Good evening and farewell to television

Published on Sep 12, 2020

Television has changed an awful lot since Bruce Gyngell uttered the famous words, "Good evening and welcome to television" to launch television in Australia on 16th September 1956. In the six decades since, television has expanded to three free-to-air networks, two national broadcasters, one subscription broadcaster, multi-channel catch-up, and a plethora of streaming services.

Back then there were very few televisions, and crowds of people would congregate in television showrooms and clubs to watch the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Very few people owned a television, and those who did would throw a private television party.

When man walked on the moon in July 1969, it was one small step for man, but a giant leap for Australian television. The moon landing remains perhaps televisions most defining moment.

When colour television arrived in 1974, we were well and truly addicted to cop shows, quiz shows and soap operas, many of them made in Australia. Colour television also saw the explosion of televised sport, when Kerry Packer had the cricketers wear coloured clothing, some say pyjamas, with his World Series Cricket in 1977.

With the introduction of the Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) in the 1980s, it was the first opportunity to record a television program and watch it at a time that suited you. No need to race home each night to ensure you didn't miss an episode of our favourite soap, "Neighbours".

The first subscription television service arrived in 1995, and for many people, it was a bridge too far. Why would I pay for television, when I get it for free? I was in that camp, and I flatly refused to buy into it.

Over the next twenty years, live sport has syphoned off to the subscriber channels, and the introduction of fast broadband internet has allowed catch-up and streaming services to thrive. As the choices expanded, we have become a lot more discerning about what we watch, when we watch it, and on what device.

At the same time, content providers have decided it is more profitable to stream their content than it is to sell it off to traditional television services. This hoarding of content has meant that we now have to subscribe to a multitude of streaming services. Our household now subscribes to almost eight different streaming services to satisfy the viewing needs of the family.

I no longer watch traditional television. All the content I watch is streamed, and apart from live sport, I watch it at a time that suits me. The irony of it all is that I am now happy to pay for that content, even though I was adamant I wouldn't do it 20 years ago.

The future of television in Australia can be summed up by the comedian Tom Gleeson, who when asked where he saw television ten years from now said:

"I predict that in the next ten years, due to streaming, I'll say the famous words, "Good evening and farewell to Television."