Last week came yet another cull of minor digital channels.
The entire suite of Great! entertainment channels and Pop children’s channels disappeared from Freesat with no warning.
For the moment at least, they continue on other platforms.
All this came hot on the heels of Channel 4’s decision to close its music channels.
If you want to believe linear TV Is doomed, these two moves may start to sound like compelling, unanswerable evidence.
But do the same factors apply to the five major channels and, especially, the two big ones?
January’s headline viewing figures from BARB tell a different story.
BBC One’s audience share this January of 21% was very marginally up on January 2023.
ITV 1’s was actually up by around 0.5 percentage points to 15.9% – no doubt helped by the success of Mr Bates vs The Post Office.
The three other major channels all saw their year-on-year shares decline.
But this is not quite the whole story.
All 5 saw declines in reach and the total volume of viewing – so in effect BBC One and ITV 1 were running hard to stay still.
But the fact they can even do this is proof they are not going to be fading into obscurity in the foreseeable future.
Much depends too on just which parts of the audience a particular broadcaster is targeting.
Last Sunday, BBC One held a solid audience of around 5m through Antiques Roadshow, Call the Midwife and Death in Paradise – hits or heritage brands which play well with the channel’s core audience.
Intriguingly The Apprentice saw its overnight ratings rise after a relatively modest start. Will it go the way of The Traitors and build momentum?
But, of course, the BBC exists to serve all audiences – this is where iPlayer is extremely important. It cannot rest on its laurels because BBC One is healthy.
ITV can look at how ITV X can succeed without damaging its flagship though, of course, the problems in the ad market are a concern for all commercial broadcasters.
However like any business, it only needs to worry about its current and potential customers – it does not need to concern itself with groups advertisers may not be keen to reach.
I am beginning to wonder if the BBC corporately is now belatedly recognising that linear is not merely a legacy.
I was surprised – but pleased – to hear of the plan to launch 4 new radio services.
There will be a debate over whether they are all sufficiently distinct from commercial services but they go to show that linear services have life left in them.
Will the axing of Radio 4 Extra now be shelved? It’s interesting that no date has been confirmed.
And what about BBC Four with an audience double that of BBC Three?
There are people in all walks of life who look at current trends and assume the direction of travel and the final destination are inevitable.
Many of us rarely use cash now – but that does not mean a cashless society is imminent.
Dare I say that exactly the same point applies to radio and TV?
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