Signs Point to a New ‘New Normal’ for TV Viewing

Consumers are choosing how and when they watch their favorite programming — and it’s time for advertisers and marketers to pay attention.

Never before have consumers been given this much choice. And, if the incredible array of diverse content being spotlighted at this year’s Digital Content NewFronts is any indication, even more choice is yet to come.

At the beginning of it all, the television business only gave viewers three choices. Then with UHF, they had four or five. Cable television multiplied consumer choice exponentially, but still consumers were tied to the box and when it came to viewing the same content in new places, it was still all about the syndicated rerun.

Today, it’s different. Video content producers are broadcasting their content everywhere— on traditional TV, on their websites, through cable providers’ on-demand services, through businesses like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon, and through their own apps. But, as marketers know, consumers can’t be everywhere at once.

It was only a matter of time until consumers said: this is how I want to watch. Their decisions are starting to become clear.

An in-depth study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau entitled “The Changing TV Experience: Attitudes and Usage Across Multiple Screens” sheds new light on the ongoing dramatic shift in consumers’ television viewing habits. It comes as no surprise to me that digital video through connected TVs is capturing more and more of their time.

Let’s start with the basics. Americans are watching streaming video. One in three Americans over the age of 18 now owns either a smart TV or a device that streams video to their living room screen. And they are enjoying this new viewing option. More than three-quarters of connected TV owners say streaming video is just as good or better than TV. In fact, two in five connected TV owners spend at least half their TV-watching time viewing streaming video.

What’s the appeal? Respondents cited appreciating a greater sense of control, a better selection, and the advertising (or lack thereof). Fifty percent of connected TV owners say they’re more likely to stream content than watch traditional TV because there are fewer commercials, and 40 percent said commercials in streaming platforms were less intrusive. While the volume of advertising messages is likely to change — in another new IAB study we found that 68 percent of marketers and agencies anticipate increasing their digital video ad spend in the next year — it’s reassuring to know consumers also appreciate the distinct differences in viewing ads on digital video versus regular TV.

When they’re streaming, they’re watching a range of programming (on a monthly basis):

  • 79 percent stream Netflix
  • 76 percent stream YouTube
  • 55 percent enjoy TV network apps like WatchESPN and HBO Go
  • 52 percent use Amazon Prime Instant Video monthly

They’re also multiscreening, complementing the TV and video content they’re consuming with activities on their smartphones, tablets, and computers. While the most popular thing to do is socialize with friends about the content, nearly half are searching out information about the show or movie and visiting the social media pages of the show, movie, or actor, giving advertisers new venues to reach and engage with their TV viewing targets.

Advertisers should be paying close attention to these nuggets of intelligence. Because TV truly is everywhere, consumer choice will define the new era of mass television marketing. Every new data point about their behavior and consumption — where they’re watching, what they’re watching, how they’re watching — tells us more about what this future will look like. And their choice is beginning to become clear. Streaming video, innovative advertising solutions, and social, multiscreen viewing are gaining their allegiance and leading the way.

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