TORONTO – Turns out that Canadian television viewers aren’t much different from those in other countries. Research shows that in-home viewing promotes “household bonding” while providing a much-desired cultural connection to the outside world.
Not that the advertising industry knew this instinctively. In fact, it’s been looking in the wrong direction for awhile, according to Christian Kurz, SVP, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom. Kurz believes the future will bring more live programming and events to get people to watch programming at a specific time.
“As a media industry, as media executives, we have a very warped view of the world, particularly when it comes to media consumption. We are just not normal,” Kurz says in this interview conducted by Beet.TV contributor and Furious Corp. CEO Ashley J. Swartz at the recent Future of TV Advertising Forum. “And we completely misrepresent what the rest of the population does,” Kurz adds.
“We overestimate their use of mobile their use of online for big TV viewing, we completely underestimate the importance of TV sets. We are more urban, we are more male, we are younger. So there’s a really big discrepancy.”
Those are among the reasons why organizations like thinkTV set out to ask viewers what they really think, beginning with their definition of television. It is anything that is professionally produced video content between seven and 90 minutes—which leaves out short-form video and movies.
“That really means that when they talk about television, they have a slightly different conversation than we have in the industry ourselves. So we kind of need to recalibrate with that,” says Kurz.
In recent thinkTV research, survey respondents in Canada had to give up watching television for 10 days. “People completely underestimated how television brings people together” both in the home and “also in the wider world, the cultural connection,” he says.
Some survey respondents indicated they had given up social media “because they didn’t want to spoil the stuff they’re not watching on TV. So then the connection to the outside world is completely gone.”
Among linear TV’s attributes are flexibility and versatility because it “can be active and lean-forward when you really want it to, but it also is the easiest thing when you come back from school or work or whatever and just press a button.”
“Would you call it escapist?” Swartz asks.
“It’s incredibly escapist. That’s essentially what it is. It’s escaping reality,” with the exception of news programming.
Asked to speculate on the state of television three years hence, Kurz demurs but offers some predictions:
• There will be much more on-demand consumption, but “I don’t necessarily believe that dumping all of a series at one point is going to be the norm because people actually like the idea of watching something occasionally. It gives you something to talk about.”
• More linear TV programming will become dependent on “live-ness,” and not just traditional awards, news and sports. It could be “cameras following police cars around the world.”
• The “event-ization” of everything. “The shiny floor entertainment shows, they’ve been big, they’re going to continue to be big, because there’s a reason for you to watch it at the time. You can vote, you can participate.”