Watching live TV is a social activity that can unite a household after various daily obligations – if you can all agree on what to watch! The programme you choose to watch may educate, entertain, inspire or even cause a heated debate! You may even have fond memories of watching certain programmes growing up.


Googlebox is Channel 4’s reality show which features a number of British couples, families and friends as they watch live TV together, although it must be pointed out that the programme is controlled in various ways by the producers. It may seem like a bizarre concept but it’s interesting to watch the dynamics and rituals of the participants. For instance, the Parkers like to unwind with a glass of wine while watching television, while friends Sandy and Sandra are often seen tucking into takeaways and various treats. Some people are more opinionated and passionate than others. Some of the people featured have found themselves becoming minor celebrities as the public have taken them to their hearts. Whatever your opinion is on the show, it has become a successful format, now in its seventh series in the UK, and has created local versions in the US, Canada, Finland, France and Spain and is a great reminder of how social TV viewing can be and how powerful the medium is at uniting people.


Also, you don’t have to wait too long to watch the next episode as frequently channels will play two episodes back-to-back or even offer a box set service so you can watch the series all in one go.


However, broadcasters offering whole series is a new concept and on the whole, one of the most frustrating things about watching live TV is having to wait a few days, perhaps even a week, until the next episode airs; your viewing habits are dictated by a broadcaster who hasn’t consulted your schedule! Your social life may need to be tweaked so you can watch the programme live in order to be able to discuss it with your friends, family and work colleagues; the rigidity can seem suffocating.


Perhaps the greatest attractions for watching TV digitally is the choice and flexibility. If you’ve missed your favourite programme you can watch it on the broadcaster’s catch up service such as BBC iPlayer, where it is waiting for you whenever you are ready - you can even download the programme to your device. You may have already pre-ordered the series from iTunes where episodes are automatically uploaded to your account shortly after they have aired. With digital, you are not restricted to where, when or how you watch your programmes. You could watch it on the train, during your lunch break or in the bath on either a laptop, mobile or tablet!


Streaming sites such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, where you pay for a subscription to access thousands of programmes and movies, offer a huge range of content that wasn’t possible a few years ago. These sites have become so popular that they now produce their own content; Netflix’s ‘Orange is the New Black’ and Amazon Prime’ ‘The Man in the High Castle’ being two examples.  In addition to this, you can watch a whole season of a programme without having to wait for the show to air. This behaviour has spawned the term ‘binge-watching’.  Another benefit is that there are often no adverts on digital services and the platform may even remember what you last watched so you can pick up where you left off and even suggests what you may like to watch next.  Also, if a TV show has been cancelled by a broadcaster it may have a second life on a digital platform. For instance ‘The Mindy Project’ was cancelled by Fox and has gone on to produce two further seasons on Hulu so fans haven’t been left disappointed.


On the other hand, digital too has its own frustrations. For instance, it can be quite daunting when faced with so much choice to decide what you want to watch next and it can be expensive to sign up to subscription services perhaps on top of your TV provider costs. Also, it becomes problematic if you have or haven’t watched as much of the series as your friends have; it’s hard to engage when you’re not all at the same point and may leave you open to spoiler alerts. Digital platforms also bring their own admin; sometimes a streaming service can remove a series with little notice and catch up services delete episodes after a certain period of time, so you need to make sure you watch them during a certain period if time. While it is good that series have the chance of a ‘second life’ on a digital platform, it does marginalise those who don’t wish to sign up and pay for a service.


In summary, there is no right or wrong way to watch television and the amount of choice is staggering. As long as there is good content, there will always be a willing audience!  Do you download TV programmes or do you watch them live? Let us know your viewing habits below.