Getting a Fix on Audience Fragmentation

Thanks to the emergence of OTT and direct-to-consumer options, the viewing audience continues to fragment and put more and more pressure on the traditional TV world.

Programmers and pay TV distributors must adjust for that trend, members of a keynote CES panel agreed, but they said it’s a mistake to think consumers are watching less video.

Consumers are viewing that content in different places and on different platforms, and that is opening up the door to smart data that can help detect those patterns, said Kristin Dolan, the former chief operating officer of Cablevision Systems (now part of Altice USA) who is now CEO of 605 LLC, an audience and data analysis company.

“It’s more about platform-shifting than cord-cutting,” she said.

Added YouTube chief business officer Robert Kyncl: “Fragmentation is like gravity. It just is … the internet ushered that into our world.” Part of the answer is to super-aggregate content for the masses, he noted.

A+E Networks has also been witness to the impact of the internet on viewing habits. The top 10 most-viewed shows on its apps and owned-and-operated platforms aren’t the same as the top 10 shows watched on the programmer’s linear channels, A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc said.

That, she said, creates an “enormous opportunity” to serve different viewers with different tastes and different needs.

For advertisers, Comcast is dealing with this trend in part by reaggregating audiences that can be established, maximizing the value of that content and still taking advantage of the scale that TV represents, Comcast Cable president of advertising Marcien Jenckes said.

“The reality is that people are watching more video than ever before,” Jenckes said.

Macro, a media brand focused on the voice and perspective of people of color, stays ahead of the fragmentation curve by being platform-agnostic, company CEO and founder Charles King said.

Dubuc said it’s also important not to stand still and let change run you over.

“We’re not in the business of today,” she said. “We’re always trying to guess — or second-guess — what might be around the corner.”

Distributors and programmers are answering the challenge in part with new ad-free options, such as a recent service Comcast has developed and launched with FX Networks and AMC Networks.

“I think you’ll see more experimentation,” Jenckes said.