With whom, what and how are you “connected” when you watch TV? Gone are the days that TV is a device you switch on to see what is being broadcast. For decades, we were also watching self-recorded content, and today there is an avalanche of online digital video allowing us to view whatever we want, whenever we want. Of the time spent watching video content, 35% is watched on TV live (broadcast as scheduled), 15% time shifted, 21% on demand or broadcaster catch up and 29% from an online website or streamed from an app (UK online adults, GfK Viewscape 2016).
And we increasingly consume video on other devices: of all viewing time 65% is watched on a TV set, 20% on a PC/laptop, 7% from a tablet and 8% from a smart phone (UK online adults, GfK Viewscape 2016). Digital video is here to stay and the TV audience is embracing both traditional and new forms of content delivery.
Just what is a “connected” TV audience?
These new forms of viewing video are sometimes described as ”connected”. Does that mean that viewers watching traditional broadcast TV are “unconnected”? When I watch television, I am extremely connected, regardless of the source of the content. Once I have found the program I want to watch, I am intensely connected with the story and the characters. I am also connected with my comfortable chair. I occasionally glance on my mobile phone or in the fridge, but these are rare distractions from the big screen. For me TV is like an interactive version of cinema where I focus on the content I have chosen to see and forget about the rest of the world.
Why call viewers “connected” based on the source of their content? Does it matter if we watch in a linear or non-linear way? Or does “connected” refer to us as social beings, how we connect to others?
Understanding the connection with the content
Some viewers tweet posts about what they watch and update their online profile to let others share in what they are viewing. Personally, I regard this as a waste of time. I might be connected with people in the room while I’m watching TV, but I am not interested in connecting with other viewers online to exchange comments on that program. I prefer to watch TV uninterrupted and unconnected.
When watching TV, we create very direct and intimate relationships with the content. I can be absorbed by it, emotionally touched, informed or I simply have a good time. Sometimes I am disappointed, angry or upset. Call me old fashioned. All this happens (offline and online) in my living room, where I am cocooned in the program. The next day I might share my opinion with others, but through my viewing behavior I leave very little traces a broadcaster could scrape off the web.
Maybe the distinction between connected and unconnected does not reflect how a TV audience is related to TV content. But “connection” is a key description to understand viewers and their needs. How can broadcasters and other content providers connect with viewers? How can they keep track of what content people feel connected to and what content they would prefer to avoid next time? Sure, broadcasters have access to daily ratings to see the number of viewers, but that does not measure the wants and needs of their audience.
To connect with a TV audience through research, you need to select a representative group of viewers. You should contact them in the proper way, ask the right questions, and listen carefully to their motivations and reactions. We have set up a system to do so. On an average day, more than 18,000 viewers in the UK, Russia, Ireland, the Netherlands and Flanders combined, tell us what they thought of all the programs they saw the day before.
This means one day after the audience ratings are available, you receive the full profiles of what dramas were most entertaining, what news programs viewers felt provided the best information, and what chat shows had the best guests. You know what programs were most talked about. You see unfiltered comments on what the viewers actually thought of all the programs they watched. Using our dashboard, you can benchmark your own content against a relevant selection of your competition. We call this ”Content Appreciation” and we think it is the best solution for broadcasters to connect with their audience.
Lex van Meurs is a Media Research Director at GfK. To share your thoughts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.