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'Content is King but Distribution is King Kong'

This Sunday, the Royal Christmas Message will be delivered by a king in the UK for the first time in over 70 years. So I’ve been taking a look at how many people tuned in to the last one, how many are expected to watch or listen to this one, and how the tradition for doing so has evolved in the intervening decades.

An estimated 20 million people tuned into the last Royal Christmas Message delivered by King George VI in 1951, listening to it exclusively on the radio. Revisiting, his opening remarks don’t feel out of place in 2022: “I would like to wish you, wherever you may be, a happy Christmas. Though we live in hard and critical times, Christmas is and always will be a time when we can count our blessings.”

This year, as King Charles lll delivers his inaugural Royal Christmas Message, new research suggests more than 30m will be watching or listening in the UK. However, whilst the numbers as a proportion of population are similar, how people receive the message has changed enormously. This change, made possible by technological innovation, also tells us something about how broadcast media’s adaptability has ensured its enduring success.

The research reveals audiences are most likely to watch on TV (36% “as live” and 7% on catch up) this year but one in 25 (4%) said they’ll stream it “as live” on their phone, with almost as many saying they’re most likely to watch it on social media. Which leads me to the conclusion that, whether republican or royalist, the old adage that content is king but distribution is King Kong remains true.

Oh, and finally, if you don’t already follow TV critic and broadcaster/podcaster Scott Bryan on social media, I recommend you check out the best “WTF TV news moments of 2022” which he’s kindly shared.

Merry Christmas and see you in 2023,

Dan Stainsby CMPRCA.