Linear Re-birth

The death of live, linear radio has been proclaimed numerous times over the length of my career. From the often cliche quote from the Buggles, “Video Killed The Radio Star”, to the iPod, streaming, smart speakers, on-demand and IP. It’s still hear and still huge. I’ve mentioned many times that the non-linear streaming community would kill to have a reach of around 90% for a medium which appeared in the 1920s!

Something interesting thought caught my ear and got me thinking about delivery methods and impact. I was listening to a discussion regarding binge consumption of online content- so a Netflix series etc. The points made were that whilst the binge watching of series in this way is popular and has become its own thing, it has a by-product which effects the overall impact of the content and the timeline. Let me explain further.

Undoubtedly a huge benefit is the vast availability of the content- so unlike a linear delivery its available to everyone all the time, meaning the consumption isn’t limited to a specific time frame centred around it’s time of broadcast. The overall volume of viewing or consumption is therefore quite large, but would build over time. For example, I have watched series 1-4 of The Crown but as yet not the fifth series (I know!). The reason is that I’ve had a few things competing for attention, but also my wife has started watching it from the very start and so I’m waiting for her to catch up before watching series five together. So in terms of the overall ‘reach” of the series, I will be included once I get around to watching and be added to the many millions, but I’m behind the pack of the initial burst.

Thing is, the ‘moment’ surrounding the series launch has now passed- even though it will be still NEW to me. It won’t be a discussion point or the famous “water-cooler” chat by the time I’m invested in it. This was the discussion I was witnessing about linear, which made the observation that one of the things they really liked about “Succession” and “The Last Of Us” and others, was the episode by episode release which created a bigger impact, moment, discussion and event. They made the comment out loud, “I miss and like LINEAR for that reason”.

Of course the two things can happily co-exist at the same time and be true and not all content suits linear drip feed. Apple TV+ drip feeds series often, Ted Lasso series 3 for example, and then pushes the “All Episodes Available” once it has run completely as do Sky, ITVX, Netflix etc. Availability of catch-up and listen again to mop up the latent missed live broadcast is extremely helpful to the linear world too.

Topical lives well in radio and that leans really well into linear the world. The sweeping brush of “everything needs to be on demand” is not as blanket as at first might be believed.

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Published by Dick Stone

Radio...its always been radio.

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