MBPT Spotlight: Viacom Study: Multi-Screen Viewership Increases Live TV Viewing, Builds Network Loyalty

The proliferation of devices allowing viewers to watch TV on multiple screens is helping to increase stronger network loyalty and it’s also building an audience preference for live viewing, according to a new study by Viacom.

In the study, titled “Getting With the Program: TV’s Funnels, Paths and Hurdles,” 79% of TV viewers polled said having more ways of accessing shows helps them sample more programs and 78% said they wouldn’t have become fans of some shows if they couldn’t watch them on multiple screens.

Multi-screen watchers also express a stronger preference for live TV viewing and network loyalty than single-screen TV watchers, the survey also found. Among those polled, 47% of multi-screen viewers say it’s important to watch their favorite shows live, compared to 28% of those who watch only on a single screen; 45% of multi-screeners are loyal to several networks vs. 28% of single-screeners; and 45% of multi-screen viewers wouldn’t give up pay-TV because they rely on their DVR, vs. 22% of single-screen viewers.

The study involved in-person interviews in Boston and Chicago and online surveys of more than 1,500 U.S. Viacom viewers ages 13-44. The online survey included digital diaries on TV viewing paths, for which respondents listed up to 10 TV programs in the order they watched them “yesterday” and logged more than 7,000 shows.

The goal of the research, according to Colleen Fahey Rush, executive VP and chief research officer for Viacom Media Networks, was “to uncover the often complex paths audiences take to discovering and becoming fans of our content.”

The study lays out what it calls “The Funnels to Fandom” and lists a five-stage process to a viewer becoming a fan of a show.

The first stage is “discovery” of a show and the study finds in-person word-of-mouth is the No. 1 source for show discovery by 90% of the respondents polled, closely followed by promotions on TV (85%) and world-of-mouth online or via social media (78%).

The next stage is “research” which occurs when viewers watch an episode to find out more about the show (55%), when it airs next (42%) and discuss it with friends or family (35%). Nearly 25% also discuss the show online and via social media once they have seen it.

Another stage is “selection” during which a viewer decides how and where to watch the show. Live TV is the most popular choice by 57% of those polled, followed by streaming (22%), DVR (10%) and VOD (6%).

Once the viewer becomes a fan and enters the “fandom” stage, they want to know the particulars about the show and about 53% will continue watching it on live TV.

To catch up with a show, most new fans want to marathon view the past episodes. Among millennials, 83% enjoy marathon viewing, compared to 72% of genXers and 65% of digital natives (viewers age 13-17).

The final stage is the “sharing” stage during which 61% of those polled said they recommend a show they have become a fan of to others in-person. Beyond recommending, 38% say they invite friends and family to coview their new favorite shows. Coviewing invitations are most prevalent among digital natives at 47%, followed by millennials at 40% and genXers at 29%.

The study found that TVs are the most-used device for show discovery and fandom, while computers are most used for research.

The study also found that audiences are dedicating more time to the discovery and research stages, which, in turn, drives greater fandom and sharing. Compared to a few years ago the study found that:

• 73% of viewers become interested in new shows more quickly

• 50% spend more time researching shows before watching

• 81% watch a greater variety of shows

• 83% are fans of more shows at the same time

• 61% agree that TV is a bigger part of their social life

Based on data pulled from the digital diaries, the study looked at the different ways viewers watch TV programs. It found that while the growing number of devices and sources makes watching TV more complicated, it also promotes more viewing.

Here are some of those findings:

• Gen Xers show a heavy reliance on live TV with 45% only watching live TV and 80% watching live TV at any point in a given viewing path.

• While millennials tend to stream more than genXers, they still rely on live TV with 33% only watching live TV and 66% watching live TV at any point in a given viewing path.

• Digital natives rely on a mix of streaming and live TV, with 45% only watching live TV and 70% watching live TV at any point in a given viewing path.

Left To Their Own Devices

The study also found that viewers turn to alternate devices when encountering problems like not having access to the latest episode or not being able to find a show on TV.

“Our fans are very driven and solution-oriented when it comes to finding their favorite shows,” Rush says. “We want to encourage that fandom by making content available whenever, wherever our audiences’ TV viewing paths take them. Understanding these paths will help us leverage multiplatform opportunities even more strategically.”

Viewers were asked some questions about TV viewing five years down the road, and 83% said they will watch a greater variety of TV programs moving forward; 79% said they will keep up with more TV programs at the same time.

Viacom’s media networks include MTV, VH1, CMT, BET, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Comedy Central, TV Land, Spike and Logo.