It’s not the size of the screen that matters, it’s what you do with it

It’s not the size of the screen that matters, it’s what you do with it


Each day, New Zealanders spend over three hours watching television. And if you live in a SKY household you are watching even more. However, last year we saw some shifts in figures for people using television (PUTs). Less people tuned in to television in the latter half of 2013 when we compare to the same time in the previous year. Obituaries have been written for television (and television advertising) more than a few times in 2013, how TV is old hat compared to the new and exciting viewing options that exist today. Consumers can watch a reality show during their commute or stream a sports match on their computer at work. No one can deny the reality of the media industry today: that consumers can watch in different ways and in their own time.

But putting the digital death nail in television’s coffin misses the big picture. Firstly let’s put the latest shifts in perspective. If we look at the longer term pattern, television is in a better position than it was 10 years ago with overall PUTs growing by 8% (PUTs are a calculation based on the number of people who tune in each day (reach) and the average time spent per viewer).

Did we think it was possible for PUTS figures to continuously increase year on year? Probably not, a more likely explanation for the previous incremental rise might be that Kiwis were tightening their belts while experiencing the effects of the Global Financial Crisis, and staying in to watch the box.   

The idea that television is ‘losing share’ to other media is no more than a device-centric way to talk about what matters most: content. After all, content of all types is what has helped attract consumers to new screens in the first place. Programmers and advertisers have never cared whether their content or ads are watched on a 22-inch screen or a 122-inch screen, so long as someone is watching. The truth is that we are consuming more content now than ever before; more video, more audio and more text.

In 2013 the content audiences loved was Kiwi. Despite the vast range of international offerings homemade shone through and the top individual programme was Breakfast’s special on the America’s Cup with an audience share of 28.5%. We also saw the number of stream views on the TVNZ website grow by 36% during the regatta.

When you focus on the consumers and the content, it all becomes incredibly clear. The best content wins almost all the time. And who usually has the best content? Major programmers across all types of media.

Becoming digital has given us more choice, we have more ways to connect and more to connect to. Despite there being over 100 channels available in New Zealand, fragmentation of the television audience is not as large as we would think. The average number of television channels Kiwis viewed in 2003 was nine and a decade later it’s 18.   

We should all be excited by technological innovations as they enter the market and the promise these changes holds for both the media industry and consumers alike. But in this age of disruption and fragmentation, it’s important for all of us to remember that what matters at the end of the day is what is on the screen, not the screen itself.