Streaming giant Netflix last week revealed record subscription growth piling pressure onto terrestrial British TV channels, along with telecoms giants such as BT and Sky.
The way we watch television is evolving – and viewers can now bag more quality content at a lower cost than ever before.
And I believe the rise of Netflix, and other rivals such as Amazon Prime, is arguably the biggest risk to the TV licence the BBC has ever seen.
Taking the crown? Netflix and its original shows such as The Crown, pictured, are becoming an increasing staple of British television viewing habits
The combined shift towards people watching more online, while being able to easily link their TV sets up to this content, and Netflix’s increasing TV box set-style programming rather than films, presents the greatest risk.
Last month, a Freedom of Information request revealed 3.5million have cancelled their £145.50 TV licence in the last four years, with nearly 800,000 ditching it in 2017.
Households are only required to buy a TV licence if they watch or record television as it is being broadcast, while changes in 2016 mean one is also needed to download or watch BBC programmes on demand, including catch-up TV.
But it isn’t needed to watch subscription channels, such as Amazon or Netflix, nor is it needed for ITV Hub, All 4 or My 5.
If you can do without watching the BBC altogether and TV as it is broadcast, you can do without a TV licence.
Meanwhile, Netflix – listed in the US – reported a record 8.3million boost in worldwide subscribers in the last three months of 2017.
This isn’t broken down country by country, but it is believed nearly 6million Britons have the service, which starts from £5.99 per month.
The growth was boosted by several mega-hits, including the second series of The Crown, Stranger Things, Ozark, Mindhunter and House of Cards.
It also released series four of Black Mirror, a show it poached from Channel Four, in another worrying signal for terrestrial channels.
Chances are that if you are the kind of person who sits down and watches just one or two programmes of an evening after dinner, then you could spend a whole week without switching on a terrestrial TV channel.
Top entertainment: Blue Planet II was a visual and educational feast – but such quality content, in my opinion, is few and far between on terrestrial television
Now I value the BBC. Some of its shows are ground-breaking, such as Blue Planet II, which in my opinion has had one of the biggest impacts on the British psyche when it comes environmental issues, while Doctor Foster had some stellar acting.
However, series one of the latter is being shown on Netflix, while many of David Attenborough’s BBC nature shows are also on the service.
Equally, some BBC shows have gone down the route of being far too gimmicky, such as the dreadful Wedding Day Winners which has been on for the last few Saturdays – and don’t get me started on Mrs Brown’s Boys (the most watched show over Christmas, why?).
Doctor Foster: Another enjoyable BBC show, but series one is currently streaming on Netflix…
ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five are funded by adverts, but are also important to the TV licence.
If people are turning off shows as they are being broadcast, they may question their licence fee.
The question is, do I get £12 worth of entertainment a month from the BBC? I’m not sure I do – and have lately found myself toying with ditching the TV licence myself, especially as my hours of watching the box are sparse anyway.
HAVE YOU DITCHED THE TV LICENCE?
Have your television viewing habits changed? Have you cancelled your TV licence in recent times?
Let us know in the comments section below.
Recently, I came down with an illness that saw me laid up on the sofa for a few days.
Before, I would have endured a daytime fest of dire shows.
But, highlighting a change of habit, I instead put Netflix on and soothed myself with a blend of ‘original’ content and some old classics – while also catching up on a few programmes on Channel Four via its app.
I don’t have to (largely) wait week-by-week to watch a show in its entirety either, while I can download shows onto my tablet to watch on my commute home if I choose to.
When I do watch shows on my way home, I tend to watch less TV that evening at home, again, highlighting a shift in habit.
I can download content with BBC iPlayer and All 4 too – but could easily do without the BBC element, again making me question my licence fee.
Poached: In what could be a worrying sign for UK channels, Netflix poached the excellent dystopian show Black Mirror from Channel 4 – and has since made two new series
Now, Netflix has its flaws. Its search homepage functionality needs some improvement while a large slice of content on it is as rubbish as what is on terrestrial TV.
However, it is investing more money into original content and some of the film choices have recently been excellent. It says it could spend as much as £5.7billion on new shows in the near future.
That must be a frightening number to TV execs within the walls of British channels.
A big change which has also facilitated the rise of Netflix, is the Smart TV, which many households have upgraded to.
It connects to wi-fi and with a click of the remote, I am taken straight to Netflix.
There were times over Christmas when the ‘regular’ television was so bad that I just threw on a looping video on Netflix of a roaring fireplace and listened to music instead.
In fact, I do not remember watching one decent programme on ‘normal’ TV over the festive period.
This is where the channels that run off advertising may suffer – instead of just having some rubbish show on the background with adverts in between, people switch to Netflix instead of putting up with the tedium.
For the consumer, the rise of streaming services is great for choice – and leaves them asking whether they should pay for a TV licence, Sky, BT, or simply do away with the lot of them and simply have Netflix or Amazon Prime instead, and catch up on some ITV/Channel 4/Channel 5 programmes when they see fit.
It is certainly worth sitting down and crunching the numbers.
Of course, to have Netflix, you need to be connected to the internet, which costs a monthly amount far greater than the TV licence.
But data suggest only one in 10 UK homes do not have broadband – and they will be paying for that anyway.
It appears the revolution is not being televised, but instead being streamed.