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Worth the licence fee: Is television’s golden age over?

ITV’s financial results suggest a downward spiral of demand which might pave the way to the end of British television
Worth the licence fee: Is television’s golden age over?
  • A comparison of ITV and Walt Disney financial results shows the extent to which television is changing
  • British broadcasters must adapt faster if they hope the survive

It feels wrong to question the value of the television licence fee at a time when Britain is enjoying His Dark Materials on the BBC, the finale of The Great British Bake Off on Channel 4 and the conclusion of the Six Nations on ITV (ITV). But aside from this small handful of gems, we Briton’s are coughing up £157.50 a year to watch Gary Lineker spout drivel about football and have coronavirus death figures shouted at us. Fewer and fewer are willing to pay.

In 2019, 37,000 fewer households bought a licence fee than the previous year (the first time that the government had reported a decline) and in 2020, we’re flocking in our thousands to streaming services. At the last count, 25m Brits were signed up to Netflix (US: NFLX), Walt Disney’s (US: DIS) Disney+ and Amazon’s (US: AMZN) Prime service. That’s the same number of licence fees that have been bought so far this year after sales collapsed by a further 250,000.

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