NKOTB and why not every trend is a game-changer

Picture this: it’s 1989. You’re curled on the sofa as Top of the Pops blares from the chunky cathode ray TV. You sip a cold Um Bongo and gaze longingly as Jordan Knight from New Kids on the Block croons the lyrics to ‘Cover Girl’. The New Kids are huge – on the TV, on the front of every magazine, constantly on the radio and selling millions of records to drooling teenaged-girls world-wide. ‘NKOTB’ are touted as the next Beatles. Your dad laughs at this prediction and a monumental row ensues as you argue the toss that they will indeed make a lasting mark on musical history…

Unfortunately, this scenario is etched on my brain. My dad is no futurist. He has, however, been around the block a bit (if you pardon the pun).

Media consultancy Decipher’s seventh wave of ‘Mediabug’ research brought to mind this unfortunate argument. We’re obsessed with the new kids in this industry. I’m not talking about Donny, Joey and the likes, but whatever technology is ‘in the moment’. Decipher’s research revealed that just under a quarter of online individuals in the UK have purchased a digital copy of a TV show or film. Whilst the majority of these people have purchased online, 8% have done so via their set top box, and significantly, half of those people have never purchased any digital TV or films before.

Whilst this is hardly a revolution, it’s certainly a quiet but notable shift in behaviour. Arguably, it may be more glamorous to download something from Google Play, but perhaps the familiarity of the set-top box and the trust forged with the service provider are tipping reticent households into this way of watching. Undeniably, the ability to transfer this content seamlessly to the large screen is also a major pull. It’s not actually about the technology per se; it’s about the lure of a good viewing experience and the ease of attaining it.

Conversely, there’s been a huge amount of press noise about SVoD services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. At Thinkbox, we’ve become accustomed to fielding questions about their impact on broadcast telly and explaining the relationship between the two. Hell, we’ve even researched it. But the racket made about the technology often out-shouts the story behind the behaviour.

Decipher’s Mediabug research shows that that subscriptions to SVoD services are slowing substantially and potentially about to plateau. Less than a fifth of the UK’s online population use Netflix and this hasn’t shifted in the last six months. Given Netflix’s impact in the USA, it’s perhaps understandable that the UK trade press have jumped on the bandwagon and predicted the same here as across the pond. But our viewers are a unique bunch, spoiled with great (often free-to-air) content, far fewer ads and brilliant VoD services. The need just isn’t as great and that’s reflected in the numbers.

The reason my dad was right about New Kids is because he’s old enough to understand that there are trends, there are game-changers and there are constants. Not every trend is a game-changer and not every game-changer becomes a constant. But all of them are driven by people.

  • Nicole-Greenfield-Smith_author_pic
    Nicole Greenfield-Smith
    Research Controller
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