given.What respondents in such studies are thinking about ---in many cases--is primetime fare----yet even so, a typical viewer has a private list of two, three or four primetime series which are, indeed, liked and are watched frequently, plus many others---often in other dayparts---which also pass the acceptability test and are viewed more or less routinely.
Overall, Nielsen is telling us that "linear TV" is losing only about 2-4% of its total viewing time tonnage per year---with younger adults reducing their consumption to a greater degree. Some of this is going to digital but SVOD is taking more of it---but that's still TV to an average subscriber, who prefers this type of content, the on-demand aspect plus, in the case of Netflix, no ads. Most digital media activity takes place during the daytime and early evening and weekend daytime hours when TV viewing is generally lower. Also, a large percentage of digital media activity occurs away from home---at the workplace, at school, while outdoors generally, etc. In contrast, out-of-home viewing for TV is very infrequent--adding about 3% to in-home audiences. In short, digital media is not, necessarily the direct competitor for TV's total viewing time that some think it is.
With leisure time being finite, consumers spend 15% of their viewing time just searching for something to watch or around 20-30 minutes a day (Ericsson ConsumerLab TV & Media 2016). This gets to the heart of consumer frustration with peak viewing options. As a data company, we wanted to provide our clients the ability to use data to help their users find content quickly. We launched our Trending Data product last March that looks at what is trending on various platforms such as social media, TVOD, SVOD, AVOD, etc. With daily updates, it helps to surface content that we know is resonating with tens of millions of people. Also, we provide trailer content since research shows it is one of the top reasons consumers watch a TV show or movie. If you told everyone that they would spend over a year of their life looking for content to watch, I wonder how many would take up gardening. As an industry, it is our grail quest to reduce this time and give consumers back more time to enjoy what they watch.