Viacom’s ongoing international TV research initiative, TV RE[DEFINED], has found that once TV viewers get connected to broadband, they observe similar multi-platform consumption habits regardless of the country they live in.
Speaking at the Connected TV Summit in London, Christian Kurz, Senior Vice President of Research and Insights at Viacom International Media Networks, said, “We’re now seeing – and this is across 14 markets, including a bunch of emerging markets – an average of about six devices and five sources that an average Internet-connected person uses. […]
Even in the emerging markets – and we looked at Latin American, we looked at southeast Asia as well – as soon as somebody reaches the broadband connection, there is very, very little difference in the variety of sources or devices they use.
Another major finding was that “nobody watches crap anymore,” said Kurz. “I don’t have to watch anything I do not want to watch because my choice is so broad.” This in turn has pushed TV production values higher. “Television used to fit within a very formulaic system,” said Kurz. “That is not the case anymore. […] Good TV content has production values that will never have been seen on a television screen in the past. So much so, that HBO makes TV movies that get released in cinemas around the world.”
Meanwhile, despite the common perception that social media is increasingly influencing consumers’ content discovery, Kurz said Viacom’s research had shown that, to begin with, “people find out about shows they might be interested in either by watching promos on TV or by just coming across it on TV – both of which you only get in linear TV – or by word-of-mouth.” While word-of-mouth included social media as well as ‘in-person’ communication, “it is still very dominated by in-person word-of-mouth,” said Kurz. “The digital world comes in after that.”
Even then, Viacom found that the second ‘discovery’ stage, in which shows were researched online, did not generally clinch viewers’ desire to watch a particular show. Typically, they still required a third stage, in which their choice was validated on TV or through word-of-mouth before viewing, said Kurz.
Viacom has taken a number of initiatives to exploit this opportunity in both the real and digital worlds. “That’s why we have on the MTV brand lots of live events and live concerts and club tours,” noted Kurz. Similarly, for its Nickelodeon brand, Viacom runs a Kids Choice Awards event; while for the Comedy Central brand, it runs live stand-up comedy shows.
Meanwhile, to capture the digital opportunity, Viacom recently launched Play Plex, a suite of mobile TV Everywhere apps for Android and iOS devices which the operators who distribute its channels can offer their customers, offering authentication where the channels are paid-for.
“[Play Plex] gives long-form, it gives short-form, it also gives you a live feed of the channel, so it’s about making the content accessible in the various places,” said Kurz. “Obviously, in the kids’ area, you add games and you add a whole lot of other things in there as well and that altogether makes a very compelling content offer to the audience.”
Kurz ended his presentation to delegates with a plea for the TV industry to work together to create common standards for measuring audiences, not just across platforms, but across geographic boundaries.
“If it cannot be measured it cannot be commercialized, therefore we have to work together to figure out how we make multi-platform measurements a reality,” he said. “There’s a lot of very clever and smart people in a lot of countries working on that, [but] quite frankly, it’s not fast enough and it’s not good enough.”
Kurz said what was required was collaboration across the board. “That means collaboration between the TV measurement industry, the radio measurement industry and the online measurement industry because essentially we’re measuring the same thing. It’s video and audio.”
“On top of that,” Kurz concluded, “it also requires collaboration across geographic boundaries because the situation we’re looking at right now is that every measurement JIC [Joint Industry Committee] in every country is finding their own solution. Rather than actually solving for the broader need, we’re now arriving at different definitions of what television is in each of our countries, which is going to make the conversation even more hard as we’re going into the future.”