Christian Kurz is Senior Vice President of Global Consumer Insights for Viacom. Mr. Kurz is responsible for oversight of corporate and consumer research and insights for Viacom globally, with a focus on exploring new technologies and consumer behaviors. In addition he leads all insights projects for Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) including thought leadership and consumer behavior studies as well as product, content and brand driven research projects across the international portfolio of Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Channel, Spike and BET. Based in New York, Mr. Kurz holds more than 15 years of experience in research in the media industry, currently serves on the board of egta, the European trade association for marketers of advertising solutions across screens, and before joining VIMN in January 2011 held positions at Discovery Networks, Disney ABC Television Group and Warner Bros.
I was very much intrigued by ‘television’ from an early age. Growing up in Austria, even before commercial TV came to Europe, we had access to Austrian, German and Swiss TV channels. In a time before the internet, TV was my window to the world – including of course MTV Europe when it launched in 1987. The differences between channels were fascinating to me and the bug had clearly bit me. It became clear that I definitely wanted to work in the television industry – so much so that years later when I was studying in the UK, I must have sent a hundred applications to companies with the word TV in their name. As luck would have it (and thanks to a couple of people I am still grateful to), I somehow managed to get a part-time job at Laser, then one of three ad sales houses for ITV’s channels. I landed in the research group, and I suppose you could say the rest is history.
The most significant developments of recent years have been technological advances, which in turn have led to ongoing changes in consumer behavior. Television has been around for decades and today we continue to tell stories through video, bringing people together inside and out of the home. However, the nature of viewing or consumption is changing. For one, on-demand viewing is increasing. We no longer need to be tied to a schedule, aside from those must-not-miss moments that everybody has – series finales, premieres and sporting events. Media companies are adapting, evolving and changing in response.
Today’s TV continues to deliver on scale and synchronicity – in other words, true broadcasting – but also offers individual on-demand opportunities in various forms. For industry leaders, like Viacom, this means endless opportunities to connect with audiences. We are content entrepreneurs. We identify great stories, then figure out how to best tell them and put them in the places where consumers can enjoy. Viacom remains committed to television through our traditional linear channels, both in the free-to-air space (like Channel 5 in the UK and Telefe in Argentina) and the pay TV space, like Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET and more. In addition, we are embracing emerging opportunities like the recent acquisition and integration of Pluto TV, the launch of Viacom Digital Studios. And we have jumped on business opportunities in the real world through branded hotels, theme parks, family entertainment centers, live shows and events including music festivals and VidCon.
There are plenty of challenges out there for this and any other industry, but opportunities continue to be greater, and we intend to continue taking advantage of them.
Bob Bakish, our President and CEO once said at a speech at the industry event MIPCOM: “Research today is an inspiration. It’s where we begin. It informs our strategies. It informs both business and creative. It shapes our brands. It inspires our content and our marketing.”
At Viacom, we truly live by this mantra – at the heart of everything is the consumer, so let’s find out where they are. Our Insights teams bring the audience to life and into the building(s) for our executives. We keep our finger on the pulse of media behaviors and technologies while also answering strategic and tactical questions for the business.
Thought Leadership is what makes Viacom different. Exploring audiences of all age groups helps inspire content creators, as well as our external partners like marketers, advertisers and distributors. This dedication helps the company stay ahead of trends, reflect audiences and speak to them in the language they are expecting. Viacom’s commitment to exploring and understanding audiences will help us stay ahead of the game.
As the Global Consumer Insights teams, we will continue to observe trends, as well as drive the company forward with thought leadership. We just completed a study analyzing the views of young people towards Brexit and the European Parliament Elections, and are in the process of exploring what ‘Power’ means to young audiences around the world. We’re deep in preparations for this summer’s premier industry event, VidCon in LA and with Viacom now having a truly global and cross-brand Consumer Products department, this is an area of focus as well. And then there’s media consumption – new emerging platforms like AVOD services, led by Pluto TV of course – so much more to explore!
Since joining Viacom in 2011 my team and I have spearheaded thought leadership initiatives to further the understanding of audiences globally. We’ve widened the use of such insights to additional groups of external partners, from advertisers to also include distributors and other partners. We have broadened the great work Viacom has always done around the kids, families, teens and young adult spaces to be truly reflective of global audiences, with studies such as , and . In addition, we explore grown-up audiences in , and bringing it all together, launched the multi-year tracking initiative , a longitudinal portrait of global audiences enabling us to compare attitudes and outlook on life across countries and age groups over time.
In the media space, we have explored and mapped the media consumption journey of today’s audiences through subsequent projects like TV Re[defined], and all of which explored audiences’ evolving TV consumption habits globally.
We live in a time of significant change for consumers, media behaviors and our company specifically. While this presents many opportunities, the most significant challenge is to enable our company to see these opportunities through research.
Thinking about the consumer, Viacom and our consumer-facing brands continue to be great story tellers. As the insights team we help to inform our business and creative teams, and the benefit for the consumer are engaging stories, told across multiple platforms.
For me, it really comes down to transparency. As managers we don’t always know all the answers and in these cases, it’s about communication. We have to be aware of the difference between things we cannot change and the things we can influence. Truthful and open conversation with the team in these circumstances are always effective.
There is no single way to get to any specific place. Always have a plan B, C and D in the back of your mind, and do not give up. We have learned from our young audiences that failure is not a term that is really relevant anymore – it’s about trying your best and going through learning experiences.
Not sure I always get it right, but “Listening” is not only a key requirement in what I do – listening to consumers after all is the best way to get to insights-, but also of vital importance in the business world when it comes to figuring out what our internal and external partners are really looking for.
My past experiences
To continue to keep up with our audiences as they evolve
This is going quite a way back, but certainly something that shaped my future and the career I am in today: succeeding in securing a place to transfer to a UK university to complete my BA outside of any formal student exchange programs or official support.
Staying with the story I just mentioned, following the completion of said BA the decision to come back to Austria to finish an MA or stay in London.
Most people –as we know from research- would say their parents, and that is true for me also. Beyond that, really it is all the people in my life – my family, work colleagues and managers (past and present), teachers and some big thinkers in the industry.
Austria of course – it’s always great to go back home essentially, but beyond that all of Europe really for further exploration, and a few LatAm destinations for winter sun.
Television of course! We live in the golden, some would say platinum, age of television, and with so much great content out there, it’s hard to keep up. (We hear the same thing from consumers by the way).
What Else To Know
On May 30th, I will be delivering a keynote session at Moving Forward conference in NYC, an event celebrating innovation and thought provoking conversation. My session is called: Outside In: Technology and TV in the Real World, and I will discuss the television industry’s many technological advances in recent years – along with what the tech industry thought it would mean for consumers and how it was actually received by audiences around the world.
I will present “Power in Progress” during the industry track at VidCon Anaheim, July 10-13. Power in Progress is an exploration into the new dynamics of power and how young people around the world are defining, developing, and using their power to create change in their lives and society. Young people are growing up at a time when change matters more than ever. With the convergence of technology and world events, young people have a voice, power, and a platform like never before. Youth culture’s shifting attitudes about power has changed the game when it comes to growing up and generational influence. The status quo of the patriarchy, white privilege and the 70-year-old CEO are getting challenged. This impacts how youth culture works and how they play, how they engage on the political stage and how they activate for the movements that they believe in.
And finally, in September I will be presenting at the world’s premier event for research and insights, at the ESOMAR Congress. There, we will look beyond the hype and headlines around music festivals to understand what consumers truly value about the experience.