BBC, ZDF & Other Euro Public Service Networks See Viewer Engagement Dwindling — Ampere Study

The BBC, ARD/ZDF and other major European public service networks have seen viewer engagement in their services dive by nearly a fifth in the past six years, an Ampere Analysis study revealed today.

The consumer research shows public service media (PSM)’s linear and Video on Demand (BVoD) services has fallen by 15% in Europe’s largest markets — a damning statistic as they wrestle with ways to retain viewers in the face of global streamers.

This was particularly prominent among younger age groups, which is another longstanding problem for PSM in Europe.

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Ampere’s report claimed “policy responses to changing audience patterns have seen public funding either plateau or fall,” limiting PSM groups’ ability to respond to competitive pressures. However, the BBC and Italy’s RAI have seen “strong” adoption of their streaming services after investing heavily to expand their VoD platforms. 

The BBC’s iPlayer broke 7 billion views for the first time in 2022 and recorded several other records thanks to shows such as The Traitors, while Rai’s annual report for last year showed it had garnered around 1.7 billion ‘legitimate’ views and recorded 260 million hours of content streaming across the year. Both PSBs have market leading audience shares on linear, as well.

RAI actually saw a slight uptick and is leading the way on viewer engagement, while the BBC is roughly flat on six years ago following a minor recovery through the first quarter of this year. Germany’s ZDF also saw a small uptick but only after engagement fell on the Q1 2017 figure. France Télévisions and Spain’s RTVE saw significant slides in the wrong direction, the research shows.

Ampere said PSM faces “a difficult challenge in striking a balance between serving their traditional audience bases, attracting new viewers, and addressing the needs and interests of minority groups, while at the same time dealing with funding constraints caused by declining public TV revenue, budget cuts and austerity measures.” Combined with “intense competition from digital platforms,” this has limited many public services’ ability to invest in their own VoD services and programming. 

Ampere said increasing public service funding would offer a short-term fix and allow for more original TV shows and films to be made for digital services. Longer-term, it suggested implementing multi-year funding mechanisms, guaranteeing prominence and encouraging PSM to “foster ambitious strategic partnerships” as means to ensure their futures.

“The European broadcast industry is undergoing a rapid transformation, driven by a significant shift in viewing habits,” said Neil Anderson, Report Co-Author and Senior Analyst at Ampere Analysis. “Today’s audiences expect immediate access to a vast array of content, tailored to their individual preferences, setting higher expectations for broadcasters. To gain and retain viewer attention, broadcasters must invest in production capabilities, diverse programming, and digital platforms. 

“However, success in the PSM sector has traditionally been measured solely by audience share, leading to decisions that prioritise programming based on TV ratings. This narrow focus on ratings overlooks other crucial aspects that define the relevance and impact of PSM. These include its role in promoting cultural diversity and providing vital support to Europe’s TV production sector.”

Cyrine Amor, report co-author and Senior Analyst at Ampere Analysis, added: “Policy-makers hold the key to shaping the future of public service media, and they need to be aligned with the changing dynamics of the industry to ensure the long-term survival and continued relevance of PSM in Europe’s TV landscape.”

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