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Streaming; binge viewing; content discovery; personalisation; data; privacy. What do all these things have in common?

Well, earlier this week I presented some findings from the latest Ericsson ConsumerLab study to an auditorium full of fresh faced MIPCOM delegates (well, it was the Monday after all!).

ConsumerLab, to my mind, is probably one of the best kept secrets in global TV consumer research. For those of you not familiar with it, Ericsson ConsumerLab has close to 20 years’ experience of studying people’s behaviours and values and gains its knowledge through a global research programme that statistically represents 1.1 billion people in more than 40 countries. Both quantitative and qualitative methods are used and because what we think we do is often not what we actually do, we combine this with on-device monitoring via smartphones and tablets.  These findings help us to identify trends in different countries and see how consumer behaviour is evolving.

I (far left in above photo) was joined by a panel of esteemed executives from the industry including (left to right) Nick North, Director of Audiences at the BBC, Susanna Dinnage, EVP and MD at Discovery Networks UK and Ireland and Sam Toles, VP of Global Content Acquisitions and Business Development at Vimeo. Media commentator and journalist, Kate Bulkley, kept us all in check as we debated the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us all in an ever converging TV world.

For those of you who missed the session (shame on you!) or were unable to join us in Cannes, here are some research highlights that we shared with our audience.

 

Streaming

Streaming isn’t necessarily a new behaviour, but I bet you didn’t realise just how many of us do it. According to ConsumerLab, more than 50% of the population streams some form of video content every single day.

Our respondents estimate that they now spend six hours a week watching premium streamed content – that’s more than double the time spent in 2011 when weekly viewing was estimated to be 2.9 hours a week.

Watching content on the go is becoming increasingly important too; 42% feel that it’s very important to watch content wherever they are. 61% say that they already watch TV and video on their smartphones.

 

But what are they watching?

In all markets YouTube is the most popular provider. Unsurprising you might say. But what is surprising is just how long people now spend watching content on this platform.  YouTube recently revealed that the average viewing session is 40 minutes in length. The average! This appetite for YouTube content is reflected in our research, where a staggering 8% of respondents said that they spend more than three hours a day watching YouTube content!

While viewing has grown across all content types, TV series in particular have seen a massive 121% increase since 2011.  And it’s not just the latest TV series that we want. Over 40% of consumers think it’s very important to have access to golden oldies. Long-tail matters to audiences.

So we know more people are regularly streaming content, watching content on the go and watching more TV content than ever before. But how is this world of streaming changing our viewing habits and behaviours? Well this is where it gets really interesting.

 

Binge viewing

Streaming has enabled us to take our favourite programmes and films on the go and watch them anytime and anywhere. Streaming has also enabled us to indulge in binge viewing.

Our research reveals that half of consumers say they binge watch content on a daily basis.  That’s 50% of people each and every single day.

Perhaps more interestingly only 5% say they never binge watch content.

But that means 95% have tried it.

 

Content discovery

There is a growing frustration amongst audiences, that, as an industry, we have failed to resolve.

With all this content and the ability and appetite to watch it anytime and anywhere, why is it that so many of us still feel like we can’t find anything to watch?

According to our study, 85% of respondents claim that they can’t find anything to watch at least once a week. Nearly a third say they can’t find anything to watch several times a day!

This frustration is neatly summed up by psychologist Barry Schwartz, who coined the idea of the Paradox of Choice. Too much choice and too many options cause confusion and create anxiety to the individual. Once the choice is made, there is often a feeling of a sense of loss, the individual feels that they have given up something of equal value.  This ultimately leads to dissatisfaction with the final choice the individual makes.

Is this true of this golden age of TV? Well according to John Landgraf, President of FX Networks, there is “arguably too much television” and that we, as an industry, are approaching something he refers to as “peak TV”.

So how do we help audiences overcome this paradox, this paralysis of choice? How do we help them make decisions while maintaining the desire for serendipity?

Our research shows us that people are unhappy with the discovery technologies of today. They tell us that recommendation engines aren’t smart enough; personalised recommendations just aren’t personal.

So instead, we ‘default’ when it becomes too difficult to find something we want to watch. That means we give up and resort to some form of decision process or viewing habit that is familiar and we settle for it even if we had other ambitions to watch something else. More than 30% of our respondents said that they “default” several times a day.

Content discovery and personalisation are serious issues that we need to address as an industry in an ever converging, internet enabled world.  It seems that technology alone cannot solve this issue; we need a new way to curate content.

But there is a glimmer of light!

 

Data

Our study reveals that one in four people are open to providing personal data to get a more personalised experience. By that we mean they are comfortable with in and out-of-service behavioural tracking, actively providing personal information, and providing preferences. In fact, one third of respondents said that they would be interested in personalised content recommendations based on their own viewing habits, ratings, age, gender and zip code. And half of our respondents said they trust their current provider to do this – to handle their personal data securely and responsibly.

 

The future of TV

We all hear on a daily basis that broadcast TV is dead or dying.

I wholeheartedly disagree. The popularity of TV remains strong – and this is true worldwide.

Numerous studies, including Ericsson’s ConsumerLab, have predicted that time spent watching content will only continue to increase and this will be aided by technology and innovation.

The future is bright for television and it is now in our hands to make it the best experience we can.

 

Stella Medlicott is Chief Marketing Officer, Broadcast & Media Services, Ericsson. You can follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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