Almost with regular precision, someone somewhere pronounces “LinearTV” dead. Yet, it is either a cat with seven lives or the ultimate walking dead: because Linear TV is as much a life as usual. 

Interestingly people start to watch Linear Tv again and again. Younger audiences, who have used streaming service only, are now starting to discover Linear TV and find it refreshing. There is also a belief that people like Linear TV because it provides some form of stability and routine in a world that has become more fragmented and chaotic.

Time to explain the Linear TV phenomenon and why it has some universal survival instinct.

Big mistake: why people mix up technical infrastructure and content format

A main reason, why people think that Linear TV is dead, is that they mix up TV distribution with TV content. Clearly, LinearTV is not an infrastructure in its own right.  It uses the same signal distribution that most TV services use. But the ultimate difference is that Linear TV traditionally uses cable and satellite; while more and more users migrate to broadband & internet delivery. Don’t be mistaken – and here it becomes complex – because your broadband and internet most likely comes also via cable; and only in same cases via satellite or – a bit more often – via LTE or 5G Mobile network, of course.

LinearTV has, hence, always been considered that old-fashioned cable tv channel. Even more, it is the epitome of broadcast TV. This classic of all TV that is around now for almost a century. Before cable (which started to penetrate the market in the ‘70s) the only way to receive TV was over the air: you remember those ugly little wiry trees that you found on each house? The terrestrial antenna was the mode de jour for signal delivery. Technically its functionality was very limited and allowed only a very small number of transmissions. These were the days, when you resorted to a handful of TV channels and were happy with it.  

Linear TV is how we are socialised as (“Lean-Back”) TV consumers

Those were the heydays of Linear TV, of course. You could certainly not offer a large VOD library or even interactivity. The audience had to consume what the broadcaster delivered – in a linear programming mode. Nevertheless, this was how we all were socialized and learned how to watch TV. As a small child someone else decides for you what to watch and no wonder, linear kids TV programs continue to be a staple of each TV offer and household. 

We learned another important aspect about Linear TV: that is a ‘lean-back’ activity. You are not meant to be deeply engaged or actively ‘working’ on the TV set while watching. You relax on your couch and let other do the job for you: the programming of the TV channel in a way that keeps you entertained, informed, inspired and interested. It is the opposite of ‘lean-forward’ TV: i.e. your constant search for the next title to watch or some interactivity features. 

Now people usually think that because people cut off their cable subscriptions, that Linear TV is also being killed. However, only because you do change the distribution mechanism does not mean that you also change the programming format. Linear TV channels are now widely available through other signal delivery systems, including what is called Over the Top TV (OTT TV) aka streaming. 

The confusion is how the word ‘streaming’ is used: most people think it means video on demand services like Netflix or Amazon Prime. But streaming is just the fact, that the signal or video is distributed via the internet – and the internet can come to you through many different means as we all know now.  It will hence not surprise you that some ‘streaming services’ start to offer linear TV services as well: you can subscribe to Prime channels; Netflix is experimenting with linear TV programming and dedicated channels as well.

FAST TV is the bringing back Linear TV

One revival of LinearTV comes in the form of the FAST TV channels. It is the best way of using the power of Linear TV: a large variety of channels, easily accessible programming for the audiences in a kind of comfort-food type of packaging. You as a user can lean back and zap through all the channels to find exactly that topic that attracts you. Once selected you lean back and enjoy whatever the programmers have put on the menu for you. Think of a multi-course dinner of comfort food.

If you are then the provider of such comfort food, you are in for a good relationship with your clients. Hence, especially the concept of FAST TV is something that is now strongly intertwined with the revival of Linear TV. It should also make you think very hard about launching FAST TV channels soon yourself in order to establish or foster this bond with your audiences and consumers.

That is why people continue to watch linear TV channels and why you should always think about whether it could be part of your TV strategy, too. A well-produced and distributed Linear TV channel is like a friend to its audience. It establishes a bond of trust between the programme editor and the consumer. It can be a strong linchpin for any media business to create stickiness and ensure that the consumer is coming back over and over again.  Linear TV is like a community – and communities can be strong.

Some other survival skills of Linear TV are in its ubiquity: you will not run a binge marathon of a TV series in the background. But you might have your TV channel up and running all day in the background. Like a radio. This holds particularly true for NewsTV. News TV might be the mother of all linear TV programming if you so will. 

Live events and, first and foremost, sports are the other tools in the LinearTV survival toolbox. This will always ensure that linear TV programming is refreshed and alures people to use it.

A TV format that has been around for 95 years is not killed by a change in technology. What we witness now with FAST TV actually is that a new technology and infrastructure revives Linear TV in a way that we have not seen since Digital TV was introduced. It is time for you now to think about how you can launch a TV channel and make best use of this revival.

How would you like to launch a FASTTV service or a Linear TV channel? Contact us for assistance.