Thirty years ago, in October 1989, I wrote an article for Admap on the state of Irish television. On the anniversary of that 1989 article, I thought it might be instructive to look back on how things have changed over time, including having a look at the TV landscape today. Throughout, this article will examine the relationship between station shares and weekly reach, also known in most media circles as Double Jeopardy (DJ), wherein small channels attract relatively few viewers and these viewers watch small stations for relatively few hours.

While this article mainly focuses on Ireland, since the 1980s Double Jeopardy studies have been conducted in many different countries, such as the United States (including the New York market), Australia and the United Kingdom. Although time has impacted the Double Jeopardy curve, in each of these studies, it has held its unique shape.

A case in point: The Irish television market over time

In 1989, market researcher Dr. Stephan Buck1 predicted that the explosion in viewers choices would not necessarily increase total viewing beyond a certain threshold point. My 1989 Admap article showed that there were only 15 stations available to cable home subscribers in Ireland. This was about 30% of all Irish homes at the time, with the other 70% of homes receiving two to six stations through off-air reception. On average, Irish adults watched about 3.32 hours of live TV per day. All this viewing is what we call linear today – live viewing excluding time-shifted viewing. In 2019, Television Audience Measurement (TAM) research shows average hours of viewing for Irish adults at 3.07 hours per day, with 86% of this live broadcast and 14% time-shifted. As the latter was small in 1989, we will use these two daily hours of viewing numbers -- 3.32 and 3.07 -- as comparable.