How DVRs are changing primetime
Adults 18-49 are increasingly likely to watch DVR playback
November 8, 2012
Just under 60 percent of adults 18-49 use a television set during the 8 p.m. hour, but an increasingly smaller percentage of them are using that TV set to watch live television. That’s one of the findings from a new study by GfK Custom Research, which examines how technology is changing primetime viewing patterns. The study finds that the percentage of those watching DVR playback at 8 has gone from 17 percent eight years ago to 26 percent today. Watching a program or movie using a streaming video has increased from 0 to 7 percent, while playing video games rose slightly, from 6 percent to 8 percent. Among Generation Y respondents, a full 43 percent of those using TV sets at 8 p.m. are watching something other than live television. The changes come as new media devices suck up an increasing amount of people’s time, with online and mobile combined now almost equaling time with television. David Tice, senior vice president of media at GfK Custom Research, talks to Media Life about how primetime viewing habits are shifting, what media buyers need to know about the changes, and how viewers find out about new shows.
What did you find most surprising or most interesting about this study?
Maybe most interesting was that, despite the big changes in TV and media over the past eight years, people’s behavior and attitudes towards primetime really didn’t change all that much.
What's the most important thing that media buyers and planners can take from it?
The big change we saw was the use of what we call "playback" viewing–DVRs, video on demand, DVDs and streaming.
Among these 18-49s, over a third (36 percent) in 2012 reported their TV use in the first hour of primetime was playback, compared to about 22 percent in 2004 or 2008. This affects how well agencies can count on their media plan actually [being] seen when they intended it to be.
You note a sharp increase in the amount of time spent with online and mobile. What media has been most impacted by those gains and why?
Although not covered in this particular paper, print and radio have been most affected by the rise in online and mobile use. And, even between the two, other work shows that mobile web use is negatively impacting PC-based web use.
How have viewers’ primetime habits been influenced by new technology?
There is more purposeful viewing using the playback modes/devices and less channel surfing. Also contributing to the lower channel surfing is the simple fact that it’s not easy to do so if you are watching on a DVR or using VOD.
This removes some of the serendipity of discovering new channels or programs people had when they actively channel surf.
How has the way viewers find out about new programs changed? Why?
Despite lower channel surfing, it’s still the most cited way of learning about programs, followed by interactive program guides and TV ads.
Print sources have greatly decreased as a resource. Social media is present, but as we’ve seen in other studies, while it’s good at building relationships with an existing audience, it’s not a very powerful means of program discovery.
Why has the percentage of people who think primetime ads help them become aware of new products fallen?
It may likely be because of relatively increased use of online and social media sources.
And why do more agree that primetime advertisers have a greater commitment to quality?
We don’t know for sure, but people may recognize the difference between the investment and quality of a TV-based ad versus many of the banner ads seen on web pages, which seen to be more crudely designed and "in-your-face."
What are the most common activities viewers engage in while watching TV at 8 p.m. and why?
In the first hour of primetime that we asked about, eating and talking to others in person continue to be the most popular activities while using the TV set as they were in 2004 and 2008.
Using the internet greatly increased from 2004/2008 to 2012, and using a smartphone or a tablet increased from virtually no one in 2008 to about a quarter of viewers in 2012.
Regardless of the different activities, on an overall basis three quarters of TV viewers reported some other activity – just the same as in 2004 and 2008 – and even a similar study we did in 1994. This goes to show that viewers have been distracted by other activities for a very long time; it’s just the type of distraction that has changed.
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