MBPT Spotlight: Numbers Game: Behind Consumers’ Desire For Connected TV

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Most people looking for a new device for watching video want a big screen TV, and they want one that allows them to stream content—or at least that is what is strongly suggested by findings of a qualitative study conducted for the Council for Research Excellence (CRE) by GfK.

Smart TVs were selected by the majority of households participating in the study, which was an acceleration ethnography designed to help determine consumers’ likely future video-device purchases.

We conducted the acceleration ethnography among 50 households in the Chicago area, which were tracked over a 15-week period from November 2013 to April 2014. We monitored members’ online and in-store purchases via self-reported behavior and usage surveys, and follow-up questions based on incoming data.

We found that the dominant consideration driving video-device purchase and usage decisions was content, and that consumers demand devices that can stream content—to enable time-shifting or binge-watching, for example. All participating households, regardless of demographic or technographic differences, sought ways to stream content, while some sought to “cast” content from one device to another.

Over-the-top streaming devices (such as a Roku box or Google Chromecast device) were the second most purchased items behind Smart TVs in our acceleration study, and were typically bought in addition to other products such as smart TVs. Tablets were purchased by a minority of the households.

When TV sets with OTT access were introduced into a household, they became the most-used device for video, generating increased group viewing. The TV set, whether “smart” or connected to a streaming device, remained the dominant video-viewing device, although other devices were often present in the same room.

This acceleration study ran concurrently with the CRE’s ongoing, two-year longitudinal ethnography, overseen by our colleague Bryon Schafer, senior VP, Warner Bros. Media Research & Insights, who chairs the CRE’s Digital Research Committee. This study, also conducted for the CRE by GfK, involved a national selection of 100 households.

Here’s what we’ve found so far from the longitudinal study:

• Family and friends—especially children, teenagers and “boomerang” young adults who have returned to parents’ homes—often act as influencers and agents of change, influencing not only technology purchasing decisions but which content is consumed.

• Consumers have moved from a single-source, single-device mindset, or what the researchers call “Mental Model,” to a multi-source, multi-device model.

• A family is likely to watch together on a TV set on weeknights and then watch on laptops in their own rooms between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.

• Questions of where, when and how content is consumed are often determined by negotiation among multiple household members—although typically the father of the household plays the role of “manager” of the remote.

Video-viewing terms such as “binge-viewing” have entered the lexicon. Our longitudinal ethnography exposed us to what we and the research team have coined “hyper viewing.” We learned that special viewing events and favorite shows compel these behaviors: Pronounced simultaneous, multiscreen usage and mobile viewing; continuous conversation via social media, IM, in-person and remote chats; and the use of new applications, websites and platforms in the effort to enjoy an enhanced viewing experience.

The longitudinal ethnography’s 100 participant households were selected to represent a balance of urban, suburban and rural characteristics. Beginning in October 2013, researchers conducted in-person visits in homes specially selected for observation, with more scheduled for 2015.

All households for both studies were given a personal smart device, serving as a “participant toolkit” including a camera and co-discovery tool with study-specific apps to enable self-reporting. This toolkit itself was an important part of the research process and a source of learning, and you’re likely to see its type deployed more frequently.

In all, what we’ve learned so far from both ethnographies reinforces that consumers want to watch content, long-form and even short-form, on the best available screen, which typically is the screen known as the ‘TV’ most often found in the living room.

We also learned that kids in many ways are the change agents due to their ability to grasp and advocate new viewing technologies.

And our findings serve to underscore that the term “watching TV” has evolved to mean the viewing of any long-form content on any screen. The program grid is continuing to diminish in importance as consumers adopt technologies that allow them to design their ideal viewing time and place.

A slide presentation of the findings can be found here

Cheryl Brink is vice chair, Digital Research Committee, Council for Research Excellence and VP digital research & analytics, Scripps Networks. Laura Cowan is director, Analytics and Insight, MEC, and a member of the Media Consumption & Engagement Committee, Council for Research Excellence. The CRE is an independent research group dedicated to advancing the knowledge and practice of audience measurement methodology.

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