As Millennials and younger generations continue to come of age and become the key decision makers of America’s households, it will become all the more critical to create programming that aligns with the demands of this media-savvy, diverse audience of content curators. Broadcast TV has the transcultural programming viewers want to watch. The challenge is in reaching them via a broader range of content delivery platforms now and in the future.
At first blush, the audience for broadcast television appears to be aging with each passing year. A deeper look into the data shows it’s not the programming on broadcast television that’s skewing older, it’s broadcast viewers.
Laura Martin, media analyst for Needham & Co. brought this message home to an audience of the industry’s financial management executives at MFM-BCCA’s Media Finance Focus 2014 conference this past spring. Citing research for network TV shows conducted by Nielsen and Comscore, Martin pointed out the average age of broadcast TV viewers for shows like The Big Bang Theory and Criminal Minds may be in the early-to-mid 50s, but the average demo for these same shows on the Internet is in the early-to-mid 30s.
These finding are also reflected in Nielsen’s quarterly Cross-Platform Reports, which consistently show an overall increase in TV viewing. At the end of last year, consumers were spending nearly 159 hours watching video each month, including nearly two hours of increased viewing of “traditional” television when compared to the prior year. Watching video on the Internet and mobile devices is still a relatively small, but growing audience, increasing by roughly 9% over last year to represent 12 hours of online and mobile viewing per month.
Video on demand has been one of the drivers for increased viewing of television programming. Nielsen reports VOD contributes, on average, 4%-5% to the 18-49 viewing demo, with some shows seeing their audiences increase by as much as 15%-20% when they factor in VOD viewing. Overall, viewers in the 18-49 demo spend as much as 35% of their time watching VOD/DVR programming that has aired over the past seven days, a big reason for the growing use of C7 ratings.
Nielsen also reported that the VOD platform is appealing to younger demos and Asian Americans, whose overall contribution through VOD is 8%. When you combine these viewing stats with the trends identified in recent market studies by Horowitz Associates, the importance of cross-platform content delivery becomes even clearer.
Horowitz Associates is a provider of primary consumer research for the media industry. Adriana Waterston, Horowitz’s senior vice president of marketing and business development, shared the firm’s latest findings in an article entitled “The Transcultural Effect” which may be found in the current issue of TFM (The Financal Manager), MFM’s bimontly magazine.
In its recently released State of the Viewer study, Horowitz Associates identified six viewer segments that comprise the modern TV ecosystem:
- 29% are Old Schoolers — Older viewers (71% are 50+) who almost exclusively watch live TV, have a lower income, and are the least technology oriented.
- 23% are Spectators — “Lean-back” channel surfers who watch the most TV and still spend nearly all of their viewing time with live TV.
- 17% are Traditional Curators — Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers (ages 50-64 and 35-49, respectively), who split most of their viewing between live TV and traditional digital methods like DVRs and VOD.
- 15% are Modern Multichannels — Predominantly young (53% are 18-34), heavy TV watchers who are more ethnically diverse, have the highest income, are the most technology oriented and have the highest multichannel penetration of any of the segments. Most of their viewing is via DVR and VOD, supplemented with some streaming.
- 8% are Modern Families — Mainly young (43% are 18-34), diverse family households who choose to use streaming options over DVR and VOD.
- 8% are Untethered Curators — Young (53% are 18-34) cord-cutters, cord-shavers and cord-nevers who are into technology, have a lower income, are less diverse and stream almost all of the content they view.
When analyzing the segmentation data by age, the impact of new media on younger viewers becomes evident. Horowitz finds that a full 60% of 18-34 year-old Millennials fall into the “leading-edge” segments. In contrast, 80% of Gen X and older viewers remain in more traditional viewing segments.
This year’s study by Horowitz not only reinforces the observations by Laura Martin and others that audience delivery needs to be cross-platform; it also underscores the importance of producing TV programming that responds to what the research firm describes as the “Transcultural Effect.”
In other words, TV can use transplatform delivery to reach viewers based upon their preferred viewing devices, but the programming delivered must appeal to an audience that’s increasingly more diverse.
As Adriana Waterston notes in her article, the country’s White, non-Hispanic population declined from 69.1% to 63.7% between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census data. Meanwhile, the Hispanic and Asian populations each increased by 43%, with Hispanic growth representing more than half of the entire country’s population increase.
To illustrate the impact of these cultural changes on television viewing, Waterston cited findings from another recent Horowitz research report, the State of Cable & Digital Media 2014. They include:
- Multicultural consumers are some of the most entertainment-oriented consumers, making them some of the best customers for television, mobile and broadband programming and services.
- Black, Hispanic and Asian TV content viewers are more likely than their white counterparts to say they are “really into TV,” while white viewers are much more likely to claim the opposite.
- Multicultural consumers are more technology oriented, with 28% to 31% of Hispanics, Blacks and Asians saying that owning the latest technology is important to them, compared to 14% of their white counterparts.
Taking the findings of its two studies into account, Waterston comments: “As Millennials and younger generations continue to come of age and become the key decision makers of America’s households, it will become all the more critical to create programming that aligns with the demands of this media-savvy, diverse audience of content curators.”
For additional insights and examples of these “transcultural” trends, I encourage you to read Waterston’s article in its entirety. It begins on page 14 of the July/August issue of TFM which is currently available on the MFM website: www.mediafinance.org. Horowitz’s findings make it clear that televison programming contines to attract audiences of all ages, ethnicities, and beliefs as a result of its efforts to reflect our increasingly transcultural society.
The data also give added support for the industry’s cross-platform initiatives, which incude One Media, a joint venture of Sinclair Broadcast Group and Coherent Logix. In last week’s TVNewsCheck interview with Kevin Gage, NAB’s former CTO who has joined One Media as EVP of strategic planning and CTO, outlined plans for a new ATSC TV standard that will give stations the ability to deliver the same over-the-air broadcast to both smartphones and TV receivers. Gage explained that companies such as Sinclair recognzie that to compete in the world five years from now, they’re going to need to have a new platform.
While a new ATSC standard may be in the not-so-distant future, stations today can use hybrid alternatives for transplatform delivery of their live and VOD content. These include solutions such as Worldnow and Internet Broadcasting for online access and Mobil DTV to reach smartphones and other portable mobile devices.
Today, broadcast TV has the transcultural programming viewers want to watch. The challenge is in reaching them via a broader range of content delivery platforms now and in the future.
Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary. She can be reached at [email protected]. Her column appears in TVNewsCheck every other week. You can read her earlier columns here.