“TV viewing has remained very, very strong” despite the rapid growth in streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
So said Jill McGrath, CEO of TV Audience Measurement (TAM) Ireland, at the RTS event “What Ireland is watching” in late January.
She noted that “69% of all viewing is to linear-TV... that is viewed either live or within seven days of the original broadcast.
“In 2020, the average person watched 89 hours of linear-TV every month, which is the equivalent of watching the whole of The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix 12 and a half times.”
The panellists at the RTS Republic of Ireland event, chaired by the centre’s Dr Helen Doherty, agreed that linear-TV was very much alive. “Even with the wealth of choices on the Sky platform, the number-one [thing] a customer does when they turn on the box is to go to the linear EPG TV guide and choose [a] channel,” said Mark Carpenter, Sky Ireland’s director of regulatory and corporate affairs.
Audrey Clarke, Virgin Media Television’s head of audience knowledge, said: “Our Virgin Media Player [is] not competition to our linear channel – it is incremental viewing to linear.”
She added: “We are actively targeting Netflix and Amazon paying customers to come back to our free, advertiser- funded content.”McGrath ascribed the resilience of TV viewing to it being “live and local”, offering “a communal experience” and “easily discoverable” content.
TAM research revealed that, in Ireland during the pandemic, TV was “by far the most trusted medium in terms of delivering news and information”, said McGrath. “News was the big star of 2020 – people really wanted information across all broadcasters,” said Paul Loughrey, RTÉ head of audience insights. “The reason for that is trust.”
The most-watched programme on RTÉ, as in most years, was The Late Late Toy Show, which enjoyed its higher-ever ratings last year. Homegrown Sally Rooney adaptation Normal People was the RTÉ Player’s top show.
Viewing of Sky entertainment programmes was up 10% in 2020, said Carpenter. Sky’s biggest hit, both on linear-TV and on-demand, was Gangs of London. Box-set consumption, especially of older titles such as The Sopranos, was also high.
“The effect of Covid on viewing was massive,” said Dave Moore, schedule and research manager at Irish- language broadcaster TG4.
Its list of most-watched programmes last year was dominated by coverage of Gaelic football and hurling. “[There’s] no barrier if your Irish language fluency isn’t so good – you can still watch the matches.” News programmes and TG4 soap Ros na Rún were also popular.