(Australian Associated Press)
The challenge facing Australia’s commercial TV networks has been highlighted by new research suggesting that one in five young adults never watch them.
The proportion of adults aged between 25 and 34 who don’t watch any commercial TV on a normal weekday rose to 20.7 per cent last year, a near threefold increase on 7.6 per cent in 2008, according to Roy Morgan Research.
With a similar increase from seven per cent to 18.8 per cent in people aged between 14 and 24, the free-to-air networks face a dwindling audience, particularly as those not watching age into older brackets and are replaced by more young tech-savvy consumers.
In total, more than one in seven Australians watch no commercial television on a normal weekday – more than twice as many as in 2008.
“Commercial TV is now unable to reach around a fifth of all 14- to 34-year-olds, and the trend looks set to continue. In another seven years, it might well be a third,” said Roy Morgan Research general manager media Tim Martin, who announced the figures on Monday.
“Already the very idea of seeing what’s on TV at a particular time is beginning to seem a little archaic next to the massive libraries of niche, personally appealing content ready – by definition – on demand.”
The shift away from commercial TV viewing coincides with the rise of internet-based entertainment, with 40 per cent of Australians over the age of 14 in an average four weeks streaming or downloading video, TV or movies.
That rises to 54 per cent among those who don’t watch commercial TV.
The challenge for Seven, Nine and Ten echoes that facing cable networks in the pay-TV dominated United States.
Financial services firm Deloitte predicts that the world’s largest TV market is likely to face gradual erosion rather than a dramatic implosion.
“An apocalypse is not around the corner,” Deloitte said in its annual Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions report released last month.
Deloitte said Americans between 18 and 24 will watch about 12 per cent less traditional TV in the first quarter of the 2016 broadcast year than a year earlier, dropping by another 20 per cent to less than two hours by 2020.
Australia’s commercial networks, which lost a combined $2.79 billion in 2015, are fighting back.
Seven and Nine are challenging US streaming giant Netflix with on-demand services in the form of Presto and Stan, while Ten increased its share of capital city TV ad revenue in the second half of 2015 after a new advertising deal with the Foxtel-owned Multi Channel Network kicked in on September 1.