Another day, another headline about TV remaining the “dominant viewing medium, as if anyone in their right mind would argue otherwise.
Those in the business of TV, of course, love to build up and destroy “death of TV” straw man arguments. Most recently, TVB – the TV-based market group for stations – argued that the impact of Internet video on traditional TV has been negligible, with Internet viewing representing only 1.5% of all TV viewing.
While one may argue that these numbers may underestimate the impact of online viewing, the general thesis is true. Consumers will tell you plain out that, when push comes to shove, they would rather watch video on their televisions as opposed to a pad, PC, or mobile phone.
As with most straw man arguments, the advocate distracts the listener from the real issues by building up a flawed but similar position that can be easily torched. In this case, the more complicated issue has little to do with whether TV viewing – live or recorded – has declined in general, and everything to do with how TV viewing habits have themselves changed with the introduction of new content sources. In other words, viewing video on the TV will indeed remain dominant; the question is whether this conduit will be filled by broadcast and PayTV channels or by some other source, and how these habits vary by age.
To measure these shifts, TDG last year introduced its ‘First Glance’ metric, which measures the order in which broadband-enabled consumers turn to various TV sources, be it live TV, recorded TV, online TV sources, etc. In other words, when those with multiple TV content sources first sit down to watch TV, to which source do they turn first, second, third, etc.? This provides a much more insightful snapshot of TV viewing behavior and points to emerging trends long before companies like TVB or Nielsen will openly acknowledge them.
Generally, our latest ‘First Glance’ data suggests that live TV continues to dominate; it is the first choice of 66% of broadband-enabled consumers. However, when age is factored in, only half of 18-34s turn first to live TV broadcasts, compared with more than three-fourths of those 45 or older. When it comes to viewing of DVR-recorded TV broadcasts, they are the first choice for around 20% of 25-44s (what TDG calls “the DVR generations”) but only 13% of 18-24s.
So how do net-to-TV sources like Netflix fit into this equation? Close to 20% of 18-34s first turn their TVs to such outlets, compared with 10% of 35-44s and only 3% of those 45 and older. Despite the fact they are still viewing television – and despite these incessant insider proclamations that “TV remains dominant” – this demonstrates a shift in behavior with which broadcasters are clearly concerned and insiders cannot spin to suit their own purposes.