20 April 2019

TV is Still Relevant: On-Line Viewers Return to TV

By Johan Ishak

TELEVISION ('TV') is still relevant despite this new diabolical era of digital disruption. Malaysia’s leading broadcast company, Media Prima Berhad, announced that it recorded upward trends in audience share and television viewership underscoring the success of its strategies to maintain its dominance in the television segment while strengthening its digital capabilities. According to international television and internet research company, Nielsen, the combined viewership share for the four commercial TV stations, namely TV3, ntv7, 8TV, and TV9 had increased from 34% to 38% in January 2019, securing its pole position in the Malaysian television industry. TV3’s share alone increased from 21% to 27% of the mass Malay market, while 8TV increased from 27% to 29% of the Chinese market. This makes TV3 and 8TV the number one ranking stations for Mass and Chinese markets respectively.

In broadcast news, TV3’s flagship programme, Buletin Utama, recorded 5.3 million in daily viewership reach — an uptrend since the first quarter of 2018. The strong performance indicates that it has remained the preferred choice for television news among Malaysians. The month of the 14th Malaysian General Election in 2018 saw TV's news programmes garnering a total of 400 million viewership — this reflects a frequency of an average of 23.5 times viewership by 17 million people. This makes Buletin Utama the number one news programme in the country. In fact, the average viewership of 1.5 million in 2017 has now doubled to 3 million after a year of steady improvement. The station associated such success to its ability to provide trustworthy news that is impartial and close to the hearts of the 'Rakyat'.

Famous drama slots such as Akasia, Samarinda, Seramedi, and Lestary, continue to attract large audience numbers. Nur was among the most followed dramas of 2018 commanding over 11 million television viewers in 2018. Akasia’s latest offering, Pujaan Hati Kanda, which features Remy Ishak and Mira Filzah, garnered 12 million views since it aired in December 2018. The last episode recorded 4.5 million viewers, and reached 30 million views on TV3Malaysia YouTube. Leftenan Zana, featuring Janna Nick, has reached average viewers of 4 million per episode towards its conclusion. Anugerah Juara Lagu (“AJL”) remained an important event in Malaysia’s entertainment industry with the 33rd edition recording an increase in television viewers to 6.3 million. Online, TV3Malaysia YouTube saw a significant jump to 5.2 million total viewers during the three-hour award show. Cumulatively, all the videos for AJL33 reached 26 million viewers on You Tube after 1 month being aired on demand and on-line.

Riding and embracing the digital disruption wave, the democratisation of content on various platforms can significantly fuel audience growth. TV3’s YouTube page, TV3Malaysia, recorded 1.4 million subscribers (so far, and growing) and was awarded the YouTube Gold Award for being one of the 16 YouTubers in Malaysia to reach 1 million subscribers (so far) with 120 million video views monthly in December 2018 with that trend still continuing and growing. There is a correlation between the increase in viewer on-line to the increase in viewership on TV. It is believed that the democratisation model is what had led to the unexpected return of viewers to TV. This includes both Cord Cutters and Cord Nevers, the former being Gen X that was once a TV viewer and the latter being the Millennials who grew up not watching TV.

The Cord Cutters, typically aged 35 and above, are believed to have gone through the act of binge watching drama episodes that have been aired on TV simply because they want to be on par with their peers (or even older family members) who are watching those episodes on a current and appointment basis via the traditional Free-to-Air ('FTA') TV. Once they have reached that 'on par' status, then they will gladly sit on their sofas watching the new episodes in front of a normal TV instead of on-line. The Cord Nevers seem to be new converts - they had probably, once, not been interested to watch TV dramas and grew to consume content on-line such as Netflix, Iflix, Hooq or even You Tube. However, when they had a good taste of these dramas on-line, they too joined their Cord Cutter family members. We are now seeing younger audience sitting on sofas in front of normal TV alongside their mothers, sisters and what not.

TV broadcasters recognise the need to appeal to their loyal viewers across multiple platforms. They have transitioned successfully into the digital realm while securing their dominance in traditional television. The traditional viewership and digital numbers continue to grow, which indicates the potential for advertisers to reach the mass audience across different tools. This is also a testament that FTA TV broadcasters are on the right track to support their mission to enrich lives through informing, entertaining and engaging content across platforms (i.e. platform agnostic). Contrary to some opinions, TV3 content actually has (now) a very strong millennial following as evident in its YouTube viewers' profile that shows the age group ‘13-24 years old’ as the largest audience segment.

In the end, it is too early to conclude that TV is experiencing its dawn of demise. People said the same thing about Radio when TV was invented - but Radio still survives, quite strongly as well. With all these empirical observations, the word 'Digital Disruption' might just evolve into 'Digital Opportunity' alongside jargons such as Platform-Agnostic, Democratisation of Content, Multiscreen Viewing, Content Windows, Audience Convergence and many more. It sounds complicated, but it certainly is a good news after all. Therefore, we shall conclude that TV is still relevant.


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