If you were born in the late 90s to early 2000s, you’ve probably spent your whole life mainly watching content on your laptop or phone while your parents flipped through TV channels.
Sure, you can watch reruns of classic sitcoms and the evening news on TV, but you’re pretty limited, especially if you have niche tastes.
Streaming has given us the flexibility to watch anything we want at any time of the day. But with this newfound freedom, does that mean broadcast TV is on its way out?
What exactly is broadcast TV? And is it dying? What’s the future of broadcast TV?
Keep reading to find out!
What is Broadcast TV?
Broadcast TV is free television delivered to people’s homes via radio waves.
This means you don’t have to pay for a subscription to watch them, as they’re not behind a paywall. All you need is a functioning TV and TV antenna. So, broadcast TV is a lot more accessible to the general public.
This means you will watch the news, movie, or TV in that same resolution even if you own a 4K TV. The only exception would be if you owned a TV with a lower resolution than the content being shown.
This is called the one-to-many model, meaning one video is displayed on many different TV sets in the same exact way.
Some examples of broadcast TV include the news, weather reports, talk shows, sports, and entertainment channels like Adult Swim.
Please note that broadcast TV does not always have to be live, it can also be pre-filmed and edited, like TV shows and movies.
EBU Tech on YouTube has a great video demonstrating how broadcast TV works and how it differs from streaming. Watch it below!
Will Broadcast TV End?
Broadcast TV may end, but not anywhere in the near future.
Recent studies have shown that streaming is quickly increasing in popularity and beginning to replace broadcast TV, especially for younger generations.
Younger people tend to find broadcast TV impractical and have the tech skills to find almost anything they want to watch online.
However, it’s unlikely that broadcast TV will end in the next few years.
First of all, it’s absolutely free, which makes it the only choice for many viewers. While you might be able to afford a smartphone, laptop, and a steady internet connection, many people around the world cannot.
This means that broadcast TV is their only form of digital entertainment. So, until personal electronic devices and the internet become cheap enough for virtually everyone to afford, broadcast TV will stick around.
Another benefit of broadcast TV is that it’s accessible to those living in rural areas. One reason for this could be higher poverty levels, though we must also consider that not all corners of the world have adequate cell or internet service.
So, with people unable to even access the internet, they turn to their TV, which displays shows and movies.
Essentially, while you may not need or even use broadcast TV, there are millions of people all over the world who still rely on it for news and entertainment.
So, until we’ve developed a widespread solution for them to have access to the internet and a device to browse it on, it looks like broadcast TV is here to stay.
Is Broadcast TV Dying?
Yes, broadcast TV is becoming less popular.
Although we probably won’t witness the death of broadcast TV in the next few years, it is undeniably dying.
As of 2022, streaming makes up 33.7% of total viewership.
Broadcast TV is still marginally more popular than streaming at 35.1% of total viewership.
However, we can only expect it to become less popular as the newest tech-savvy generation grows older and their children steer further and further away from traditional TV.
Please note that these numbers solely reflect American watching habits and do not necessarily represent international audiences.
TV channels have tried to appeal to younger audiences with new hip shows featuring popular actors, but most of their audience opted to watch every episode on their computer instead.
Additionally, many TV channels also have websites where people can watch the same episodes online free of charge.
Still, Dan McGolphin, the BBC iPlayer and channels director, argues that broadcast television offers a communal experience that online streaming services have yet to replicate. People live-tweet about TV shows, discussing them as they’re being aired in real time.
Even if you set up a watch party with your friends on Zoom, it scarcely compares to nationwide discussions about content everyone can see simultaneously.
Of course, we can live-stream things like sports and the news, but for those without the tech skills to find such live streams online, broadcast TV is their only option.
What Is the Future of Broadcast TV?
Broadcast TV will most likely be overtaken by streaming.
We’ve already discussed that broadcast TV won’t be going anywhere in the next few years. People continue to watch it, and many communities rely heavily on it as their only connection to the outside world.
That said, as smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and Wi-Fi become more widespread and accessible, we can expect streaming to become our sole source of news and entertainment.
The invention of smart TVs has allowed people to have the classic TV experience without an antenna, especially with free local channel apps accessible through the internet.
Additionally, daily information like the news and weather can be found with a swipe on our smartphone or a website on our computer.
People can also choose what kind of news they watch, be it Aljazeera or Fox News, and even share it online for others to see.
As far as TV shows and movies are concerned, streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu are here to stay, and we can expect many more to come into existence in the next years.
TV channels may still exist, but they’ll likely have to adapt to keep up with the trends.
However, there’s always the possibility something entirely new will be invented that will completely change the way we consume all types of media.
We’ll just have to wait, watch, and see.
Wrapping Things Up
Broadcast TV is fading, but we can expect to see it stick around for, at least, the near future.
Millions of people heavily rely on their TV sets and antennas, and don’t have access to the same smart devices we do, making broadcast TV crucial to their connection to the rest of humanity.
However, it’s no surprise that the amount of people streaming content is steadily increasing, with every new generation using broadcast TV less and less.
So, should you throw away your antenna? Not quite yet.
Broadcast TV is still a great source of news, weather, sports, and a sense of community.
What do you think the future of broadcast TV will be? Do you still watch it?
Let us know in the comments below!
Yesenia Achlim is a technical copywriter and editor with a focus on AV equipment. She aims to break down complicated topics and make technology accessible, no matter your technical expertise. When she’s not teaching you how to replace a projector lamp, you can find her reading and baking.