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May 15, 2019

Viewer Confusion Is Good News For Traditional Pay TV Providers

As we discuss in an upcoming issue of TV Dimensions Alert, a surprising number of “cord nevers” are considering a switch to traditional pay TV providers (cable, satellite, telcos), which seems to run counter to the supposed mass exodus to new, and (possibly) more affordable platforms and services. A major reason for this just might be found in a March 2019 report from HUB Entertainment Research, “The Evolution of TV Branding.” 

As the report discusses, while the services, platforms and interfaces listed in the table below registered awareness claims ranging from 80-99% (meaning respondents have heard of them), when it came to “clarity” (a respondent’s confidence that s/he could explain the service/platform/interface and what it offers to someone else), the results were abysmal. Aside from Netflix, YouTube and Amazon, fewer than 50% of respondents felt they understood what these new technologies had to offer. And if they don’t understand or are confused, what’s the incentive to embrace the unfamiliar?

And let’s not forget the inconvenience of cobbling together an alternative to traditional pay TV services—over-the-air reception for local programming, plus a skinny bundle through a service like Sling (or a cable+live option like YouTube Live). But then what about premium channels? Upgrade through one of the services or get it direct and view through the premium channel’s app? Or maybe if a viewer only likes very specific programming, a combination of CBS All Access and Hulu might work?

Faced with confusing and unfamiliar alternatives, and a multitude of options which may or may not be more affordable than the traditional package they already have, it’s not terribly surprising that some choose to carry on with what they already have, perhaps adding a streaming service like Netflix to access shows exclusive to the platform. It’s something that the traditional pay TV subscriber could exploit, as well as something to consider for the many new players trying to get in on the action.

Content and Delivery Affect Video Viewing and Ad Receptivity

The iab’s latest report, A Day in the Life of Video Viewers, takes a closer look at how—and if—the ways viewers watch videos, and their motivations for doing so, affect advertising receptivity. While none of the report was earth-shattering per se, there were nevertheless some findings we found interesting.

Based on an online survey of 5,544 U.S. consumers aged 13+, conducted in mid- to late-March of this year, the iab grouped respondent motivations/mindsets for video watching as follows:

Relaxation:        To relax at the end of the day/during free time

Appointment:     I have planned to watch alone/with others

Spontaneous:    I stumble upon or get pulled into watching/To spontaneously share with others/To catch up on popular/viral videos

Escapist:           To take a break during the day/To pass time while traveling

Educational:     To learn a new skill/To help me with a project/task

Informational:  To get ready for the day 

The iab found that smartphones dominated in the informational, spontaneous and escapist mindsets/motivations, while connected TV primarily fell under relaxation and appointment, and computers were primarily seen as an educational forum.

In addition, a modest uptick was found in ad receptivity (% who pay more/a lot more attention than average to ads) among respondents who viewed videos for informational and educational purposes.

What might this tell us? First, much like TV, video content seems to have some impact on ad receptivity. The fact that people pay more attention to the digital content, be it breaking news or learning a new skill, seems to be beneficial for the ads that run during it, similar to what has been found with more absorbing TV content like dramas.  Second, these mindsets/motivations play out on specific devices, so reaching people online/through their computers has value, just like mobile ads, which typically garner the lion’s share of attention when it comes to digital advertising. Finally, from a media planning perspective, the informational mindset draws more attentive video viewers in the morning, when TV typically registers lower attentiveness levels. Similarly, much of the educational video viewing done on computers is presumably done during the day, which again is a relatively low-attentiveness period for television. It’s also likely to occur at work, which is a way to reach consumers who may not be on media otherwise.  Conjecture, yes, but there’s potential for counterprogramming there.


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