MBPT Spotlight— Numbers Game: Short-Form Video Could Be TV Networks’ Secret Weapon

I love TV. I love Top Chef and Shark Tank. I love Homeland and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I love Key & Peele and reruns of Seinfeld. Like the great majority of U.S. households, my family and I watch a lot of TV. The medium is strong but it is evolving. And I believe short-form video can play an important role for TV networks.

Short-form video often gets treated as an afterthought by content companies, but that’s short-sighted. I’ve done extensive research on short-form video. Lots of people are watching short-form video. These viewers are watching a lot of TV and they are social and influential, making short-form video a potentially powerful marketing tool. And creating and distributing short-form video would be relatively easy for most media companies.

In my research, I aimed to quantify the short-form viewing habits of 18-54-year-old TV viewers (for this study, short-form video is defined as 15 seconds or less). After analyzing over 167,281 data points of quantified information using my patented online research tool, I’m convinced that short-form video is broadcast and cable TV networks’ No. 1 underutilized marketing and original content format. It doesn’t have to be.

Who are the most avid short-form video viewers? They’re 33% of the total sample who say they watch short-form video “all the time.” It’s not all they watch. But that’s the enthusiastic response they give when asked.

These heavy viewers of short-form video are mostly men—115 index male—but surprisingly they aren’t concentrated in the youngest demo. I found that 54% of them are 25-34 year olds, 26% are 35-44 year olds and 6% are 45-54 year olds. Only 14% are in the young 18-24 demo.

As for their television viewing, 62% of these avid short-form video viewers watch regular TV, and on average they watch a lot.

They watch the broadcasting networks: ABC (56%), CBS (44%), Fox (44%) and NBC (35%).

But maybe the most intriguing fact is they are above-average watchers of every one of the 49 broadcast and cable TV networks in the study. The networks where their viewing indexed highest were: Sundance Channel (175), MSNBC (172), Destination America (170), TV Guide Network (167), Style (160), Animal Planet (159), WE tv (159), CNBC (157), Sprout (156), MTV (153), Golf (152), GSN (148), DIY (145), Oxygen (145) and National Geographic Channel (142).

For TV networks and their ad agencies, the merits of short-form, 15-seconds-or-less, video are vast. Length alone makes it an ideal marketing tool. It’s simple to create, even if you merely edit existing content into 15-second-or-less clips. By the way, short-form TV show clips (140) and movie trailers (120) over-index with the most avid short-form viewers.

But the creativity doesn’t stop with clips. TV marketers can use short-form video in many more storytelling ways: to dimensionalize characters, tell back stories, tease story lines or give insider, behind-the-scenes peeks. All of these content ideas over-index with avid short-form video viewers.

Most importantly, these avid viewers also happen to share video content more than anyone else (242 index) and are brand influencers as well, recommending brands, products and services much more than anyone else (190 index). They can act like Sherpas, leading the way across this evolving TV media landscape. I believe these avid short-form video viewers may be the most important viewers for TV networks to retain and grow.

Ciosek owns Bold Studios, a strategic and creative consulting firm for media agencies, media platforms and brands. Clients include Initiative, IAC, the New York Post, CNBC and Yahoo, among others.