A day to mark the importance of TV

In the pantheon of days to celebrate, pop the champagne and be thankful, one day stands head and shoulders above all others.

Christmas Day? Don’t be so predictable. Your birthday? Get over yourself.

No, it’s World TV Day of course, and World TV Day is today. Today, 21 November, is the day designated by the United Nations as a moment to celebrate the cultural importance of TV.

They couldn’t have timed it better. I suspect that, back in 1966 when they decided to have a World TV Day every 21 November, they knew there was a good chance that in 2018 it would be just after the launch of a ground-breaking piece of research that showed why TV, live and on demand, remains such an important part of our lives.

The research the UN cannily anticipated back in 1966 is of course ‘The Age of Television’. You can read all about it here, but in a nutshell it revealed why different forms of TV and video co-exist in our lives. It found that there are now 8 distinct reasons why people watch TV and video, and live TV is most popular for all but one.

By understanding the human reasons we watch, we can understand the roles different forms of video play (and, by extension, plan advertising better). For example, the findings defuse the notion that Netflix or Amazon are somehow ‘replacing’ broadcaster TV. Yes, some live viewing time has been redistributed into the on-demand world, but subscription VOD services are less a predator than a welcome addition to our TV diet that provide something extra. They’re new, on-demand TV channels people can choose to have.

SVOD satisfies some similar needs to broadcaster VOD services – especially our desire to lose ourselves in other worlds via TV. But it can’t really do all the things live TV can, especially the more social or communal reasons we watch TV, which are so important to viewers – we like watching together. This helps explain why, in a time of unlimited on-demand choice, live viewing is still over half of all video time.

‘The Age of Television’ has also shown that what we expect video to do for us has expanded thanks to new forms. For example, online video like YouTube excels at quick distraction – largely due to the often-mobile nature of use and prevalence of short-form content. And it excels when it comes to watching video for practical help, because it has a very long tail of easily accessible ‘how to’ guides on a variety of topics. We used to look at a DIY manual or ask someone how to fix the tap, now there’s countless videos to help us.

Back in 1966, the UN probably hadn’t envisaged how the world of TV would expand and change, the on-demand babies it would have, and the new forms of video that would emerge alongside it. The world of TV and video is a very different place now, but the fundamentals have not changed. Technology may change rapidly but human nature does not, and we will continue to need all types of TV for many World TV Days to come.

  • Lindsey Clay
    Lindsey Clay
    CEO, Thinkbox
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