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Aussies turn off commercial TV

News, 02 February 2016

SYDNEY: The proportion of Australians who say they do not watch commercial television on a normal weekday has more than doubled over the past seven years, according to new data.

Research company Roy Morgan said that in 2008 just 6.9% of Australians over the age of 14 made such a claim, but by 2015 that figure had risen to 14.9%.

The trend is visible across all age groups, but the gap is most obviously widening among younger viewers between the ages of 14 and 34.

And within this group, it is the 25-34 year olds who are most likely to be turning away from commercial TV: one in five (20.7%) don't watch it on a weekday (up from 7.6% in 2008) , while the figure for 14-24 year olds is only slightly lower (18.8%, up from 7.0% in 2008).

Older ages groups are also shifting away from commercial TV, but at a slower rate. Some 14.1% of 35-49 year-olds and 11.0% of the over-50s reported watching no commercial TV on a normal weekday in 2015 (up from 6.5% and 6.9% respectively in 2008).

The trend is set to continue, according to Tim Martin, general manager of media at Roy Morgan. He suggested that in another seven years as many as one third of 14-34 year olds would not be reached by commercial TV.

"Already the very idea of 'seeing what's on TV' at a particular time is beginning to seem a little archaic next to the massive libraries of niche, personally appealing content ready – by definition – on demand," he said.

"Most viewers aren't desperate to avoid any advertising whatsoever," he added. "It's just that there are more easy ways to circumvent it, so why not record a show and skip through ads, download it, legally or illegally, subscribe to SVOD, or simply switch attention to the tablet or phone the second an ad break arrives."

The rise of subscription video on demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix, which only launched in Australia last year, is a major factor, as people taking these watched an average of 30 minutes less commercial TV on a weekday during 2015.

That said, commercial TV continues to have the biggest reach of any medium, but it cannot assume that will always be the case.

"Without some self-reflection and innovation, commercial TV could perhaps find itself as a medium only for people taking a quick channel-surfing break from the burden of choosing between all the range and quality available elsewhere," Martin said.

Data sourced from Roy Morgan; additional content by Warc staff