The Specialist View – AV

Specialist advice on how to make the most of your channel in today’s media market.

1st June 2023 Read time: 3 minutes
What's happening?

The Demise of Linear TV for Children

ITV have announced that they are to bring the broadcast of its CITV channel to a close in the autumn and will shift their children’s programming to a solely digital offering through ITVX. While the move towards streaming and on-demand platforms is not a new development, as demonstrated by Disney who shut down their broadcast channel in 2020 with the launch of Disney+, ITV is the first of the UK’s terrestrial channels to do so. This move is causing a stir among parents, industry professionals, and educators alike.

On the one hand, the move towards digital content is a reflection of changing viewing habits among young audiences. With the proliferation of on-demand and streaming services, children are increasingly consuming content through digital platforms such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime and, of course, Disney+. YouTube was the most used online platform among 3 to 17-year-olds (88%) while the rest of the SVOD services (Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ etc.) have a weekly reach of 71% [source: Ofcom]. These platforms offer greater flexibility and control over what children watch and allow them to access a wide range of content at any time of day.

This, along with Ofcom’s report showing that nearly half of children consume content through BVOD services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub (as it was known at the time of the report) provides a significant level of ammunition to back ITV’s decision to shift its children’s content to its new streaming service, ITVX Kids, which is set to launch in July.

Linear TV has historically provided a safe and regulated space for children’s content, with strict guidelines around advertising and age-appropriate material. The move towards digital platforms raises questions about the regulation of content and the potential for children to be exposed to inappropriate material.

The loss of linear TV programming for children could have a significant impact on the quality and diversity of content available to young audiences. Questions are raised over broadcasters’ commitments and incentives to invest in producing high-quality, original content for children. This could result in a narrowing of the range of content available, with fewer options for educational or culturally diverse programming. When CITV launched as a standalone channel in 2006, the company was spending about £35m a year on children’s programming. Almost two decades later, its outlay is only a few million a year.

It is important, going forward, that regulators and industry professionals work together to ensure that the needs of young audiences are met, and that the high standards of safety and diversity in children’s programming are maintained in the digital era.

Record Highs in Commercial Radio

The latest RAJAR results for Q1 2023 have indicated that commercial radio has reached an all-time high in terms of listenership. This quarter has seen steady growth in the number of listeners, with a record-breaking total of 38.7 million adults tuning in to commercial radio stations each week. This figure represents an increase of 1.5 million listeners compared to Q1 2022.

Global continues to dominate with the top three commercial radio brands in the UK; Heart, Capital and Smooth radio. The largest percentage increases in terms of reach were seen from Boom Radio, now reaching 635k baby boomers, TalkRadio from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp reaching 840k, and Greatest Hits Radio adding a huge 1m more listeners since Q4 2022 – now reaching a total of 5.3m. This is before the Ken Bruce effect comes into play after he jumped ship from BBC Radio 2 back in April after 31 years.

The data highlights the resilience and popularity of commercial radio despite the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase in listenership can be attributed to the diverse range of content and programming offered by commercial radio stations, which continue to attract and engage a broad audience.

The RAJAR results also reveal the significant role of digital platforms in the growth of commercial radio. The popularity of digital listening has continued to rise, with 68% of the UK population accessing radio via digital means. This includes online streaming, smart speakers, and mobile apps, which have become increasingly important channels for consumers to access their favourite radio stations

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