Internet killed the Broadcast TV star

Teena Harris likes to have a movie night with her family once a week, so they can enjoy watching TV together for a change.

“What I’ve found is that now everybody has a device, you’re not sitting down like you used to,” says the 47-year-old marketing manager and mother of three.

Back in the old days – well, a year ago, actually – she says the St Heliers family used to gather in front of their 42-inch TV in the lounge and fight over which channel to watch.

“Last year we’d all sit down and watch My Kitchen Rules, but now we don’t.”

The Harris family are at the leading edge of a TV-watching revolution in New Zealand and around the world. A few years ago they watched free-to-air channels and Sky. Three months ago they dropped Sky because they weren’t watching it enough to justify the cost. The family has subscribed to Netflix, the US internet-based giant which started in New Zealand in March, and their viewing habits have almost totally switched to commercial-free online viewing.

Teena streams an episode of Netflix on the TV at night after coming home from work and doing dinner and the evening chores. Her husband Craig likes movies and documentaries and dips back into free-to-air to catch the late news.

Their 14-year-old son Sam has moved off the big screen altogether, watching action dramas like Homeland on his iPad. Daughters Sally, 12, and Molly, 9, follow the same teen dramas like Pretty Little Liars on Netflix that they used to watch on Sky’s Disney Channel.

“It’s changed from watching what’s served to you on traditional TV to going and picking what you want to watch,” says Craig.

He says this comes naturally to Sam, who tracks down films, TV programmes and YouTube videos on his iPad. Craig likes the new freedom too but sometimes finds it hard work.

“For the older generation it’s quite nice to switch the TV on and … see what the state’s serving up to you.”

Nielsen research shows many Kiwis are still quite happy doing just that. The company’s 2015 figures show 91 per cent of home TV viewing remains live and 72 per cent of us watch programmes only on a TV set. Broadcast television, both pay and free-to-air, continues to make up the vast majority of total viewing – 20.5 hours a week for the average TV watcher, compared to only 1.5 hours of internet viewing on other devices.

Our TV is sitting unloved in the lounge gathering dust.   Given a choice, we all choose to do and/or watch different things and different times.

The older generations may indeed be resistant to the new choices.  There are many, they are non-standard, they require fiddly bits of software on different platforms, and it is far from integrated.

But to the kids, this is a no-brainer.   They no longer have to watch the news because that’s what dad always watches at 6.   In fact, you don’t even have to watch the news at 6.   Even the quaint “+1” channels where the programming is offset by one hour are pretty much pointless.

The only time TVs and families are still coming together is during live events.   Like sports, natural disasters, or other large events of significance.

More and more families and groups of friends hold “Movie nights” where they use their TV and a lounge as an excuse to come together and socialise.  Cell phones must be off and on the table for the duration – no distractions.

It’s great.  We get to choose what to watch and when to watch it.   And it has been a long time coming.

How has your TV watching changed over the last ten years?


– Andrew Laxon, NZ Herald

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