Dropping Linear: The Coming All Digital Future

Miles Weaver
Miles Weaver Marketing Director

An interesting item popped across our radars in the wake of IBC, but we haven’t had chance to discuss it until now. Motorsport Network announced that it was closing its Motorsport.tv linear channel at the end of September, with the brand continuing as an online only streaming entity.

In a statement, Motorsport Network said “Our audience is shifting towards digital channels, and consuming more video content. In order to serve our committed global audience, we will be adapting our business to meet consumer needs and that is why from Sept 30th we will transition Motorsport.tv to an online and on demand model; moving away from our linear TV channel.”

This is, of course, an extremely interesting development, and one we feel we are likely to see more of over the coming years, as an increasing number of  genre specific content owners and channels respond to their audience moving away from the traditional, linear EPG to find their content online.

The logic on the part of the viewer makes sense. Assuming they know where in the never ending EPG list the channel is (and even then, accessing it through scrolling might take some time), having only what’s on right then and there to watch (we’re ignoring the potential for DVR-ing here) is fundamentally limiting. Add in the limitation on viewing device, and at a time when there is so much choice available on digital platforms, you can see why linear doesn’t stack up as an option. Why wouldn’t an engaged fan try and find the same kind of content online, on a platform that enables them to watch whatever style of that content they want on demand?

Thus, for the channel owner, the need for an online platform is a no brainer – go where your audience are. However, the decision on the part of Motorsport.tv to remove its linear channel entirely makes sense on another level. With all audiences slowly drifting away to online only viewing, the economics of owning a linear channel don’t entirely make sense anymore. The cost of having a once cherished spot on the EPG is high, especially when the ad revenue that would have paid for that slot is shrinking thanks to a declining audience (and overall ad expenditure on linear TV is decreasing overall). As a result, the digital only move is a smart choice on many levels.

It’s a trend that is not going to go away, particularly when companies like Amazon are also starting to offer ‘channels’ on their Prime Video platform, giving companies who might not be ready for a full owned and operated service a happy middle ground as they move to digital. Many channels and content owners will progress further however, and move to delivering their content only via their own service, where they can own 100% of the revenue and the audience, whilst giving their viewers a service that is more tailored to their needs across all devices. Motorsport.tv might be one of the first to make the move to online only, but they sure aren’t going to be the last.

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Miles Weaver

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Miles Weaver Marketing Director
April 30, 2019

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