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Back to the Future: A “New Fashioned” Coincidental

The enduring power of “linear” broadcast TV shines through, despite today’s bewildering array of digital alternatives, in a “modern” version of the venerable telephone coincidental study conducted for Disney-ABC Television Group.

Disney-ABC Television wanted to cut through all the noise about the reported reach of alternative TV media ranging from online to mobile. A single, representative sample would provide context in the face unreliable press reports on alternative media, at a time when advertisers are eager to know how new platforms – especially social media — can enhance their brands.

But how to effectively examine these proliferating digital alternatives? The traditional telephone coincidental study has lost favor as phone interviewing costs skyrocketed, while response rates and sample quality plummeted. In its new take on the coincidental method, we used online interviews among its probability-recruited and representative research panel (KnowledgePanel®) to take a detailed look at the latest options in alternative TV viewing.

We explored prime-time viewership through a week-long series of online “coincidental” surveys, measuring all viewing of TV programs and movies during a two-hour slice of that daypart. A total of 13,873 interviews were conducted with KnowledgePanel members ages 13+. KnowledgePanel includes proper proportions of both non-Internet and cell-phone-only homes, so it truly is representative of the entire television audience.

Our modern take on the telephone coincidental study also used a separate, supplemental sample for a survey by smartphone at the time of viewing. Using this QuantM mobile capability, Disney-ABC Television was able to enrich the quantitative findings by gathering more information about the circumstances of viewing – device, location, persons watching with the respondent – by collecting photos by the respondents, and also gathering some attitudinal information. A total of 298 KnowledgePanel QuantM smartphone interviews with persons 18+ were conducted.

This approach allowed GfK to go beyond “typical use” studies that can size the market via cumulative data (such as weekly or monthly use) and narrow the focus to answer questions including:

  • How does behavior during a specific hour differ from market sizing studies?
  • How engaged are users with alternatives to linear broadcast television?
  • Does alternative viewing affect linear viewing?
  • What is the momentum of alternatives sources?

Disney-ABC Television was able to understand how programs are consumed during the same period via all venues, including “regular” TV (cable, satellite, broadcast); TV services (DVR, on-demand/VOD); Internet-connected TVs (Netflix, videogame consoles); online (PCs); mobile (tablets, smartphones), and physical media (DVDs, Blu-rays).

The conclusion: Consumers are using new platforms, often simultaneously with TV, even as broadcast TV maintains its primacy. Disney-ABC Television can now use the benchmark to help set internal expectations for forecasting, allowing it to develop strategies and properly allocate tactical marketing or strategic investments.

David Tice, along with Mark Loughney and Barry Stoddard of Disney ABC-TV, presented findings from this study at the ARF Audience Measurement 7.0 conference. For more information, write to david.tice@gfk.com.

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