entertainment

There's a reason we don't want to watch "normal" TV any more.

Why can’t I pause this?

Australia has been renovated to within an inch of its life.

There have been so many series of MasterChef that my dad’s considering entering next season, and his specialty is frozen Chicken Wing Dings.

Australian Idol had to fall on its sword, having already harvested and ruined the cred of an entire generation of Australian singers.

Simon cowell
You’ve ruined it for everyone, Simon.

In a world where we can have anything we want, whenever we want at a swipe of a finger, “normal” TV feels insulting to our collective intelligence.

The interminable ads blaring in our ears (yes, they STILL make the ads louder), the same old hosts (to whom does Grant Denyer appeal, I genuinely want to know?) and the endless reality shows with identical formats are just a few of the issues with traditional free-to-air television that have audiences switching off.

With the digital revolution, the way Australians, particularly younger ones, consume television has changed, and with ever-widening options, television networks just don’t cut the mustard anymore.

The top-rating TV shows in 2014 were live sporting events. In other words, things that gave you no choice – you watch it now, or you don’t watch it. Everything else, we’re recording, downloading, playing catch-up.

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We are over being told what to do.

And it seems, in a bid to cling on to that, TV execs have given up on originality. The approach seems to be: find a format people like, then KILL IT. Flog it absolutely to death (see: The Block, House Rules and Reno Rumble).

grant denyer
Grant Denyer is host of refurbed Family Feud, for some reason.

Networks that acquire the big hit shows from the US and UK and screen them months after we’ve already read all the spoilers online and mete them out, week by week, are finding their audience get their fix elsewhere.

Seven Network screened the new series of Downton Abbey four months after its UK broadcast in April and so few people watched. It was soon replaced by the drama with its tried-and-true ratings winner, My Kitchen Rules. Even that lost out to the news, reports The New Daily.

And we are mightily sick of it, taking to services like Netflix in droves, where, for a very small monthly fee of $11, unlike Foxtel’s minimum basic $25 fee (which also involves a contract), you can watch a very large range of shows, including original programming, whenever and wherever you like.

Traditional TV might not be dead, but it’s definitely suffering from something chronic.

According to emma (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia), Australians aged 14-29 are watching significantly less free-to-air television and pay TV, and a third of them — one entire third of that age group — just aren’t watching TV at all.

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MKR
Manu Feildel and Paleo Pete (how does he eat anything?!) host My Kitchen Rules.

Children, particularly, have no time for old-fangled television.

“I hate watching free-to-air TV with my kids because they don’t understand it,” a mum colleague tells me.

“They can’t fathom why they can’t fast-forward and pause it. They don’t get the ad breaks… It is totally confusing for them why they can’t just watch the next episode or download another one.”

Before its launch, Netflix warned that traditional TV is on its way out.

“I think the model for broadcast TV, where it’s this destination stop where you go home at 8 o’clock to watch House Of Cards… that use-by date has probably passed already,” Netflix director of corporate communications Cliff Edwards said at the time.

A Netflix spokesperson told me that the service is meant as a “complement” to regular TV and not a replacement, but the figures speak for themselves.

The long-term outlook for free-to-air television is a bit bleak. Just as we fondly waved goodbye to VCRs, CDs and pagers, TV could, one day in the not-too-distant future, become obsolete if it doesn’t smarten up.

How do you feel about free-to-air TV?

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