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Let the viewing battle commence: on-demand vs. live TV

Posted by Hannah Wright on 1st March 2013

A recent Thinkbox report revealed that TV viewing is being driven by on-demand content through mobile devices, surpassing the previously popular live broadcasts. But what is it about on-demand that’s setting the TV world on fire?

The Connected Home – how it all began 

On-demand started its life within set-top boxes such as those from EML Wildfire client, Humax, and its popularity soared over the years as consumers with hectic schedules realised they needn’t miss out on their favourite shows.

This growing appreciation sparked a fire in the bellies of TV fans, who realised they wanted this readily-available content outside the living room – either in different rooms or outside the house entirely. So what did this eventually lead to?

The ‘any time, anywhere’ demand

On-demand capabilities are now readily available within most smartphones and tablets, and it’s almost impossible to remember a time that we didn’t have content available to us in everyday scenarios such as the morning commute.

Consumer demand for content at any time and any place has seen recent technology innovation giving consumers the chance to connect to set-top boxes through mobile devices and even record content whilst on the move, through mobile apps.

The ability to do so means that consumers can ensure they have content available within their homes, outside the home and even on their journey home – all across a variety of devices.

Catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer are also permitting TV addicts to download programmes straight from its app, whilst gadgets such as the Tivizen Dongle puts the power of live mobile TV in the hands of fans.

The importance of quality content 

However it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not just the method of TV viewing that’s vital to the content-hungry consumer, but also the quality of content on offer.

With the likes of on-demand film apps such as Netflix, Lovefilm and Now TV offering bundles of DVD, Blu-ray and digital, it seems we have an influx of feature lengths available at our fingertips. But how does TV stack up?

As the battle between on-demand and live TV surges on, underneath it all is this consumer desire for just pure, interesting content. Whether it be live, recorded or on-demand; consumers will watch a programme that is of interest to them, not just how easily they can source it.

If broadcasters could schedule a constant influx of interesting, strong live content across channels that were suitable for the target demographics – would this be a different story? How often do we turn on TV and say, “There’s nothing but rubbish on”?

This lends itself to the reason why on-demand is popular. Of course it has freed consumers from any previous time-constraints, but it’s also allowing them to favour which programmes they watch, and select shows according to their specific tastes.

Netflix: a step in the right direction

Netflix, with 33 million subscribers worldwide, has been busy taking this on board. It was aware that a healthy share of consumers had streamed films from David Fincher, director of “The Social Network”, from beginning to end, and discovered films featuring Kevin Spacey had also been well-received – as had the British version of “House of Cards.”

Taking advantage of the three circles of interest, Netflix was able to create a Venn diagram intersection that suggested that buying the US series could provide the right sort of content for its subscribers. This diagram represents the exact kind of thinking that is focused on really trying to please the consumer and provide them with quality content, available on the move.

And the winner is…?

Films aside, after considering what makes on-demand hot and live not, it seems on-demand is looking to give TV fans the ultimate TV experience, that unfortunately live TV is very narrowly missing out on.

However, if broadcasters and live content providers could take into consideration the request for both strong, quality content that’s available anytime and anywhere, then we would quite possibly be looking at a perfect TV world. Perhaps this is a naive view that fails to really consider the implications of population figures, target markets, viewing tastes and wireless connections – but nevertheless, it’s something we would all still dream of.


Hannah Wright

After joining in 2011, Hannah brings a wealth of experience across both consumer and B2B PR.