We moved house a year ago this week. It was a big old mess, and it took me a few days to move boxes around and find homes for furniture. Eventually, everything was in its place, and I set about putting the TV together and plugging everything… at that point, I realised… there was no TV aerial socket. None. Nothing. Nowhere. In any room.
I spoke to my landlord, and he told me that when they had refurbished the flat, they’d opened a cupboard upstairs and found an old scaffold pole going out through the ceiling and onto the roof, where there were several aerials waving about in the wind. They had removed the scaffold pole and fixed the hole in the roof. The previous occupant had had Virgin Media, which comes through cable – so she’d never used the wobbly aerials any way.
My landlord told me it hadn’t occurred to him, when I told him I needed to have a BT phone line installed, that I wouldn’t then have TV access through my phone line. I don’t think he’s very experienced in having to sort this sort of thing out. He said he would get an aerial installed for me, if it was a problem not to have one. I told him not to worry; I never watched much live TV any way.
And so began my experiment with having no live TV.
I’d already gone several months without watching any live TV; we had Virgin Media at the old flat, and then a You View box; I’d just used the catch-up function to watch the TV shows I wanted to watch. When we moved in here, I bought a Chromecast from Amazon, and used the Chromecast app to stream Netflix and YouTube from my mobile.
I had heard that a You View box wouldn’t work without a TV aerial, but one day I decided to give it a try with an ethernet cable – and it did. Since then I’ve mostly watched TV on my You View box; we have Netflix and I splashed out on a Now TV Sky Movies subscription, since I was no longer paying for a TV licence.
We don’t have any clue what is or is not playing on TV channels any more. The only TV scheduling I pay attention to is Casualty on a Saturday night (a long-standing family tradition, which I now watch on a Sunday night). Other than that, I might occasionally have a browse through iPlayer or ask friends whether anything good has been on TV lately.
S rarely sees any TV ads.
Sometimes if she wants to watch Fireman Sam or Angelina Ballerina – both of which are available on Channel 5’s Milkshake On Demand service – she might catch a glimpse of an advert before or after it. But that’s probably less frequent than once a week. She’s mostly happy with the choice of shows available on Netflix, and on weekends we watch the movies on Now TV. Both Netflix and Now TV have a reasonable turnover of content, so she’s spoilt for choice.
I have worked my way through several TV series on Netflix, binge watching all the great stuff that’s on there. I’ll admit that now, a year on, I’m beginning to scratch about for things to watch. But after a year away from the dross that is TV scheduling, I feel no desire to go back to watching live TV. Watching TV exclusively on demand has made me very picky. I might find a show or documentary that looks like it might be interesting, but if it turns out to be an hour or perhaps 90 minutes long, I will re-evaluate how interesting I think it looks. Do I really want to spend an hour and a half of my life watching that? I don’t watch any soaps or entertainment shows. My only vice is Big Brother, and to be honest I can mostly take or leave that.
If I’m honest, these days I will often tend to watch videos on Periscope or YouTube, or listen to podcasts in the evenings, instead of watching TV. If someone recommends a film or TV show on Netflix or one of the catch-up services I might give it a go, but the bar has been set incredibly high by the recent episodes of This Is England ’90 and I find that 99% of the crap they fill the listings with these days just can’t live up to that!
I think perhaps this is the way TV is going: long gone are the days when a faceless executive in an office somewhere dictated what the entire nation would watch at any given time. First there was the huge growth in available channels (remember the days when there were only 3 to choose from? There are more like 300 now!); now we’ve moved on from any sort of scheduling to a much more “on demand” service. Advertising has also changed. There is of course probably still the fabled surge in electricity as everyone puts the kettle on during the ad break of Corrie, but TV ads don’t have the reach they had before, as more and more of us choose to use catch-up and on demand viewing.
To me it feels like, in the same way that print media used to be broadcast from the chosen few to the masses but now has diversified into much more of a two-way street, so TV has diversified and removed a lot of power from the hands of the schedulers.
What do you think?
Do you utilise on demand services more often these days? Do you still crowd around the TV as a family to watch X Factor on a Saturday night? Would you consider ditching your TV aerial and relying solely on catch-up and on demand services?