The Changing Face of Television Viewing

By February 17, 2016 No Comments

Digital platforms are changing the way viewers watch TV. Traditional television is far from dead, but viewers increasingly value the ability to choose when to watch what.

The decline in live TV viewing has concerned networks and advertisers for some time, due in part to the challenge of measuring ratings across diverse platforms. Understanding and tracking new viewing habits has proven a struggle for the industry.

RealityMine has conducted analysis of the behavior of TV and online video viewers. Insights have been drawn from USA TouchPoints eDiary data of 7,673 American panelists who consume video on a TV or other device. From this data analysis, advertisers and media planners can get a firmer grasp on viewing habits, and thus create more targeted media campaigns.

Cross-device online video figures

The changing face of TV viewing has opened avenues to new behaviors, such as viral video sharing, online streaming, and on-demand options. Subscription streaming services (e.g. Netflix and Hulu) take up 65% of all online video viewing, while the proportion of video-sharing sites (e.g. YouTube and Vine) is surprisingly low with 19% of total viewing. Figure 1 shows the distribution of different channels where viewers accessed online video, regardless of the device they used.

Figure 1, Distribution of online video channels

graph 1

The choice of device for online viewing greatly influences how the content is accessed, as seen in figure 2 below. 80% of online videos watched on a TV are accessed via subscription streaming services. However, the popularity of these services is comparably low on a mobile device or computer. On these devices, especially a computer, video-sharing sites have an important share in total online viewing.

Figure 2, Online video access by device

graph 2

TV and online video compete on prime time viewers

Online video gives viewers freedom to watch their favorite series and movies whenever they want, but we found that the prime time for online video is the same as for traditional television – largely between 6PM and 10PM, as shown in figures 3 and 4. Regardless of the viewing method, the biggest peaks take place between 8PM and 9PM.

Figure 3, TV viewing peaks by viewing method

graph 3

Figure 4, Online viewing peaks by viewing method

graph 4

Millennials still watch TV – just not necessarily on a TV

Millennials prefer accessing videos by computers and mobile devices over televisions. More specifically, video-sharing sites appear to be the favored method of consuming video for millennials, while live TV is the first choice of older generations. So it seems the key to success when advertising to millennials is to understanding they watch media when and where they want it.

The popularity of watching TV—particularly live TV—increases gradually towards older generations (see figure 5). 89% of younger Millennials (18 to 24 years) who watch TV, watch live TV, while the proportion between ages 55 to 64 is 96%. The same trend applies to watching recorded programming via TiVo or other DVR. This suggests that, with hectic schedules juggling work, play, and family life, streaming services and other flexible forms of viewing are popular—along with live TV—for working-age individuals.

Figure 5, Differences in TV viewing by generations

graph 5

What can we conclude from this data?

Even though there’s no doubt audience still love traditional TV, advertisers must continue to adapt to viewers’ changing habits in order to target and engage them. New, flexible options have made it easier for consumers to choose when and what to watch. Accessing video through computers and mobile devices also keeps getting more popular – mobile devices are no longer only a favored way to watch short videos but also to access full TV shows and movies. And although online video is accessible 24/7, interestingly, viewers are still most likely to tune in during TV prime time.

Moreover, the way we consume TV media varies considerably between generations. Unsurprisingly, millennials have been the first ones to swap traditional TV to more flexible options. However, older generations have also begun embracing the variety of options – recorded TV programming is especially popular among these generations.

As the media landscape keeps rapidly changing, high-quality data is the key to understand, reach, and acquire today’s multi-dimensional consumers.

Data collected from wave 2015.1 (March 2015-November 2015).