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New Face of TV Viewership: Laptops and Tablets and Phones, Oh My!

  |  April 10, 2014   |  Comments

A new study from Google shows that TV viewers are increasingly turning to YouTube on their laptops, smartphones, and tablets for content related to their favorite TV shows.

Google has published some research that measures the impact of YouTube engagement on tune-in and fanship for TV shows. The data and insights are being rolled out in time for the third annual NewFronts marketplace, which will be held between April 28 and May 8 in New York City.

Over the past year, industry analysts and analytical leads at Google have seen an increase in the number of YouTube TV partners who are using YouTube to build an engaged fan community to take them beyond their late-night time slots. This includes Jimmy Kimmel Live's twerking prank.

It also includes The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon's playlist of clips featuring Justin Timberlake and #hashtags.

So, these folks at Google thought it would be interesting to take a look at the data behind these anecdotes. The key findings will be shared on the AdWords Agency Blog in a post by Mahlet Seyoum, industry analyst of media and entertainment sales at Google. An advanced copy of her post, which just went up, was provided to ClickZ under embargo.

According to Seyoum, "It's been called the 'New Golden Age of Television,' but today's TV ecosystem differs greatly from that of the era of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. People now turn to their laptops, smartphones, and tablets to view trailers and research cast information before tuning in, to use social media for real-time conversations about their favorite programs, and to binge-watch episodes on demand. In fact, 90 percent of TV viewers also visit Google and YouTube, signaling the shared audience between both digital and television."

She adds, "In an effort to identify how digital has impacted viewer behavior in this new era, we analyzed search queries, video views, and engagement metrics from a sample of 100 cable and network television shows. From this analysis we published a new report called 'The Role of Digital in TV Research, Fanship, and Viewing,' which outlines how online behavior is a clear indicator of a show's popularity."


Here are a few of the key findings from the study:

  • TV-related activity is growing on Google and YouTube. Searches have grown by 16 percent on Google and 54 percent on YouTube search year-over-year. YouTube has also seen a rise in video views, watch time, and engagement around TV-related content, suggesting that TV viewers are increasingly using these platforms to interact with other fans and engage in a show. In fact, watch time on YouTube for TV-related content has grown 65 percent year-over-year. 
  • Mobile and tablet searches are spearheading growth. Searches for TV content on Google and YouTube have increased more than 100 percent year-over-year on mobile devices, where users are looking for quick bits of information like premiere-date, plot, and cast-related information, and on tablets, where users are looking for watch-related information. 
  • Activity on Google and YouTube is correlated with tune-in. The company's analysis of Google searches, YouTube searches, and YouTube video views show positive .72, .74, and .67 correlations with "live plus three day" viewers, respectively.
  • The YouTube "community" actively creates TV-related content. In 2013, for every piece of content uploaded by a show's network on YouTube in 2013, there were more than seven pieces of community-generated content related to a show. Some fan favorites far exceed that benchmark: Game of Thrones, for example, had 82 community-generated videos per video uploaded by the network and The Vampire Diaries had 69.
  • Subscribers are vital to driving awareness for new content. TV networks have been gaining subscribers for their official YouTube channels at a blistering rate, with an average per channel subscribership increase of 69 percent from the beginning of 2013 to the end of the year. These subscribers are vital to spreading content on YouTube. 
  • Catching up on seasons is on the rise, and drives tune-in. Google found that 70 percent of viewers catch up on prior episodes before tuning into a new season. And this intent appears to be on the rise. Catch-up-related searches on Google in the pre-premiere timeframe have grown by 50 percent year-over-year. For people who catch up on past seasons of returning shows, about half will start more than two months in advance. Analyzing behaviors around catch-up are important, since four in five viewers say they are more likely to tune into a season premiere after catching up on prior seasons.

What does this mean to digital marketers? There is an old saying, "If you want to catch fish, fish where the fish are." Well, today's TV audiences use Google, YouTube, and digital overall to extend and inform their TV-watching experience. So, you should be fishing in these waters, too. And try to act nonchalant if the guys fishing next to you look like Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. They both work the night shift, so there's no telling what they do during the day.

To read Google's full report, go to Think Insights With Google.

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Greg Jarboe

Greg Jarboe is president of SEO-PR, which provides search engine optimization, public relations, video marketing, and social media marketing services. He's the author of "YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day," a faculty member at Rutgers University and Market Motive, as well as a frequent speaker at SES conferences.

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