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When TV moves to the Internet

By Gabriele Gedvilaite

In recent years Internet managed to blur the lines between different types of media. Online world has not only opened the opportunity for new forms of journalistic products. It has also been slowly killing the print media, the radio and now it is time for the television. At least in Lithuania.

At the beginning of September the producers of  Lithuanian TV show “Pinigu karta” announced that the whole show is moving from the national broadcaster to the most popular online-only news website.

“Pinigu karta” is a veteran programme in Lithuanian media landscape. It was on air of the national broadcaster for more than 10 years, therefore it had a very clear format and a settled audience. Of course, throughout these years there have been some changes and adjustments, though they were introduced gradually. However, it seems that the programme reached its middle-age crisis and decided to leave its cosy, stable and comfortable home for a younger and more attractive partner.

Such move is the first one in Lithuanian media history. Even though, Lithuanian TV channels and programmes have been trying to keep up with the online consumption trends by providing all the content on their websites, there have not been any precedents of shifting to the online-only audio-visual reporting.

It might be still too early to discuss whether such decision was profitable enough, but it is the right time to talk about how these changes affect journalistic practices.

According to Mindaugas Ausra, a journalist who has been working for this show for the past 3 years, the biggest change is the audience. “Moving online means creating your audience basically from zero, because TV and online audiences are very different. However, it is still very difficult to say exactly, who is our audience online, but based on the comments under the videos, I assume that it is less educated part of the society”, says Ausra.

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The shift in the platform as well as in the audience also forces to adjust the journalistic product. Ausra explains, that now the priority is not the content of the videos, but catchy summaries and headlines that would invite the reader to click on the video. Additionally, the form of the video became extremely important since it has to be short and dynamic enough to keep the viewer interested till the end.

“It is challenging, but at the same time Internet gives a lot of room for experimenting. We started new projects which could never exist on television due to its restricted format”, explains Ausra.

Another bright side of this shift is being closer to the viewers. According to the journalist, now the show gets more feedback simply because there are comment options on the website. “The opportunity to follow the reactions of our audience provides a better understanding of what we are doing wrong. It is our fault if people do not understand something in our videos. Getting feedback on that lets us think about how to make our content as simple as possible”, claims Ausra.

He believes that there is an unoccupied niche for such shifts in the media and there will be more TV programmes which will move to online-only reporting. The main reason is that Internet offers what television is often missing: the freedom of format, the closeness to the audience and the opportunity to adjust to viewers’ needs much quicker.

Adobe Digital Index report for 2014 explains the key trends of online TV consumption changes.

Such “migration” might not be an option for all TV programmes, but could be considered by those targeting a younger audience. Last this week BBC announced that its TV channel BBC Three is going to stream online-only. The decision was made due to financial cuts but it was also backed by the fact that BBC Three is popular among the viewers under-25.

The online TV consumption is higher among young audience. Source: globalwebindex
The online TV consumption by age. Source: globalwebindex

 

The BBC blog reports that “today, over 50% of video viewed by 16-24 year olds is not live TV and over 90% of 16-24s own a smartphone and have at least one social media account. In 2003 it was 0%”.

Similar figures are reported in the recent global web index report. Even though the linear TV is still far more dominant than online TV, the 16-24s are the ones whose TV consumption habits are very different from other age groups.

TV young audience
In general traditional TV is still more dominant, though in some countries 16-24 year olds watch more TV online than via linear channels. Source: globalwebindex

 

Such patterns show that television, sooner or later will have to adapt in order to offer people what they want. It does not necessarily mean that TV will die, but most probably there will be more break-ups with the traditional forms of video reporting and more affairs with online platforms.

****UPDATE (14 December, 2015): few days after this blog post was published the producers of Lithuanian TV show “Pinigu karta” announced that it is coming back to TV screens. Such decision was not commented by the producers or journalists of the programme, but it seems that it might be too early for online-only television in Lithuania.

Gabriele Gedvilaite is a Lithuanian journalist currently based in Amsterdam. Find and contact her on LinkedIn.