3Qs: What TV Means to Consumers Today
“Does TV matter?”
That was one of the primary questions that drove a team of researchers at ViacomCBS to explore the role that TV plays in the lives of consumers. Their worldwide inquiry, in which they took TV away from families for a whole week, lead to an examination of today’s fast-changing media environment and how it has impacted the way people experience television.
As results from the “TV Matters” research emerge, as well as insights from a second project called “Today’s TV,” NCTA connected with Christian Kurz, Senior Vice President of Global Consumer Insights at ViacomCBS. Kurz’s team conducted the consumer research, as well as other thought leadership projects around age groups, generations, life in general, and of course media behavior, platforms and technologies.
Here’s what Kurz is hearing from today’s consumers:
After doing your research, how would you define “TV” today?
It’s less about how we would define TV and more about how the consumer, our audiences, think about it. What’s coming through very loud and clear is that for today’s audiences, “TV” is about content.
Specifically, they define TV as “the shows and movies I watch.”
Screens, devices, platforms and the like don’t even enter into consumers’ thinking on this – it is absolutely normal and expected that you can watch TV on a mobile phone just as much as on the screen in the living room (that keeps getting bigger, by the way). Variables such as the device or platform through which they consume content, how they pay for it and if ads exist have no impact on what they’re watching.
So, as an industry, we have some catching up to do with consumers. We are the ones constantly categorizing the TV ecosystem. From DVR to streaming to linear, cable and catch-up – the consumer views all this and more as, simply put, TV. These terms define the delivery infrastructure that allows consumers to turn into viewers and watch the “shows and movies they love.” The study shows that as an industry, we must catch up with consumers and focus on what makes today’s TV so great to them – the breadth and depth of the content choices available.
What are the biggest misconceptions about TV today?
One of the biggest misconceptions today is that TV is dying. As discussed earlier, TV is not a specific screen, a wire into the home or anything like that.
TV is a concept for consumers, it is the shows they love to watch.
As such, TV, as I define it, has been evolving radically and very quickly. Today’s TV is very different from yesterday’s TV (hence the title of our latest project). And as Tess Alps and Lindsey Clay, the two very clever women at the helm of Thinkbox UK, have been quoted: “TV isn’t dying. TV isn’t even sick. TV is just having babies.”
Aside from that, what we find really interesting is that today’s TV continues to fulfill and satisfy the same human, social needs as it always has and will continue to do in the future. Possibly even more so than in the past:
- Today’s TV indulges – it allows every one of us to find that one show we are immensely passionate about that enables us to escape from the every day for just a short while. It is a stress relief that lets us relax.
- Today’s TV brings people together – inside the home, watching TV is the #1 activity families and households do together with TV functioning as the digital fireplace. Outside the home, as one of our respondents said, “well, on Monday in the office, you need to talk about something.” TV provides social currency, the glue that holds us together
- Today’s TV opens minds – TV allows for instant access to different worlds – real or fictional – and it opens minds in a time where we need all voices to be heard.
What challenges face consumers when it comes to watching TV in today’s media environment?
It’s quite simple: “too much on your plate never tastes good,” and too many choices can be overwhelming. That applies to the device and platform ecosystem as well as to content. Consumers are spending more time trying to find what to watch (Nielsen says it takes the average U.S. household seven minutes to decide what to watch on SVOD). Consumers are actively seeking ease and seamlessness – and when getting the right thing on the screen is an adventure, it contradicts many of the stress relieving, relaxing elements audiences love most about TV. So really, again as an industry, we need to focus on making consumers’ lives easier, simplifying things – individually in platforms, but also together as an industry.
It’s clear to Kurz and his team that people still love TV, and as they define it, that’s the content they watch.