Written by John Sintras for afr.com and published in afr.com 12.11.09
It’s certainly a dynamic time in TV land at the moment. Thirty three new TV channels will have launched by year end; time shifted viewing data will finally be incorporated into the OzTAM currency in late December; Seven, Ten and Foxtel have been busy spruiking their 2010 product line ups in launch events around the country; and the Multiview research panel will be introduced into subscription TV homes early next year.
That’s a lot of pro-activity for a medium that is supposedly dying. The reality is that consumer engagement in TV programs is as strong as ever. Our recent word of mouth study, Branded Conversations, confirmed that TV programs are the most talked about product category of all, with 79 per cent of all people talking about a TV program an average of 2.7 times each week. And contrary to popular belief, technology is actually helping to increase consumer engagement with TV content, with the DVR in particular helping people to view more programs more often on their own terms.
To validate this trend, and to give us an idea of what we can expect when time shifted viewing data is introduced in Australia, Starcom recently commissioned a major TV behaviour survey in conjunction with Network Ten. We spoke to 1600 respondents aged 16-54 years across Australia, using a combination of household surveys, viewing diaries and in-depth interviews during September and October.
Among the key findings:
•The majority of viewer interaction with TV sets across the week continues to be for viewing TV programs. Almost three quarters (72 per cent) of all interactions were watching live TV, 15 per cent were watching a recorded program, 7 per cent were recording a program and the remaining 6 per cent were watching DVDs, gaming or hooking up their PC.
•People have very quickly embraced the new FTA digital channels. Seventeen per cent of all respondents claimed to be regular watchers of both One HD and Go!, and the results were similar in both DVR and non -DVR households (we were in field too early to get a result for 7TWO). Also, 6 per cent of people nominated both channels as their favourite channel, already higher than the results for SBS or any of the existing subscription TV channels among total people 16-54 years old.
•A DVR presence in the household drives more daily viewing. More than three quarters (78 per cent) of respondents claimed to be watching more than 1.5 hours of TV on weekdays versus 71 per cent in non-DVR households, and it was 86 per cent versus 77 per cent on weekends. Engagement metrics in DVR households are also high: 54 per cent say they enjoy watching TV programs more since getting a DVR, 55 per cent say they watch a greater variety of programs, 40 per cent say they spend more time watching TV, and 70 per cent rarely miss an episode of their favourite programs since getting a DVR
•Time shifting varies dramatically by genre, and is consistent with the trends already seen overseas. News and current affairs is the genre with the highest ‘mostly live’ watching score in time shift enabled households at 76 per cent, followed by sport with 60 per cent, and light entertainment at 54 per cent. The genres with the lowest ‘mostly live’ viewing scores are mini-series, movies, documentaries and drama on 32 per cent, 34 per cent, 37 per cent and 38 per cent respectively.
•Most time shifting happens within a week. Seventy-one per cent of respondents claimed to watch back recorded programs within the week, validating OzTAM’s decision to limit the capture of playback viewing at seven days. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of people claimed to watch recorded programs the same day, 21 per cent the next day, 15 per cent within two to three days, and 12 per cent within four to seven days.
•Ad skipping is prevalent in time shift playback, but so is ad avoidance in traditional viewing in non DVR homes. Interestingly only 9 per cent of DVR households nominated ad skipping as the main reason for recording programs. However, 74 per cent said they frequently or occasionally skipped through ads. On the surface, this represents a huge challenge for traditional TVC formats. Of some consolation is the fact that 42 per cent of people said they would stop skipping through an ad if they were interested in the product being advertised, 35 per cent if the content was interesting, and 30 per cent if the content was humorous.
Before we all get too depressed about these figures, we must remember that people have been skipping ads by other means since TV was invented. To try and qualify this, we also asked non DVR households what they did during the ad breaks: 40 per cent of people claim they never or rarely watch the ads, and the majority of people also claim to leave the room, channel flick, or multi-task during ad breaks anyway, so it’s difficult to make the claim that DVRs themselves are driving ad avoidance.
•Downloading TV programs is increasing. Twenty per cent of people claimed to have streamed or watched TV programs online, 15 per cent claimed to have downloaded and saved a TV program, and 11 per cent claimed to watch TV programs downloaded by others. These figures will undoubtedly continue to grow and the next challenge for the ratings currency will be how we start to measure this increasingly large viewing opportunity.
There has never been a more dynamic time in TV, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch the developments over the coming year. While there will be more content, increasing viewer engagement and interaction and more opportunities for advertisers, it’s not a given that viewers will also engage with traditional TVC formats. Now more than ever we need to understand how and why people are viewing to successfully connect our brands with their favourite TV content in meaningful ways.