It seems like the days when Michael Barrymore was Mr. Saturday Night and every kid wanted to beat-up "Wolf" or "Shadow" on Gladiators are long gone. ITV has suffered dismal ratings and advertisers are hurrying to jump ship.
ITV is also keen to get out of its ‘networking arrangments’. Years ago, the government said that ITV had to broadcast a specific number of hours of regional news content and documentary material. The big Saturday night shows funded this kind of stuff, but not anymore.
If you can recall fine documentary shows like World in Action, This Week and First Tuesday you’ll know that to allow ITV to worm out of its news and current affairs responsibilities would be a disaster.
Of course what ITV desperately needs is to come up with some decent formats for primetime shows, preferably ones that don’t involve Ant ‘n’ Dec.
The number of ‘banker shows’, i.e. those shows that reach 7-10 million viewers, seem few-and-far between. Whilst X Factor and I’m A Celebrity obtain those sorts of viewer numbers, these formats are looking pretty tired these days.
So broadcasting is not dead, but perhaps linear broadcasting is. Linear broadcasting is basically traditional TV. You come home from work, open the paper, find out what’s on the box, make the tea and then wait for your favourite show to appear. If, for some crazy reason, you enjoy X Factor – you wait for Saturday night, 7.30pm and you tune in.
But the Internet has forced a new model on TV broadcasting, it’s far more ‘on-demand’ or perhaps ‘always-on’. You get the show you want, when you want. No longer "appointment to view" – it’s there when you need it. Just like a good podcast, vodcast, MP3 download or YouTube video.
"The old networks are beginning to realise that their economics are turned inside-out. In the US, the networks are starting to offer hit shows on iTunes and the web, undercutting their own distribution channels: local affiliates, cable systems and retail. TV studios, in turn, are undercutting the networks by offering shows directly to viewers online."
He adds rather brilliantly:
"Simply put, a good network today will find the right stuff for you: no longer one size fits all, but one size fits me; no longer a prisoner of a 24-hour schedule, but primetime as my time."
This on-demand nature of broadcasting presents many challenges, not least for advertisers. People tend to fast-forward through those annoying ads, if they are allowed to do so.
But change is inevitable. One you’ve developed the taste for on-demand it’s very hard to go back to a world when you wait hours, days or weeks for a show to appear. We want our favourite TV now!