Welcome to the Post-Peak Emmys

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by Tim Mulligan

Sunday night saw the 71stEmmy Awards broadcast live on Fox. Traditionally the Emmys have been the cornerstone of TV production credibility alongside the BAFTAs. However, the Oscars of the TV industry is facing two existential challenges which threaten its relevance: plummeting ratings, and the ongoing encroachment of the streaming services.

Ratings down 33% year-on-year

The Fox Emmys broadcast on Sunday night averaged viewers of whom less than a third were in the 18-49 age group. Last year’s Emmys on NBC drew 10.2 million viewers with three million in the 18-49 age group. While the headline numbers are grim, it is worth remembering that TV ratings are now an increasingly anachronistic way of evaluating the engagement for a TV show. Scheduled shows on linear TV are increasingly becoming irrelevant for on-demand digital audiences who want greater control over how and when they view content. For a digital-native audience, personalising when and what device they consume a show on now takes precedence over the analogue watercooler shared experience. With video on demand (VOD) shattering the old world appointment-to-view model of prime-time viewing, audiences are increasingly disconnecting from scheduled programming as cord-cutting and savvy switching increasingly move into the mainstream and start to reset standard consumer behaviours.

Another key turn-off for digital audiences of the three-hour long Emmy Awards is the continuation of the linear advertising model. In the subscription video on demand (SVOD) world ushered in by market leader Netflix back in 2007, advertising has now become something that can be avoided or minimised through ad-supported video on demand (AVOD). MIDiA Research consumer survey data now shows that linear TV audiences are the least responsive to broadcast TV advertising, with over half of US linear TV viewers ceasing to pay attention to ads when they appear on TV, compared to the consumer average of 46%.

Streamers continue to drive the creative future of the TV show landscape

As well as the overall TV show consumption landscape turning against the traditional broadcast format of the Emmys, the awards ceremony has another significant disruptive element that is starting to effect existential havoc to its current relevance: streaming. On Sunday, only TV network HBO with its nine Emmys outperformed the SVOD giants Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. While HBO ensured that a staple of the linear pay-TV ecosystem won the most awards, the fact that the best of the rest were comprised primarily of SVOD disruptors who also used the ad inventory for the show to promote their own paywalled content to linear TV audiences (directly going against the unspoken agreement not to advertise on competing networks) bodes ominously for the future of the network model outside of streaming. 

It’s all about VOD

Just in case the networks were not paying attention, the 71stEmmy Awards were a stark reminder that digital is driving everything in the TV landscape now – from award-winning content, to personalised on-demand viewing. We are now firmly in the future of TV.

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