There is something very dreary about the predictions of the end of linear television. Last night an astonishing 18 million people watched England v Scotland on ITV. If ever a reminder was needed of the power of sport to bring people together it was this.
And if ever a reminder was needed of the power of mainstream TV to bring people together it was this.
The predictions of the end of linear TV sometimes sound like the predictions of a completely cashless society or a world where we will all work from home every day. People who, for one reason or another, want something to happen will distort a trend to make a possibility seem an inevitability.
But will those of us who care about channels and the power of broadcasting to bring people together ever let that happen?
Oneness idents may be mocked but remember what they symbolise – BBC One bringing together big numbers of people from different and diverse backgrounds.
So-called watercooler moments on television are increasingly rare. These are not the days of four channels when people may have ended up watching the “least worst” option more often than they chanced upon an unexpected delight.
If England and Scotland get past the first round, this is likely to lead to a rise in interest in other games.
Meanwhile Wimbledon is just round the corner. It’s been a staple of BBC Television since before the war and for some of us, the lack of tennis from SW19 was one of the saddest things about last year’s strange summer. The Olympics – with or without crowds – follow soon too.
But, of course, these magnificent shared moments cannot be downloaded on demand. They are shared linear experiences.
Live television is a special thing – whether that’s sport, news, events or programmes like Strictly. So are the popular programmes which become events like the final episodes of Line of Duty which gained old-fashioned ratings too.
Of course, there’s no doubt that on demand services are a vital part of the mix too.
For niche broadcasters, they may well prove more effective than linear television. The steady, gradual reduction in the number of satellite channels is definitely now a trend.
For every new launch like GB News there seems to be more than one closure.
For the major broadcasters like the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, catch up services are important too. They connect with younger audiences and offer a vast library of content to dip into.
But will their major linear services go? Live broadcasting and “big” programmes show just how cherished the major channels still are.
Ultimately they will only go if we are ever silly enough to let them go.
PICTURED: ITV coverage of Euro 2020. COPYRIGHT: ITV plc.