In Sweden, the beginning of the end of linear TV is here


When one wants to understand how technology trends and people’s usage patterns will develop within the near future, there are some regions of the world that are especially helpful indicators. The U.S. should be mentioned of course, since this is where most of the companies and ideas that shape the technology world are coming from. Southeast Asia and China are also interesting to observe. Emoji, messaging apps/platforms, phablets and selfie sticks are some of the more recent trends that either originated in Asia or that were at least picked up by users there first. A third region that I personally find worthy having a closer look at is Sweden (where I am officially based).

If we ignore the fact that Swedes still praise and use the teletext, the country’s population is quite tech-savvy, curious and has often been among the first to adopt new kind of digital solutions. The Scandinavians flocked to social networks already in the late 1990s, partly thanks to progressive broadband expansion. They used legal music streaming services before everyone else (Spotify was founded in Sweden). Sweden also is closer than most societies to abandon cash.

Because of Sweden’s “tradition” to be at the forefront of technology adoption, recent news about a massive decline in traditional TV consumption might be an indicator of what is going to happen elsewhere within the near future: The yearly report by the Swedish media research company MMS about citizen’s TV consumption shows a significant decline of minutes spent with linear TV (PDF). The industry publication Resumé points out that despite major live events such as the Olympic Games and the Football Worldcup, the daily average time watching TV declined with more than 10 minutes within the most important viewership groups.

10 minutes less linear TV a day on average might itself not sound too dramatic considering that the daily averages still reach up too almost 200 minutes a day during winter months. However, according to people from the industry, this shift is massive compared to the past. Resumé quotes media agency executive Patrick Wallin saying that in 25 years working in the sector he has never experienced a dramatic change like this. “The expectations of the end of TV were exaggerated for a while, but now the technological platforms have advanced and the consumers have completely new possibilities”, said Wallin to Resumé. “2014 was no good year”, another agency executive told Resumé.

Instead of linear TV, Swedes increasingly watch on-demand content, which is provided by various subscription services such as Netflix and HBO Nordic, but also by the major TV stations that have created quite advanced on-demand services. Half a year ago, a million households in Sweden were said to subscribe to at least one streaming service for video. In a country of less than 10 million people, that might come down to 20 percent of the population having access to a paid video streaming flatrate.

It is true that for a long time, the upcoming shift from linear to on-demand TV did not materialize, which might have increased linear TV proponent’s hope that it maybe never will happen. But judging from how Resumé and the consulted experts comment on the latest audience statistic, at least in Sweden the fundamental shift is happening right now. And if it happens in one developed country, there is no reason to believe that other equally mature markets will be different.

(Photo:  Flickr/Robert Couse-Baker, CC BY 2.0)

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