More Data Indicates That Consumers Want TV on Their Own Schedules

comScore-Drivers-Online-TV-Viewing-Oct2014Although most consumers continue to watch original TV series on traditional TV, many are time-shifting their TV viewing, and this desire to watch on their own schedule is one of the primary drivers of online video viewing. That’s one of the chief takeaways from a new comScore report [download page] based on a survey of more than 1,100 online adults.

It’s not earth-shattering to say that there’s less appointment viewing these days, though social TV is helping offset the declines. The rise of time-shifting has led to TV industry stakeholders pushing for an expanded TV ratings definition for quite some time (here’s the argument for expanding from C+3 to C+7), and the results in the comScore study bolster that argument. While the report doesn’t specify how time-shifted TV is viewed, some 46% of original TV viewing by Millennials (18-34) is estimated to be time-shifted, including 17% at least 4 days after airing.

While time-shifting isn’t quite as prevalent among older age groups, there is one segment that is delaying viewing to the same degree as Millennials: paid digital video subscribers. An estimated 46% of original TV viewing by these subscribers occurs after live airing, including 16% at least 4 days after airing.

As for that subscriber segment? It’s not small. More than 4 in 10 respondents reported subscribing to a paid digital video service, with Netflix (32%) unsurprisingly being most popular. As expected, those figures are much higher among Millennials: 61% subscribe to a paid service, including 49% to Netflix.

Clearly, paid service subscribers enjoy watching TV on their own schedules – and research does indeed indicate that they’re motivated by convenience. But they’re not the only ones. When survey respondents were asked the main reasons why they watch original TV on the internet, the two leading reasons, by a strong margin, were:

  • Prefer to watch on own schedule (56%); and
  • It’s more convenient (52%).

Ads do play a role, but it’s a lesser one: 38% watch because they can skip commercials, and 33% because there are fewer commercials.

The rise in time-shifting TV viewing – and increasing time spent watching online video – are clear indications that consumers’ preferences are changing. How are TV providers responding? TV Everywhere services – aiming to satisfy that desire for convenience – are now available to at least 6 in 10 pay-TV subscribers, though awareness remains low. Meanwhile, consumer interest in cloud DVR services (which offer features such as unlimited recordings and the ability to access content from various devices) is high.

Add it all up, and the data is another signal that pay-TV providers need to adapt to consumers’ evolving preferences. Online video destinations – including paid services – offer consumers a convenient way to watch on their own schedule, and they’re taking advantage of those opportunities. Even sports, which are one of the few remaining appointment viewing areas, are beginning to migrate online, as evidenced by the recent deal between the NBA and ESPN for a new online video service. Meanwhile, HBO – one of pay-TV’s key flashpoints – is reportedly set to launch a standalone streaming service aimed at cord-cutters, and CBS has just announced that it will offer its own web service.

Still, it’s worth remembering that while online TV is growing, it’s not the dominant viewing method. That remains traditional TV – for the moment.

For more on traditional TV in the context of the evolving TV industry, see the MarketingCharts Debrief, TV in Context: Viewing Trends, Ad Spending, and Purchase Influence.

About the Data: The comScore report was based on survey data collected from an online questionnaire completed by 1,159 respondents during the period of August 21 through August 28, 2014.