Q: Did/has the Covid-19 pandemic changed national viewing habits do you think?
A: Undoubtedly during the pandemic, many of us were spending more time-consuming television from an array of different sources. Netflix did very well. Also, at this time, Disney+ came on stream and Amazon Prime continued to develop its television service. For many it seemed that the pandemic encouraged many of us to embrace streaming more quickly than forecast. As I note, Netflix did very well in this period.
However, with the economic turmoil we have now entered, as people cut back on spending, including some of the streaming services they can no longer afford, it would seem that we have taken two steps in one direction and one back. For some of us the pandemic reinforced the way we were moving more towards, what some have called, a Me-TV form of pull television, where we selected what we wanted to watch and when. Indeed, many of us have become increasingly used to binge watching series and serials, probably helped in the pandemic by the extra time many of us had on our hands.
While Netflix did well, so did the traditional broadcasters, who also offer catchup and streaming services alongside their broadcast output. The important national television programmes, like East Enders, Strictly Come Dancing and British Bake Off, did well for traditional broadcasters.
I would suggest that, while our viewing habits changed in the pandemic, some of those developments have weakened since, partly through the economic situation but also because some of us still like watching in the way that we used to. That said, the pandemic has reinforced these shifts with the younger generation, who were already changing their viewing habits.
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Q: Finally, what for you are the benefits of studying TV?
A: Television has been one of the most important mass media for the last 90 years or so. It has televised important events, from royal weddings, wars, elections, sport, music and the like. It has been an important part of our culture, politics, economy and society; it is part of who we are. It is also going to be, looking forward, an important part of our society for the rest of this century.
By studying television one can start to understand how it has played such an important role in our society, in the way we experienced events, how we consumed our culture and how this industry has become the soft power of our nation, among other things. Just to take a few events to illustrate how important television has been and why we need to study and understand its role: Cathy Come Home, a film about the problems of homelessness, led to the setting up of Shelter, the Homelessness Charity; television allowed the public to watch and follow the Falklands war nightly, with all its ups and downs. The coverage of the 1953 Coronation was watched by 20 million people, though many did not have a TV. Instead, those with a set, invited friends and neighbours in to watch it together. It was a national event.
"By studying television, we can understand the important role it has played in our society, and it helps, hopefully, for us to argue and discuss, in an informed way, what form of television we want going forward."
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