Summer might seem like a faded and distant memory by now but, despite the doom and gloom stories about the state of British TV and the endless articles about declining ratings, we needn’t be worried. The autumn schedules have plenty to keep us distracted from the shortening days and colder nights.
Even the old stalwart of the X Factor, blighted by bad press surrounding falling ratings, managed a triumphant return when the first of the live results shows quietly put Strictly in its place for the first time this season with 8.8m to Strictly’s 8.5m – including an impressive peak of 11.2 million.
11.2m might be disappointing in the context of the phenomenal success of the X Factor in its heyday, but in the context of today’s TV viewing, with its wonderful and ever increasing opportunities for catch up viewing, self scheduling and box set bingeing, an 11 year old programme format that still gets over 11 million of us simultaneously sat around the TV set, deserves a large round of applause.
Elsewhere on the schedules, ITV are rolling out their big drama hitters. Recent weeks have seen an explosion of them onto our screens – their scheduled timing an endorsement of ITV’s faith in them to perform. Along with the warm hug ratings machine that is Downton Abbey (you dark horse Lady Mary!), and a new series of Lewis that 8 million of us settled down to watch every week during the last series, historical dramas The Great Fire and Grantchester are also pulling in both great numbers and great reviews.
Elsewhere in TV land Channel 4 are doing a sterling job to keep us pinned to our sofas. Gogglebox – a show that works equally well as either Friday night entertainment or Saturday morning hangover fodder – is pulling in close to 4 million viewers on a Friday night. And nearly a million of those are coming from C4+1 – another indication of quite how adept we are at watching on our own terms to our own schedule. Homeland, which curiously never delivers quite the numbers that the (well deserved) hype would suggest, is back and causing a 9pm schedule headache on Sunday nights in my household. +1 to the rescue again.
The BBC is on a roll as well. The one off 90 minute drama ‘Marvellous’ was one of the most original and moving pieces of TV I’ve seen for a while (still available on iPlayer) and Peaky Blinders, Strictly and The Apprentice still dominate both water cooler and social media chatter.
It’s not just traditional broadcasters that are pushing out exciting and original content this autumn either. Amazon Prime has just released its new series Transparent. This 10 parter, an utterly original and slightly bonkers show, is going to be one of those explosive hits that will be the stuff of box set binge legend. You heard it here
You see, great TV isn’t about BARB ratings. It’s about content. And this autumn we have great content by the bucket load. So there is no need for us to mourn decline in traditional linear TV viewing. As the latest research from Thinkbox will testify, viewers still see TV content as TV content whether they are watching it on their TV, phone, tablet or PC. Via You Tube, 4OD or iPlayer. And so long as agencies and advertisers embrace the change, and don’t expect the old ways of media to continue to work in the new age of viewing, then the decline in TV ratings needn’t be mourned. Instead it becomes an incredible opportunity for new ways of connecting with viewers. Because whatever devise we are watching on, and whatever platform we are viewing through, we are still, ultimately, a nation of telly addicts.
Written by Becky Smithson, Broadcast Planning Director.