As the availability of content and platforms continues to grow, we wanted to know what role each plays in the lives of viewers and what this means for the future of TV. Our methods spanned qualitative workshops, ethnographic sessions and online surveys to tap into a nationally representative sample. Through this research we’re seeing that video on demand – both from broadcasters and subscription services – plays a significant role in fuelling the trend toward more individualised and convenient viewing. Broadcast video on demand (BVOD) has been a key catalyst of change, allowing people to view what they want and – importantly – when they want to view it.
At the same time, the portability of devices means that viewing has spilled out of the living room and even out of the house. People view content not only while working, cleaning and cooking, but also when commuting, waiting or travelling. Within the household, viewing has become more fragmented, with family members now possessing the freedom to watch their own choice of content via different screens and platforms.
More fragmented viewing is also a result of increasing volumes of content. Viewers are more and more aware of the never-ending variety at their fingertips. For some, linear TV appears to create simplicity with some grateful to forego the need to keep up with a list of series and programmes they may never get around to watching. When asked, if they could only choose one option, linear was the top choice (30%), closely followed by SVOD (28%). Those who chose linear as their first choice were fuelled by wanting to view live content (23%), such as sport and reality shows, when it happens, secondly the variety it provides (18%) and thirdly ease of use (13%), in comparison for BVOD, flexibility is key.
A significant factor contributing to the abundance of content is the rise of reality programming. The analysis found that this is often stigmatised and associated with negative language like ‘trash’ and ‘garbage’. In a related vein, study participants spoke of the phenomenon of ‘mindless viewing’. In the context of growing variety and availability, we heard that the more content viewers get, the more they want and expect.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, respondents talked about ‘tuned-in time’. Content consumed during this time is seen as more of an indulgence, an opportunity to treat yourself and really engage. Shared viewing often falls into this category, providing a space for family bonding. So, in contrast to splintered viewing where members of a household are glued to small screens and headphones, TV viewing is often embraced as a positive behaviour.
This may go some way toward explaining why linear TV remains the most popular viewing option, with 61% of respondents viewing linear daily and 87% viewing at least weekly. The role of live TV is apparent within this mix, with some content more suited to viewing in the moment. In these cases, viewers don’t want to miss out or have their viewing experience ruined by social media the next day, they prefer to watch in the moment.
Throughout the research, participants articulated their fondness for traditional television watching in a variety of ways:
“There is still something pleasurable about watching scheduled programmes on TV in the comfort of your sitting room and with the large screen, something relaxing about it.”
“Television is the best for watching long-form content such as films or television shows simply because the screen is the biggest and I want the full experience.”
“A house without a TV would feel empty.”
“I can’t imagine life without TV.”
We can conclude from this that televisions look to be firmly rooted in our futures. Our research found that although smaller devices are important for evolving viewer behaviour and play their part, the experience of viewing on a TV screen can’t be replicated via smaller devices, and that TV delivers significant emotional value, from escapism and relaxation to nostalgia and habit.
Looking to the future, our second phase of research with DRG is already underway. We’re looking more deeply into themes and insights from the initial study to help develop a richer understanding of evolving trends in viewing. We’ll be releasing our findings in the coming months and looking forward to sharing them with you.
We recently held a webinar which revealed the findings from phase one of the research and developed an infographic, both of which you can view here.