The Business And The Binge

The folks at Harris Interactive released some new information about TV consumption and it doesn’t bode well for the traditional business models – not even for the dual revenue model that empowered cable and which traditional broadcast is mimicking these days.  While I think any of us who pay attention to viewing research both via the boob tube and via other platforms are aware that things have changed, these numbers show that they’ve done so to a far greater extent than one might think.  Let’s see if you agree.

Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can read the data from Harris here but in brief what it shows is that younger people stream more stuff and set their own viewing times.  They also tend to “binge” view – they’ll watch all the episodes from a season of a show straight through over several hours.  If you’re over 55, there’s a 2 out of 3 chance you’re being your own program scheduler.  If you’re under 40, that becomes a 9 out of 10 chance.  Most of the way that on-demand viewing is done is NOT via a system controlled by the cable operators among younger demos.  While the older audience tends to use the services the operators make available via their set-top box or DVR, younger people have wandered well off the ranch.

As Harris points out:

Self-scheduled and binge television viewing trends suggest implications for the television industry at large, potentially impacting both advertisers and content producers.  For advertisers, the clearest impact is that some of these viewers will be taking in contact on platforms beyond their reach, such as Netflix and Amazon’s VOD services.

Content producers, meanwhile, have both positive and negative implications to explore. On the upside, the ability to quickly catch up on past seasons of existing shows, particularly ones with complex storylines, could give more viewers the opportunity to jump into new episodes without confusion. On the downside, viewers watching when they choose, not when it airs, can play havoc with ratings.

Taking that to next the step, when the traditional currency of TV – ratings – suffers through a huge deflation, the basic underpinning of the business will follow.  Yikes!

I don’t know that the above research is huge news – look at how your own media habits have changed.  What is surprising is the extent to which these changes are now a way of life.  Let’s see how the business follows the audience – nothing like “interesting” times!

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