What is Linear TV Programming and How Is it in 2020

What is Linear TV Programming and How Is it in 2020

There is a common misconception that linear broadcasting is obsolete and is a dying business with the rise of on-demand content like Netflix and even YouTube.

However, according to various recent studies, linear broadcasting and linear streaming (over the internet) are still relevant. People of all ages are still watching linear TV content, although we do have to acknowledge the shits in consumer behavior that now spend more time with their TVs and other devices to stream various forms of content.


Linear VS On-Demand TV

Linear TV programming refers to the ‘traditional’ means of watching TV. We—as viewers—, pick a channel and watch a TV show according to the scheduled time. So, we can’t fast-forward or reverse any show unless it’s recorded.

On-demand TV or video-on-demand (VOD), on the other hand, is also known as non-linear TV, which essentially provides their viewers the ability to choose and watch any shows/movies whenever they want. YouTube is technically a form of on-demand TV, and we can choose any video and watch it anytime we wish.


Why People Are Still Watching Linear Content

The ‘traditional’, passive experience of watching linear TV programming allows us to stay back and focus on the content rather than burying our thoughts in making our decisions in what shows or movies we should watch. This is a condition we call “option numbness” or “option paralysis”.

With millions of YouTube videos and other on-demand content available on the internet, the phenomenon creates a decision paralysis/option paralysis. We are faced with the option to watch so much available content, we end up spending too much time on the decision-making process and not on watching the content.

So, having more options and more control isn’t always better, and isn’t always what the audience needs. Linear TV, on the other hand, lets viewers be passive and focus on the content instead.


Linear TV Programming: Challenges

Linear broadcasting is here to stay, but it’s quite obvious that there are some important challenges in linear TV programming for 2020 and onwards. Below, we will discuss some of the important challenges we should pay attention to, as well as the potential solutions for each challenge.

VOD Content

It’s no secret that VOD (Video on Demand) streaming service is the biggest challenge to traditional linear TV, as well as linear streaming services delivered over the internet. Back in 2018, a study suggested that Millenials and Gen Ys spend more time watching Netflix than all BBC channels combined together.

Netflix, along with other streaming services like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video is obviously the biggest challenge to the live linear TV model. Not only do they provide flexibility in allowing their audience to watch their favorite shows without the constraint of a schedule, but they also offer some of the best content available today.

Shows like Stranger Things, Dark (Netflix), Star Wars and MCU shows (Disney +), and The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) are part of the reason why these streaming services are the audiences’ favorite nowadays.

Competing for attention

Still related to the above, with the availability of thousands of interesting shows on Netflix and millions of free video entertainment on YouTube and other platforms, it’s obviously more difficult for the linear TV channels to get the audience’s attention.

More promotions for the linear channel is necessary, and we can no longer be passive even if our linear content is good. We have to be active in promoting both our channel and our content, participate in social media where our audience gathers, and so on.

Without heavily communicating our channel’s presence and investing in attractive content, we won’t be able to attract their attention.

Relevant and up-to-date 

Another key challenge for linear TV programming in competing with on-demand services is to stay relevant and up-to-date. This is not only about content, but also on the user interface, promotional messages, and any other aspects where the linear TV channel meets the audience.

On the other hand, linear TV programming should leverage the natural advantages of a linear TV over these VOD channels, such as the ability to offer time-sensitive and local content (i.e. local news), live events that can attract big audiences (i.e. live sports events, Grammys, etc. ), and create content for older audiences that haven’t (and might not be interested) in making the switch to digital.

Catering to your target audience

To effectively capture your target audience’s attention, it’s very important for the live TV channel to really understand their target audience. Since linear TV programming is about ‘pushing’ our content to the audience and not giving them any choice, it should be proactive in introducing new and relevant content to the target audience.

Again, we should leverage the linear TV’s advantage in surprising people and help our audience discover something new. In VOD streaming, it’s much harder for the audience to find new content, and they might need to make the research review sites and so they have to go outside the streaming platform.

In a linear TV experience, we can ‘push’ new content to our viewers and let them experience it right away.


Leveraging The Advantages of Linear Format

There are two core advantages of the linear TV programming format when compared to the on-demand counterpart. We have discussed the first, which is option paralysis, further above. If you’ve used a VOD service like Netflix in the past, chances are you’ve experienced getting overwhelmed with the abundance of shows available on the platform.

The second benefit is that VOD content is much harder and much more expensive to build in the long run. A VOD platform’s subscription-based pricing model won’t be justified if it only has one or two interesting content, so these streaming platforms have to invest in a lot of shows covering various niches. This is why Netflix invests billions in content, and why until now, Netflix is still losing money.

Linear TV channels should leverage these key advantages and create relevant content to please the ideal audience, here are some techniques we can use in linear TV programming to optimize audience engagement:

  • Hammocking: a technique where a ‘weak’ or relatively new show is sandwiched between two popular shows, just like how a hammock hangs between two strong trees. Viewers tend to stay with the network rather than switching channels between the two strong shows. This can help the new show to become more popular in the long-run.
  • Tent-pole: a show or film that supports the linear channel’s financial condition. So, weaker shows are scheduled around this tent-pole shows to boost these weaker shows’ performances.
  • Cross-program: connecting two shows together, for example by showing different shows that feature the same lead actors back-to-back.
  • Hot switching: as the name suggests, this technique is about eliminating the pause between the end of one program and the start of another program, especially during prime time. The idea is fairly obvious: by eliminating wait time (even the credit roll), we can immediately get viewers attracted to the next show before they can switch channels.
  • Theming: grouping together some shows that are centered around the same theme, for example, several true-crime shows shown within a certain time period.
  • Marathons: as the name suggests, showing several episodes or even the whole season of popular shows at one time. This method is effective in capturing loyal fans’ attention for several hours. Marathons often take place on weekends and during holidays.

While there are various other strategies to try with the long history of linear TV programming, the above techniques are still some of the most effective available today.


End Words

While there’s no doubt that the flexibility of on-demand content is now winning the market share, there’s still a lot of rooms for linear TV programming with its loyal audience. Linear television will still have its place, and you can easily create your own online TV channel with Viloud and start streaming your linear and on-demand content.