Thursday, November 1, 2012

Primetime TV Viewing - Changing or Not?

A few weeks ago I did a post on some results of a GfK study that showed primetime viewing habits are changing among younger (Gen Y) viewers.  The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) recently posted what could be considered a response suggesting that they same study also shows "the staying power of conventional media."

  Every now and then I see one of these attempts to spin research; sometimes they raise important points about methodology or interpretation in the study, but most, like this one, try to find something positive to say.  For example, responding to a Table that shows significant growth in ownership of digital and mobile devices that can add TV viewing options, they note that TV set ownership has increased as well.  True. but the Table shows 10-20 point gains in diffusion for digital devices, while growth in TV set ownership in the U.S. grew from 98.2% in 2004 to 98.9% in 2011 (and actually fell to 97.1% in 2012). Similarly, they note that while traditional TV's share of time spent using media, the actual amount of time spent watching TV in traditional ways has slightly increased.
  The NAB's spin on changes in how people find out about programs is particularly brazen -
(W)hile social media (6%) and TV network websites (5%) have appeared, the same top four methods of finding programs in 2004 (channel surfing, integrated program guides, memory and TV ads) are the same top four methods in 2012.
Yes, the top 4 remain the top 4, but their use by viewers has dropped as precipitously as the decline in citing newspapers as a source (something they note in their post). Citing TV ads dropped by almost half, channel surfing fell by a quarter, and use of Integrated Program Guides fell 15%. "Just know" as a response (the one of the 4 that isn't TV-based) remained fairly steady.
  When noting that watching traditional "live" TV during the first hour of primetime fell (from around 82% to 64%), they note that if you add in those watching "recorded" video, you can account for 90% of TV set use during that time - and that's more than watched live TV in 2004 and 2008.  But again, there's two things they don't tell you - that while DVR use for time-shifting has certainly increased, the playback of recorded video category also includes home video (DVDs, BluRay discs) and online video; also, if you add "recorded" to live for 2004 and 2008 as well, you get 99% of TV set use, so even in that case, the 2012 results show a sizable decline.
  The NAB also point to a recently released study from Verizon that shows that people would still overwhelmingly prefer to watch TV shows on TV sets (around 90%).  True enough, but that's not always possible, and the GfK study shows that people are increasing their use of other devices to watch TV programs, and are also increasingly using their TV sets to do things other than watch live TV. 

  Nice try, NAB.  You've got a point that we're not seeing a radical transformation of the TV landscape or audience preferences and behaviors.  We're not likely to see massive waves of viewers abandon their HDTV sets to watch programs on smartphones.  But despite your efforts at spin, how people watch TV is not staying the same.  The the industry needs to recognize that more modest transformations are occurring, and find ways to address those changes head-on, rather than trying to wave them away and pretend that everything's "essentially" the same.  Consider what happened to daily newspapers when they tried that strategy in response to the Internet.

Source -  Reports Show that for TV, the More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same, NAB TVTechCheck

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