Yet again the “TV is dead” brigade have been left confounded. Incredible audiences of up to 17m tuned in to watch the England women’s team’s triumph over Germany on Sunday.
And while the regular audience for the Commonwealth Games has been relatively modest, it’s beaten the average for the slots.
Nobody disputes the underlying trend though – traditional TV audiences have been falling and viewers have been turning to on demand services.
But is the trend inevitable? And do a few recent events suggest a means to recovery?
Various sporting events, the Eurovision Song Contest and the Jubilee celebrations all brought in large audiences. These events were all exceptional but they have one thing in common: they were all live.
A download can never beat live television. You simply do not know what will happen next. Even the most carefully prepared programme can take an unexpected twist.
It would be wrong to imagine that only news, sport or topical programmes need to be live.
Take a typical week on BBC One in the 80s or early 90s. Blue Peter, Wogan, Holiday, Top of the Pops and Tomorrow’s World were all live. That’s Life – while recorded on the day of transmission – was effectively live as it was only edited in exceptional circumstances.
All these programmes gained an extra energy and spontaneity.
It’s important to distinguish between the benefits live broadcasting brought these programmes and, say, a low budget soap opera recorded in the studio as if it were live with few opportunities for retakes.
The best proof that live TV works comes from two of the most successful entertainment shows – Strictly Come Dancing on BBC One and I’m a Celebrity on ITV. Even Strictly’s recorded results show loses a little of that energy although the reasons for recording it are valid.
But little shows the energy of live television better than a programme getting a one-off repeat on BBC Four as part of a celebration of Saturday night TV – Noel’s House Party.
The long decline of the show in its later years means it can be easy to forget how special it once was.
It was a rare example of a high-profile BBC programme with absolutely no purpose other than to try to make people happy – even most comedies and quiz shows would claim some other merits.
NHP started life as the Noel Edmonds’ Saturday Roadshow. It was recorded the day before transmission and gradually grew into a modest hit over its three years.
The 6pm slot made it popular with children, family audiences and some of the “big kids” who’d watched Noel on Swap Shop when they were younger. By then they’d be students or starting families of their own.
After three years, it went live and it hurtled into the stratosphere. The extra energy, interactivity and unpredictability made the show compulsive.
As I said, it was rare for the BBC to show such commitment to a show that was simply TV candyfloss – and that is not meant as a criticism of NHP.
Arguably, the soaring ratings planted some of the seeds for the show’s later difficulties.
The BBC normally argues that ratings alone are not the best way to judge a programme’s success. However this argument has always tended to go out the window as soon as it found a programme capable of matching or beating ITV.
Once ratings started falling – as was inevitable – increasingly desperate efforts were made to try to get the ratings up. These coincided with attempts to balance budget cuts.
But this shouldn’t take away from its early success or the demonstration of the power of live TV.
Do more commissioners and producers today need to have the confidence to go live?
Those who work in live TV – including journalists – will always testify to how it gets the adrenaline going. Audiences seem to agree.
And, of course, Presentation gets kept on its toes too: programmes can suffer all manner of problems, fall off air early or – shudder – demand extra time.
Could a resurgence of live TV be the best way to protect linear channels?
PICTURED: Noel's House Party opening titles. COPYRIGHT: BBC.