On Viacom’s New ‘Getting With The Program’ Research: TV’s New Paths Paved With Greater Fandom, Loyalty

stuart-schneiderman by Stuart Schneiderman, Consumer Insights & Measurement, Viacom Media Networks

The goal of our Getting With The Program study was to answer a single, seemingly simple question: How do people watch TV?  I say “seemingly simple” because we don’t lack for sources that measure the ways we watch: Nielsen for TV ratings, Rentrak for set top boxes,vcomScore for PCs, our own Omniture data for digital, and so on.  But, unlike how we watch TV, each of these disparate data sources is in a silo.  We’re unable to merge them into a comprehensive picture that accurately reflects the reality of TV viewing.

Overall, to borrow from Mark Twain, the death of live TV has been greatly exaggerated.  The majority of our viewers (56%) began watching shows on live TV.  And live TV’s import spanned generations.

  • Gen Xers (35-44) show a heavy reliance on live TV: 45% only watched live TV and 80% watched live TV at some point “yesterday.”
  • While Millennials (18-34) tended to stream more than Gen Xers, they still relied on live TV.  One-third only watched live TV and two-thirds watched live TV at any point their viewing paths.
  • Digital Natives relied on a mix of live TV and streaming:  45% only watched live TV and 70% watched live TV at some point “yesterday.”

The different ways viewers watch TV programs, or their viewing path, is complex. Many jump from one device and source to another, but then find their ways back to the original source.  For example, while 38% of the over 1,500 respondents watched only live TV, 13% of them then went on to their DVR, and about half continued on DVR while the other half returned to live TV.  A similar pattern emerged for those who went from live TV to streaming.

We investigated the process of becoming a fan of a show to understand how programs land on one’s viewing path. The “viewing funnel” is a five-stage journey to fandom. Viewing funnels are akin to purchase funnels, but with the stages being discovery, research, selection, fandom and sharing of shows.

  • Audiences are discovering shows the traditional way: in-person word of mouth is the #1 source for show discovery at 90%, closely followed by TV promos at 85% and word of mouth online or via social media at 78%.
  • Viewers are dedicating more time to researching shows: once aware of a show, viewers usually watch an episode to find out more (55%), check when it airs next (42%) or discuss with friends or family (35%). Nearly a quarter usually discuss the show online and via social media.
  • Once a viewer selects a show to trial, they have their choice of source and device: live TV is the most popular (57%), followed by streaming (22%), DVR (10%) and VOD (6%).
  • Viewers solidify their fandom by deciding to continue watching a show:they first want to know when the show airs on TV (61%), whether it is live (52%) and whether it is in-season or not (48%).

Among fans, marathoning is popular across all age groups: 83% of Millennials say this is one of their favorite ways to watch, followed by 72% of Gen Xers and 65% of Digital Natives.

  • Once fans of a show, viewers feel compelled to share: 61% of viewers recommend a show to others in-person, while 38% invite others to co-view. Among Digital Natives (ages 13-17), invitations to co-view are most prevalent at 47%, followed by Millennials (ages 18-34) at 40% and Gen Xers (ages 35-44) at 29%.

With all the viewing that occurs in various places and spaces, as well as all the activity of the funnel, one may wonder if we’ve hit a ceiling when it comes to TV watching.  But our viewers are bullish on the future of TV, with about 4 in 5 believing that in the next five years, they will: have more options for where, how and what to watch; watch a greater variety of TV programs; and keep up with more TV programs at the same time.

Getting With The Program was an exciting project to lead.  What could be more fun for a researcher than to study how people watch TV?  That said, I would much prefer measurement companies greatly increase the pace of their innovation to better reflect the reality of TV viewing.

Click here for the press release with the full findings, methodology and more from the study.

Stuart Schneiderman is Senior Vice President of Strategic Insights and Research for Viacom Media Networks.

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  1. I am a fan of many of your channels; even some of the reality shows on spike and other of your channels. However from what I am understanding is that you folks are needing more money (for what). I hope you have an explanation for the people who work at these channels when they are out of work because the execs feel Viacom needs to charge more. I am saddened that greed is ending your business with sudden link and direct tv, There are not too many more cable services you can do business with.

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