As television organisations marked World Television Day on 21 November 2021 globally, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) joined industry stakeholders in recognising the vital role of television (TV) in South Africa in providing information on crucial issues affecting society, while also delivering unsurpassed entertainment.
World Television Day was proclaimed as an annual observance in 1996 by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in recognition of the increasing impact TV had on bringing world attention to conflicts and threats to peace and security and to other major concerns, including economic and social issues.
Today, a quarter of a century later, regulated traditional, linear TV in South Africa continues to play this role, and remains the ‘people’s choice’ in audio-visual content consumption, despite years of predictions around its demise due to various threats. Prime among these is the rise of alternative unregulated content channels provided over the internet.
As reported by the Publisher Research Council (PRC) in Tracking Adspend and Audiences Since Lockdown (November 2021), BRC TAMS data shows TV adult (+15) viewership average monthly figures ranging between 28 000 and 32 900 for January to October 2021. The total minutes viewed per adult over 15 averaged between 2h47 and 3h08 per month for the same period.
The continued popularity of traditional TV is also reflected in adspend. While the Covid-19 pandemic negatively impacted advertising revenue, the PRC reports that September 2021 marked the twelfth month in a row of increasing adspend, with TV’s share (among print, outdoor advertising and radio) growing from 59% in 2019 to 68%. In fact, according to Nielsen’s Trust in Advertising Survey 2021 for Africa (presented at the PAMRO conference, 26-28 October 2021), ads on TV and TV programme product placements ranked among the top six trusted advertising types by consumers in 2021.
Local content underpins popularity of traditional TV
With the sharp digital divide in South Africa meaning that a large proportion of the population are excluded from affordable, stable internet coverage, it is likely that traditional TV will remain a critical component of the media landscape well into the future. Other factors, including unique local content in all South Africa’s major language groups, will further underpin the continuing popularity of traditional TV.
In addition to being a major source of information, education and entertainment across all age groups, traditional TV’s contribution to the country is rich and diverse – from employment opportunities to significant investments in local content production.
Globally, Kantar reports that, in 2020, spend on film and TV content, reached $220 billion. While South Africa represents only a very minor percentage of this, recent research shows that local content being commissioned by broadcasters to independent producers is far in excess of the 40% regulatory requirement.
As one of the most heavily regulated sectors of the economy that serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of South Africa, the traditional broadcasting sector also delivers on a range of other public service obligations set out in licence terms and conditions such as levies and other fiscal contributions.
“Without a doubt, as new digital platforms evolve, consumer behaviour and preferences are shifting from consuming content that is offered to them, to choosing from the many options available to them,” says NAB executive eirector, Nadia Bulbulia. “This does not mean however that traditional TV will not remain important and relevant, particularly as we are already seeing broadcasters embracing changes in technology and consumer behaviour through providing streaming options, roll-out of video-on-demand (VOD) and partnerships with over-the-top (OTT) platforms, among others.
“As quoted by many industry leaders, the future of television is in the interaction between emerging and traditional forms of broadcast and about using co-operative technologies and IT to provide a better, more interactive audience experience.”
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