Would anyone care to place bets on the overnight ratings for the final episode of Happy Valley?
Yet again, reports of the death of linear television have been much exaggerated. Incredibly the overnight ratings have actually climbed as the series progressed. Last week’s episode scored above 6m viewers for the first time.
It’s a perfect example of linear TV and the iPlayer working together positively.
Each episode has “dropped” on the iPlayer at 9pm on Sundays – creating the same sense of excitement and expectation as waiting for a show on a linear channel.
Incredibly, the rise in overnight ratings appears to suggest that some who were catching up on the earlier episodes on the iPlayer now switch on to BBC One at 9pm on Sundays.
This is how it should be for a quality BBC programme. The sense of expectation and the collective shared viewing experience are all there.
But so too is the iPlayer – it’s great for those of us who can’t watch on Sundays or who came late to the party.
It’s the perfect example of a mixed economy – especially for the public service broadcaster where the incentive is to serve audiences rather than generate income.
The overall ratings for Happy Valley are even higher once iPlayer downloads are included.
Brilliant as the iPlayer is, would Happy Valley score anything like these overall numbers if it wasn’t “dropping” at the same time on BBC One?
This all stands in contrast to ITV’s big drama of the week.
Nolly, the story of Noele Gordon and her sacking from Crossroads, has been available to binge watch on ITVX since Thursday. It’s a terrific watch which has earned rave reviews.
ITV still hasn’t said how many people have watched it.
But one thing is certain. When it appears on ITV 1 later in the year, the overnight ratings are likely to be relatively modest. Most of those who were keenest to watch will already have seen it.
For a commercial broadcaster though, the arguments are different. Some of the audiences advertisers want may be reached more effectively by streaming. Those who want to watch ad free can pay, bringing another revenue stream to ITV.
But oh the irony that Nolly should be pioneering ITV’s move into direct competition with Netflix and the like.
While her story is fascinating – and good drama can allow us to empathise with characters we are unfamiliar with – there will be few under 50 who will have heard of Noele Gordon.
Her personal popularity was very much linked to the world of linear broadcasting.
The two programmes she was most associated with – Lunchbox in the Midlands and Crossroads nationally – were successes because they were part of the everyday lives of viewers.
If you watch the one surviving edition of Lunchbox or a typical episode of Crossroads you will wonder what the fuss was about. They were anything but high end products where every last shot and line were lovingly crafted to perfection.
Instead it was the relationship between these programmes and their viewers as part of everyday life which made them special to Nolly’s fans.
By the way, the surviving episode of Lunchbox includes a curio for Pres fans. In the absence of continuity, Nolly trails the afternoon’s schools programmes and the recording appears to show ATV’s daytime closing sequence.
Meanwhile those of us who derided Crossroads (including plenty of discriminating viewers and the IBA) were left bemused and sometimes even concerned by its popularity.
Here’s the lesson. It’s about the relationship between broadcasters and viewers’ lives. Part of the daily routine, something to share with friends, something to talk to strangers about.
Throw away linear TV and you throw away something special.
PICTURED: promotional images for Nolly and Happy Valley. COPYRIGHT: ITV plc/BBC.
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