The who, what, why, where and when of television watching

Discussion
Feb 05, 2015

Who is watching television and why and how are they watching it?

According to a Washington Post report, big screen TVs are used for gatherings of family and friends while phones and tablets are used for individual viewing. The varying uses are indicative of a shifting market while showing that television is still popular.

Supporting evidence comes from The NPD Group, which finds decreasing sales for 32-inch and smaller sets but increasing sales for larger screens. Their explanation is that when people watch together, they need big screens. If they watch alone, PCs and tablets are good enough.

Moffett Nathanson Research contends that broadcast and cable viewers were, on average, 44-years-old, while "major broadcast network shows" attracted audiences closer to 54. This they attributed largely to younger people wanting more control over when and where they watch — in other words, according to NPD, using their tablets, except of course when sharing with friends.

Among the technology highlights at last month’s CES were super high definition televisions from Samsung and Sony. With screens ranging from 48- to 88-inches, the technology enables viewers to see more light and color, according to trustedreviews.com. Samsung’s versions will "automatically monitor image brightness" to make colors more accurate and blacks blacker, with both optimal contrast and power consumption.

Sony’s televisions are said to be the world’s thinnest with the additional benefits of "looking more like a picture hanging up than a TV." Its processor also "aims to enhance clarity, color and contrast performance" as well as having access to Google’s TV platform.

Home screens, rather than home fires, may be the way of keeping family and friends together in future.

What do you see as the present and future of television viewing in the U.S.? What does it mean for retailers and brands advertising through the medium?

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16 Comments on "The who, what, why, where and when of television watching"

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Nikki Baird
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

I have to say, I see it with my own kids. Us old-school parents turn to the TV for entertainment first (for quickly filling that sliver of free time), while my kids turn first to the computer or iPad. And they would much prefer to watch Netflix on a small screen than a large one, though I think it is more because the user interface of a TV screen and a remote is much more painful to navigate than a touch screen iPad in a lap. I think THAT ultimately is more dangerous to the future of TV than anything else. Because you can put all these apps on TVs and make them “smart” but they won’t stand a chance against computing devices of any kind because the user interface is so challenging.

Gajendra Ratnavel
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Interesting that there is no mention of other display technologies here such as the big screens that allow different shows at the same time on the same screen. This is done through special glasses. The wearable displays.

Regarding advertising: The big screens in our living rooms are slowly converging with personal computers. How many have smart TVs now? How many have mini-PCs hooked up to the TV screens? In many homes, the big screen is just another display monitor for a computer. As this convergence matures, advertising on the big screen will be very similar to advertising on the Internet.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

For Boomers, TV has been a communal experience—gathering around the tube to watch the moon landing, or Michael Jackson’s moonwalking at Motown 25, but TV is a personal affair for Millennials. Watch for more paywalls around online content, and increasingly desperate pleas from cable companies whose “golden egg” days have passed.

Frank Riso
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Currently, watching TV is a major challenge. Too many good shows all on at the same time, so the DVR and the On Demand features rule the TV. Advertising is still a major part of TV but with DVR use the market is challenged since everyone fast forwards during the commercials. And every house has an expert on the fast forward button.

So the future is simple in my book. Cable companies and all the dish companies have to go the way of broadcast TV. Gone forever so that we can select what we want to watch and on what device we want to watch it on. The cost would be having to watch the commercials without the ability to fast forward or skip them. In that way we get what appears to be free TV but with commercials that must be seen to watch the shows. Let’s see what happens in the next five years.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Baby Boomers continue to watch large screens even when alone, because that’s what we’ve always done. Younger people are far more comfortable watching smaller screen when alone, in general. If there is more than one person watching TV, then larger screen are most always the choice. I see our kids watching on tablets and laptops in their bedrooms with their friends, however, it sure looks uncomfortable! LOL

Gene Detroyer
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Sometimes we get cross-definitions of the word “television.” Is television the activity or the device? “Back in the day” it was the device. Today it is the activity. That 48″ device on my wall doesn’t dictate what I can watch. There are eight different sources that I can connect and view. I can connect my cable, my PC, my Kindle, my still and video camera, my DVD player, my game console, my Netflix, etc. I can do most of these things with my 4″ screen phone and everything in between. It isn’t the devices or the size of the screen. It is the myriad of choices.

So the issue is really a choice of content, not size of screen. The proliferation of content professes a death to TV advertising as we know it. My daughter’s family doesn’t have cable. They can get all the choices they want to watch from kids to sports to news through other sources. There is no CBS, NBC, ABC, etc.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Don’t disagree that watching TV via broadcast, whether live or recorded, is somewhat antiquated. The fact that small screen TVs are selling less is, however, not an indicator—it’s an indication that big screen TVs are more affordable. The interesting question is whether this is a characteristic of an age group or of those in that cohort. As Millennials age, do they shift to more traditional viewing or do they stay with the internet?

