An interesting article appeared the other day in the newspaper I was reading, about on-demand catchup TV services. It made an interesting change from articles about reality TV shows, Big Brother and X-Factor. For those of you that follow this Blog, we’ve been here before: I’ve written about it a couple of times now, firstly in an article called ‘the demand for on-demand’ and latterly in one about radio. In both cases, my views are basically that on-demand services are great, but show no signs of replacing traditional broadcasting.

Quite refreshing then, than some industry figures seem to agree with me then – outside of the broadcasters themselves.

‘On-demand is a hugely important contributor to the consumer television experience but it won’t naturally replace or inevitably replace scheduled television,’ insists Simon Woodward, chief executive of ANT, which provides software for television sets and set-top boxes for clients such as Samsung.

What many of the technology ‘gurus’ and ‘experts’ often fail to grasp is simply that different technologies can co-exist. Just as microwave ovens didn’t replace traditional gas or electric ovens (though I dare say there were people around when microwaves first emerged that would have predicted exactly that), it is perfectly reasonable to have both. Radio listening continues to be strong despite iTunes, Spotify, LastFM, podcasts and everything else. People enjoy both. Cinema is still prominent, despite blu-ray and 3D. Theatre wasn’t killed off by television. I could go on.

Of course none of the above have remained unaltred and untouched over the years. They are not museum pieces from some bygone golden age. Television channels, though popular and with audiences going up if anything, don’t get anywhere near the audiences they once did. The infamous Eastenders ‘Den and Angie divorce’ storyline from 1986 got an audience of 30 million. Lets repeat that. Thirty million. Today the same programme gets audiences of around 7 million.

The days of 30 million viewers for TV shows is clearly over. And it is unlikely that we will see these sort of audiences again in our lifetime. But the point to remind the technology ‘gurus’ and ‘experts’ about is that those days were over long before the Internet. Long before on-demand, iPlayer, broadband, and the rest. The unstated subtext that the catch-up services – or Internet generally – is bringing about these sorts of radical changes and a decline in broadcasting, simply isn’t true.

How is it that in the internet age, audiences for traditional broadcasting services seem to be going up?

I haven’t the faintest idea. And neither do the ‘experts’.

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