Time Shifting

The New York area was not built for cars.  Putting aside the crumbling infrastructure, the number of cars on the road has far outgrowth the roads’ capacity.  Fortunately, most people living in the city proper choose not to own a car and use the excellent public transportation to get around.  That’s not so true about many of my neighbors here in the suburbs as they commute to their jobs.  They deal with the crappy roads, bad weather, and interminable traffic jams for one reason: convenience.  They’re not tied to a train or bus schedule.  

There is a lesson for all of us in that which is manifesting itself in media.  People would much rather have control.  While the old model of media was audiences sitting down to watch content at the same time (at least within the same time zone), there is research that shows that model is long gone.  The folks at Hub Entertainment Research found that the growth of VOD, DVR’s and OTT services continue to erode consumers’ association of TV shows with a particular day-and-time, linear schedule.

  • Viewers time-shift more TV than they watch live. According to consumers’ own estimates, the average viewer watches 47% of their TV shows live and 53% time-shifted.
  • Among Millennials, time shifting is even more common. Viewers 16-34 say that only 39% of the TV they watch in a typical week is live.
  • A plus for traditional TV providers: most time-shifted viewing still happens through a set top box. DVRs (34%) and VOD (19%) account for more than half of all time-shifted viewing.

There is good news and bad news in this for content creators and their distribution partners.  Obviously where people can skip ads, they generally do:

  • 81% of VOD users say that when fast-forwarding is enabled, they fast-forward through most or all of the commercials during a show. In fact, almost half (49%) say they fast-forward through every ad.
  • The results aren’t much different among DVR users: 89% say they fast forward through most or all ads, and more than half (56%) say they use fast-forward at every commercial break.

The good news is that the library of content most providers/distributors have has become completely accessible.  Think about it – years ago, if yu missed an episode and failed to tape it (and it was tape!), you were screwed.  Not even remotely true today, and every one of those additional views is an opportunity for monetization.  That might be through ads or it might be through encouraging a subscription via the availability of the content.

Don’t assume that consumers taking control is unique to either commuting or to media.  Look at your own business and I’m willing to bet there are examples of how consumers are doing just that.  Like media, there are opportunities that come out of the disruption.  Are you ready to jump on them?

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