Ev­ery­one loves Free­view

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television - TIM MARTAIN

FREE-to-air tele­vi­sion is a sur­pris­ingly re­silient beast.

De­spite a pa­rade of po­ten­tial threats in­clud­ing DVD box sets, Blu­Ray and in­ter­net tor­rents, free-to-air tele­vi­sion is of­fi­cially more pop­u­lar than ever.

Sur­vey data is show­ing that an av­er­age of 14.7 mil­lion view­ers now tune in to com­mer­cial free-to-air TV ev­ery day – an all-time high.

And the amount of time we spend watch­ing TV ev­ery day has also in­creased to three hours and nine min­utes in the big cities, up seven min­utes a day. In re­gional ar­eas such as Tas­ma­nia, av­er­age FTA view­ing has shot up by a whop­ping 20 min­utes a day.

So when we have all these other op­tions these days, why is it that so many peo­ple still watch so much TV ev­ery day in­stead of just break­ing out the Scrubs Sea­son 4 box set or tor­rent­ing the en­tire se­ries of Game of Thrones on­line?

Fans of big block­buster se­ries like Dex­ter or True Blood have shown re­peat­edly that they are un­will­ing to wait for a lo­cal re­lease date on FTA or pay TV, pre­fer­ring to down­load or buy box sets. And when these shows do reach FTA TV, they do not tend to rate very well, as fans have al­ready watched them and most FTA view­ers just aren’t in­ter­ested.

But some­times when FTA does ex­per­i­ment with big-ticket and first-run TV it can do rather well.

The dig­i­tal mul­ti­chan­nels have been a test­ing range for this con­cept: ABC2 has The Tu­dors, GO! has Vam­pire Diaries, Eleven snapped up Wil­fred, and so on.

And it might be work­ing for them ( or maybe it’s the end­less retro pro­gram­ming), as the mul­tis have won a big­ger au­di­ence share over the first six months of 2011 ( 20.04 per cent share) than all pay TV chan­nels com­bined ( 17.69 per cent).

But the main FTA chan­nels are still the be­he­moths of Aus­tralian TV and the top-rat­ing shows tend to much more vanilla.

Soft dra­mas like Win­ners and Losers and Packed to the Rafters tend to dom­i­nate the rat­ings charts along with early-evening re­al­ity shows like Masterchef and The Block.

So it seems most view­ers still like their TV un­chal­leng­ing and easy to di­gest, habit-form­ing and suit­able as back­ground noise if you can’t bring your full at­ten­tion to bear.

How­ever, when Seven took a punt with its new se­ries Down­ton Abbey, it be­came the run­away, if un­ex­pected, hit of the sea­son.

So maybe if the FTA chan­nels try more risks , things might im­prove even more.

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