For retailers and brands, it’s a multi-channel world and they need to think of it that way when buying ad time.

Roger Saunders
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Consumers are going to view video, be it on television, computers or digital devices. Screens will get bigger and they will get smaller.

What really matters to retailers and brands is how the various media forms INFLUENCE purchase decisions by individual categories and by various consumer market segments. Neuromarketing studies are in the process of defining and proving that INFLUENCE is the key to making a purchase on the part of the consumer.

The time of relying on eyeballs that hit a screen or a sheaf of paper, sign in a store or verbal message on a radio frequency ended about 10 years ago. Marketers, who will be increasingly driven by ROI for their media investment, will insist on measuring effectiveness by how and how much some 25-plus media forms INFLUENCED the purchase decision.

Shep Hyken
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Other than live sporting events and the news, how many people watch TV in real time (not recorded) and actually sit through the commercials? Most people I know—and I survey many of the audiences I speak too, as well—acknowledge that they record shows and speed through commercials. So the new question isn’t how many people watch a show. It’s how many people watch a show in real time.

Doug Garnett
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

The implications included in this article are not found in more trusted research. In broad terms, second screens haven’t taken away from big screen time. Rather, they primarily bring TV to viewing periods that previously weren’t used for TV.

The future? TV will remain the only reliable means of moving large groups of people to purchase at retail. And in our work, we’ve only seen that impact increasing over the past decade.

Liz Crawford
Guest
2 years 10 months ago
There are implications for the small screen and the new “big screen.” Smaller screens for individual viewing will be the venue for direct sales of the future. As television converges more closely with retail (and payments) the individual screen will become the new retail shelf. On the other hand, the “big screen” has been migrating from public theaters to living rooms for the last few decades. It isn’t hard to imagine that the role of public cinema will need to morph dramatically to stay relevant. What does all of this mean? Our identities as public citizens is diminishing, and the era of private citizenship is emerging. This will be a time of extreme wealth and poverty, one in which a myriad of distinct micro-cohorts have experiences that can only be accessed by the narrow socio-economic stratum in which one dwells. Consider that virtually every public arena we have is waning: The mall is dying, religious attendance is down, the public library isn’t critical, (social media is the epitome of clubby cliques) and now we don’t… Read more »
W. Frank Dell II
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Just as consumers have cut the telephone wire so are they cutting the cable wire. Twenty-five percent of households no longer have a line, rather individuals have cell phones. Streaming is growing, resulting in consumers dropping cable television but keeping their broadband internet connection. Basic television (CBS, NBC and ABC) will continue to lose viewers. Note this trend has been going on for years. First, consumers changed the channel to content suppliers. Second they use their DVR to record what they want to see or view on demand which plays into streaming. Just as retailers and brand advertiser have moved to social media like Facebook, they must now support streaming. This requires much narrower target market groupings.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

I am still a television watcher. Or maybe better said, I start out watching TV until my eyes get heavy and then it is all over. Frankly, if the programming does not improve, fewer of us will even decide to sleep in front of the TV.

Interesting article though; we have three sets, each is a high def set. One we just bought was a smaller 28 inch set for a spare room when the grandchildren spend the night. They are 10 and 6 and watch a lot of TV, mostly sports.

Robert DiPietro
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

I think the future is more of the same for television viewing with only mostly large screens being sold for family viewing and secondary screens for personal viewing.

I think the future also brings a change in adverstising and the ability to customize the message to the individual on that personal screen.

What I’m interested is whether the viewing habits will change the content (e.g. do shows need to be 30 minutes and 1 hour?) when I’m watching on my subway ride to work on my phone.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

The WP stories were long on “Sarah says so” type pronouncements, but woefully short on actual facts. audiences are increasingly older, but is that because the older are watching more or the younger less? If the latter, is it really because the younger “want more control over what and where ” they watch, or is it just that there aren’t any good shows on (we could all write books on this latter idea)?

But let’s assume the Post is right: what are the implications for advertisers?
Obviously an increasingly fragmented audience, which makes the medium less useful—at least for mass-marketed items, but perhaps more useful for small market/niche products—but also gives (evermore) disproportionate weight to “big event” spots.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
2 years 10 months ago
Television will continue to evolve in size, sound and picture quality for the foreseeable future. More interesting is the evolution of the device itself. The device may actually learn voice commands and acquire enhanced interactive input and communications to and from software applications. This would mean saying good bye to recorders and remotes. More interesting still is the evolution of a type of three dimensional surround sound and visual effects device(s) replacing the flat screens we now pay homage to with involuntary emotional mood swings and blank stares. The smart phones, tablets and personal computing devices may get dummied down to accept wireless interface from a facility’s server system with far wider band widths than we are accustomed to today. Big screen televisions use far more energy than is needed when something like Google Glass could provide a much more realistic experience and interactivity with a lot less energy consumption. The next fifty years of information technology evolution even at the same pace as we have today may make the last fifty look years prehistoric… Read more »
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