What is the future of television in the internet age?

From limited options to almost infinite choice, individuals are now gravitating towards online content leaving television behind


08 May 2018 . 5,927 Views

Content consumption has undergone an overwhelming revolution. From the ‘Boombox 60’s when families gathered in their sitting rooms to watch the box television to the satellite era of the 90’s, we are now witnessing a steady move from cable television to online content.

With the growth and revolution of smartphones and mobile data spearheaded by telcos like Safaricom, the ability to consume online content has grown exponentially.

This has created the need for streaming and video on demand services which have both taken a bite out of traditional television viewership.

A few years ago, audiences waited for an entire week to watch their favourite soap opera. But with the rise of small screens – mobile phones, tablets, iPads, laptops, content creators are curating material that can be watched anytime, anywhere, eliminating the need for appointment viewing on television.

 Curation affords audiences tailored content, suited to their needs without the hustle of advertisements.

Video on demand platforms like ShowMax, Viusasa, Netflix, Irokotv, Amazon, Hulu, iflix are providing thousands of television shows and movies for audiences around the world 24/7.

The Economic Survey 2018 statistics show that cable television dropped 16.3 per cent from 95,493 in 2016 to 79,938 last year.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of statistics, the decline is partly attributed to availability of digital platforms such as online streaming and use of digital terrestrial services that may not require monthly subscription payment.

It is no longer about the number of channels users have access to, it is about quality and that’s why they are flocking to streaming platforms for new and original content.

Advertisers on the other hand are following people online where they are spending more and more time on social media apps and streaming.

MultiChoice CEO Yolisa Phahle, is, however, optimistic that television still has a fighting chance even if consumers are spending more time online.

“These days we have become so accustomed to hearing that old media, print, radio and television will soon be replaced by shiny new substitutes like Netflix and Facebook. In my mind, however, the reality is really quite different,” Phahle said at the 5th Digital Dialogue Conference in Dubai last week.

The average person, according to Phahle, spends about four hours a day watching TV in Africa. In addition, they also spend two hours online, consuming different kinds of entertainment, news and information.

“So if we look at how our industry is being impacted by the competition coming from Netflix, Apple, YouTube and even Facebook and Twitter we have to wonder, but more importantly be proactive in creating what the future of TV, and traditional media as we know it, will be,” she said.

Television has to keep up, and that’s why news and entertainment channels are streaming on apps like Facebook and YouTube, and updating their followers on Twitter and Instagram.

So what is the future of television? Have people stopped watching television? Will it be just a device that you stream content through apps? Does it stand a fighting chance?

By 2030, almost everyone will be watching television programmes over the internet. This, is according to former BBC Director of News and Current Affairs James Harding.

He however stated that: “The internet is not keeping everyone informed, nor will it: it is, in fact, magnifying problems of information inequality, misinformation, polarization and disengagement.”

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