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Digital Television: State of the Nation 2021

In these unprecedented times, television’s prominence as our link to the outside world has strengthened, becoming the primary source of entertainment for many. Inevitably, our households became a battleground for the big screen. Viewers have splashed out on their living room equipment, spending significantly more money last year on new TVs, additional sets and extra audio equipment to optimise viewing experiences, as well as keeping family members at peace.

In fact, spending hit £5.6 billion last year in the UK on TV’s STBs and media streamers, and sales of TV sets alone grew 17%. That is the highest annual growth in a generation. Now content has seen a sales surge as well, with more than £12 billion spent by consumers on video and TV content, all for people to get their TV fix. Now platforms like Netflix have seen record subscriber numbers during the pandemic and have invested heavily in new content as well. However, the big burning question remains: Is this the new normal or purely a pandemic pattern? The Digital Television Group’s (DTG) State of the Nation 2021 Report, produced in conjunction with Futuresource, maps out the landscape and outlook, with findings recently presented in a webinar hosted by the DTG, which is now available on demand.

Dynamism Amongst Landscape & Consumer Behaviour More Evident Than Ever

Whilst 2020 proved a challenging year for the television broadcasting industry worldwide, disruption inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic also stimulated opportunity and innovation across the UK TV landscape. The dynamism of this landscape has been increasingly evident in the past year, as the robustness of relevance of the UK’s FTA and Pay-TV sectors were supplemented by the accelerated uptake of premium content streaming across all corners of the population. SVoD services are now taken in 60% of households, up from 50% at the end of 2020. BVoD uptake is also increasing, with three quarters of UK adults using a BVoD service in the previous month.

The unique combination of characteristics that the UK TV industry possesses have been further augmented. Connected hardware adoption has reached new levels as consumers have provided record investment on in-home entertainment experiences, infrastructures have advanced further and proved their resilience amongst record demand, content and service availability has reached new heights, whilst the UK’s world-renowned production standards have been maintained and further enhanced in challenging conditions. All of these have been possible through a continued thirst to innovate and collaborate.

Continued Drive for Television Innovation Shifts to IP

The UK’s reputation for television and technological innovation has been further amplified. Key innovation in production techniques, advertising technology and streaming experiences from UK companies have enabled even richer viewing experiences than ever before.

The major global trend at a market and consumer level in 2020 in the industry has been the notable acceleration in streamed video consumption and uptake. This has also been evident in the UK despite the already well-established industry behaviour. With this behaviour anticipated to further progress, the need to embrace hybrid broadcast and IP delivery models is more pertinent than ever.

The industry desperately requires a roadmap to achieve a hybrid commercial model, building a solid foundation ahead of transition to full IP in future. DVB-I is one of the standards that can help enable this.

Operators might expect to require multicast IP alongside adaptive bit-rate encoding for live video. This is more efficient, however the move to fibre networks changes the equation. Although there are clearly higher bandwidth requirements for unicast video, the technology proved reliable during the COVID-19 pandemic, notwithstanding that video codecs are continually being refined and improved for IP-based VoD.

The cornerstone of the success of the UK television industry is collaboration. In a landscape that is increasingly fragmented and as global services take an increasing share of viewing time, collaboration both within the television and with adjacent sectors, such as AI and video codec development, is crucial in maintaining the UK’s position as front runner in television innovation.

For more information on the Futuresource Living with Digital Series please visit here, or listen to the DTG State of the Nation 2021 on demand webinar here.

Date Published:

David Sidebottom

About the author

David Sidebottom

David is a Principal Analyst – Media and Entertainment. David has over 20 years’ experience in a research and consultancy environment and is closely involved in researching, analysing and consulting on key content industry and consumer technology developments worldwide, with a particular focus on the evolution of digital business models in the TV, video and music industry. David works with a wide variety of high profile Futuresource clients across the content ecosystem including studios, broadcasters, technology companies, hardware vendors, service providers and industry associations. He also directs Futuresource’s long-running global consumer panel ‘Living with Digital’.

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