TV viewing has radically changed...

...professional communicators pay heed

What is your favourite TV programme from over the last few decades?

I suspect this is difficult to answer as there have been literally thousands.

Do these TV titles spring to mind?

And would you answer with these?
  • The Thornbirds (1984)
  • World Cup semi-final - England v Germany (1990)
  • Eastenders - Episode: Who Shot Phil Butcher? (2001)
These were among the most popular programmes ever to be broadcast in Great Britain. We know this as they led to some of the largest energy surges (or TV pick-ups as they are commonly known) the country has ever seen - with each programme creating the equivalent of switching on around one million kettles at the same time.

The TV pick-up explained

TV pick-ups occur when the nation is gripped to its televisions and during the interval or end of the broadcast collectively turns on lights, switches on kettles and opens refrigerator doors. This creates a sudden, short increase in electricity demand. The more people do this, the higher the increase.

This gives a strong indication of a programme's popularity. Over the years, this phenomenon has occurred around numerous broadcasts and enabled National Grid to provide news updates and show how its engineers are experienced in anticipating and managing these power surges effectively (download this from National Grid for an insight 'Balancing Supply & Demand').

The effect of on-demand

National Grid has recently announced that owing to changing viewing habits - with more 'on-demand' use - it is now rarely witnessing large TV pick-ups.

For professional communicators, this is yet another example of a changing society. We must factor in the influence of media platforms, technological advances and audience requirements when developing and delivering communication programmes.

Will we see TV pick-ups return?

I suspect the answer is yes, if we witness a major public interest event being broadcast live, simultaneously across multi-channels. If this does happen, to give a plug (excuse the pun) to my former employer, National Grid, they will no doubt be on hand to inform us of the situation, manage the power surge from their control centre with the minimum of fuss and ensure we continue to have a reliable energy supply.


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