Free-to-air (FTA) television has a long and proud history in the UK market, one of sustained quality, innovation, creativity and investment. The UK’s Public Service Broadcasters continue to deliver world-class programming, despite falling investment (taking account of inflation), and continue to account for the majority of TV viewing in the UK. TV advertising remains remarkably resilient, and the UK’s free TV platforms continue to support a thriving array of channels, with widely-varying offerings and business models. Free-to-use multi-platform TV services are going from strength to strength and Freeview, launched in 2002, remains the UK’s largest TV platform, present in around 17m TV HHs.

So far, so good: free-to-air television has held up relatively well, in the face of growing competition.

However, the times they are a-changing. There is a growing consensus that the market is entering a new, more disruptive stage. The battle for audiences, advertising and customers is intensifying, rapidly, with more competitors on the way, as the major US media conglomerates gear up to compete with Netflix. Younger audiences are watching far less scheduled TV than older audiences, with YouTube, Netflix, gaming and other activities capturing a growing share of their time. ITV’s share price has halved since 2016, Netflix is now roughly the same size of Channel 4 (according to Tony Hall), and the BBC is increasingly concerned about “competing with one hand tied behind its back”.

How will the UK TV market develop during the 2020s? Can FTA broadcasters really compete against the major global internet businesses? Are FTA TV advertising revenues heading for a sustained, structural decline? Will the UK’s PSB ecosystem inevitably decline, as viewing, revenues and investment fall? Can in FTA investment in high-quality British programming be sustained – and can the UK’s free TV platforms continue to support the same range and quality of channels? What is FTA’s role in the TV market of the future?

MTM would like to invite you to our first Forum event of 2019, exploring the future of free-to-air TV in the UK market. We’re delighted to announce that our panel for the event will include: Jonathan Thompson, CEO of Digital UK; Sarah Simon, Senior Analyst, Media at Berenberg Bank; Simon Brown, Executive Director of Strategy, Research and Regulatory Affairs at UKTV; and Kim Chua, Head of Strategy at Channel 4; and Rebecca Marvel, Head of Television Strategy at BBC.