Contrary to some media reports that traditional television
is waning in popularity compared to online content, a new study commissioned by
Discovery Networks, conducted by research firm Interpret, finds that while
there are groups of people who could live without linear television -- with
most of those being in younger demos -- watching TV content via a
cable/satellite box remains by far the most popular method of experiencing
The study finds that 79% of those watching TV content do it
through a cable or satellite box either live, time-shifted or through VOD. This
is compared to the 56% who watch it streaming through a computer, 48% who watch
it streaming through an Internet-connected device or 29% who watch it streamed
via a mobile device. The overlapping percentages occur because consumers do use
more than one method of watching content.
What continues to keep the traditional TV experience on top?
The study finds that "consumers overwhelmingly like the experience of
watching [content on] a TV set," with 56% saying they prefer watching content
on a TV set most. Only 8% say they prefer watching TV content via a streaming
service app on a gaming console connected to the TV, 7% say they prefer watching
streaming content on a website and 4% say they prefer watching TV content
through a streaming service app on an Internet-enabled set-top box or Blu-ray
disc player connected to the TV.
Dicing the numbers further, 43% of TV viewers "completely
agree they prefer watching TV shows on their television rather than through
other smaller screens," the study finds. "It is the quality of the television
experience that sets it apart from other screens. Consumers feel all other
screens are inferior to the television set and that the quality they offer
Regardless of the continued growth in numbers of viewing
options, "The fact that viewers still enjoy the habitual nature of television
would suggest that future changes in behavior will be more evolutionary than
revolutionary," write Discovery's Pam Pearce, senior director of custom and
digital research, and David Ernst, VP of digital research, in a blog about the
Consumers also believe watching content on TV is most
convenient and that traditional TV provides better picture and sound quality
than other devices, the survey shows. Even among consumers who watch
streamed content through apps on Internet-enabled TVs or devices connected to
the TV, 38% agree that they prefer traditional TV.
The study was conducted by Interpret in June 2012 and
includes data gathered online by polling 1,170 U.S. consumers aged 18-49 who
own a television and another device capable of streaming television content.
Respondents selected were also screened to ensure that they are regular
watchers of TV content.
While non-linear methods of TV viewing are popular, with
only about 25% of viewers saying they use only their cable/satellite box to
watch content, "there is no single platform whose current reach comes close to
matching that of the TV box," the numbers show.
The study also offers that, "streaming's market share is
spread across dozens of platforms, from individual network sites and
applications, to aggregator services such as Netflix and Hulu, to services
found on other entertainment and mobile devices." The study adds, "Connected
devices, computers, smartphones and tablets serve increasingly converged roles
in a household, but with the adoption of new devices, the threat that each
would usurp part of the TV's role has been unfounded."
Having a set schedule to watch TV content is apparently also
something consumers still enjoy, and the social aspect of the TV experience
also keeps it popular. Thirty-four percent of consumers "completely agree" that
they watch their TV sets because they can watch with friends and family, which
is harder to do on a computer, and arguably harder still or a mobile device.
Consumers who watch streaming video on other devices say it
offers more flexibility than the home TV box. Key draws to streaming video on
digital devices include: being able to pause shows and come back to them; being
able to catch up on missed episodes; watching shows not received via a cable or
satellite service; and watching repeat episodes of favorite shows. Of course
most of that could be done via TV box VOD services.
"Ad avoidance is another reason why consumers find streaming
appealing, but it is not the primary reason, despite being trumpeted as such
during the advent of streaming," the study says. "Although between one-quarter
and one-third of streamers (through different platforms) completely agree they
stream television content to avoid watching commercials completely, there are
several other factors around the flexibility of streaming that take precedence."
The study concludes that it is unlikely that viewers would have embraced
streaming video platforms solely to skip ads.
Regarding mobile viewing, 39% of mobile streamers watch TV
shows while waiting or killing time and 34% do so while in transit. "Given these
short bursts of use, long-form content is not ideal and would be harder to
consume," the study says.
The most popular categories of TV shows watched via mobile
are sitcoms and adult animated shows.
"The underlying reason why consumers use multiple devices is
because they have to," the study suggests. It also says as consumers become
more accustomed to being connected all the time, "they are treating their
smartphones and tablet computers as their TVs when they are not home."
"Audiences will continue to splinter between a growing
number of choices [that] will also accumulate over longer periods of time, stretching
over days and weeks as they exert even more control over when they want to see
content," say Pearce and Ernst in their blog. "More creative ways to extend
viewers' love affair with their TV sets are needed as audiences flirt with
other ways of accessing content. In doing so, programmers and advertisers can
develop stronger and deeper connections with audiences as they migrate across
the multitude of devices, allowing viewers to be engaged with programming and
brand messaging virtually all of the time."
The entire Discovery/Interpret study can be found here.