Internet-connected TVs now dominate the market.

ictvRecently I blogged about how many Americans are now living in cellphone-only households.

Bottom-line:  It’s a major percentage.

A parallel development is the extent of Internet-connected TVs that are now in place in U.S. households. According to a recent survey of ~2,000 U.S. adult broadband users by The Diffusion Group, Internet-connected TV penetration has now risen to 74%.

This chart shows the penetration trends over the past four years:

  • 2013 Internet-connected TV penetration: ~50%
  • 2014: ~61%
  • 2015: ~70%
  • 2016: ~74%

What these figures show is that almost three fourths of U.S. households now have an Internet-connectable television, which is up about 50% since 2013.

With more consumers wanting to set up their own in-home networks, TV manufacturers saw this trend developing and began flooding the retail market with “smart” televisions. As a result, most any consumer looking to purchase a TV set these days is likely to end up with one that is Internet-connectable, whether they feel they need it or not.

This is a back door into the world of consumer IoT; both the TV and the smartphone are the prime facilitators for the adoption of the Internet of Things in the home.

But like with many other technological waves, actual adoption rates can lag. For many people, watching TV on Internet-connected equipment is still only “potential” viewing rather than actual viewing.  Just as some consumers who own the latest smartphone models never use them to watch videos, homes that replace a TV set with the latest Internet-connectable model don’t necessarily use the added built-in functionality — at least initially.

Still, one suspects that with this technology now at people’s fingertips, it won’t be much longer before we start seeing actual usage catch up with the potential that’s there.

TV viewing: More choices than ever … but for viewers it’s a big “so what.”

tmc

In theory, people love to have choices. But in practice, does having many choices always matter?

In the world of TV viewing, the answer seems to be … not so much.

New findings from Nielsen’s Total Audience Report finds that the average number of channels received by American viewers of TV is just over 200. But on average, people view fewer than 20 different TV channels during the course of a month.

That means that people are typically  watching just 10% of the channels available to them.

[For purposes of the Nielsen report, “TV viewing” is defined as watching TV live or via DVR/time-shifted viewing.]

Trends shifting over time.

In a related report published by Marketing Charts, traditional TV viewing has declined in nearly every age group over the past five years.

Here’s how those stats break down:

  • Ages 12-17: Weekly TV viewing is down ~36% over the past five years
  • Ages 18-24: Down ~38%
  • Ages 25-34: Down ~26%
  • Ages 35-49: Down ~12%
  • Ages 50-64: Down ~2%
  • Ages 65+: Up ~5%

Clearly, younger generations are finding outlets for their leisure time other than traditional TV viewing. What’s more, time-shifted viewing remains only a small fraction of all TV viewing — no better than 90/10 split in favor of live TV in any of the six age categories tested.

So we have a combination of tradition asserting itself – people continuing to watch relatively few TV channels – along with some changing behaviors that promise to continue to upend the traditional TV industry.

More findings from the new Nielsen and Marketing Charts reports can be accessed here and here.

TV’s Disappearing Act

Television viewing among 18- to 24-year-olds reaches its lowest level yet. 

TV watchingThe latest figures from Nielsen are quite telling:  The decline in TV watching by younger viewers is continuing – and it’s doing so at an accelerating pace.

Looking at year-over-year numbers and taking an average of the four quarters in each year since 2011, we see that the average number of hours younger viewers (age 18-24) spend watching television has been slipping quite dramatically:

  • 2011: ~24.8 hours spent watching TV weekly
  • 2012: ~22.9 hours
  • 2013: ~22.0 hours
  • 2014: ~19.0 hours

It’s nearly a 25% decline over just four years.  More significantly, the most recent yearly decline has been at a much faster clip than Nielsen has recorded before:

  • 2011-12 change: -7.7%
  • 2012-13 change: -3.9%
  • 2013-14 change: -13.6% 

So far this year, the trend doesn’t appear to be changing.  1st quarter figures from Nielsen peg weekly TV viewing by younger viewers at approximately 18 hours.  If this level of decline continues for the balance of the year, watching TV among younger viewers will be off by an even bigger margin than last year.

There’s no question that the “great disappearing television audience” is due mainly because of the younger generation of viewers.  By contrast, people over the age of 50 surveyed by Nielsen watch an average of 47.2 hours of television per week — nearly three times higher.

picLest you think that the time saved by younger viewers is going into outdoor activities or other recreational pursuits and interests, that’s certainly not the case.  They’re spending as much time using digital devices (smartphones, tablets and/or PCs) as they are watching TV.

So, it’s a classic case of shifting within the category (media consumption), rather than moving out of it.

I don’t think very many people are surprised.

The needle finally moves in changing TV viewership habits.

graphDespite the many changes we’ve seen in the way people can consume media today, one thing that has remained pretty consistent has been the dynamics of TV viewership.

Things have taken so long to evolve, to some observers it’s seemed as if TV was effectively immune to all of the changes happening around it.

But now we’re finally seeing some pretty fundamental shifts happening in the way content on TV sets is consumed.  Two new surveys chart what’s changing.

A recently released report from Accenture, which surveyed nearly 25,000 online consumers during the 4th quarter of 2014, notes that viewership of long-form video content (television and movies on a TV screen) is now in decline across all demographic categories – not merely among younger viewers.

The decline amounts to ~11% over the previous year among American viewers.  It’s even bigger (a ~13% decline) when looking at worldwide figures.

Not surprisingly, the drop is less pronounced among viewers aged 55+ (for them it’s closer to a 5% reduction) than with young viewers age 14-17 (a decline in excess of 30%).  But the fact that declines are now occurring across the board is what’s noteworthy.

At the same time, the Accenture survey found that consumers who watch long-form video on connected devices rather than on TVs aren’t all that enamored with the experience:

  • About half find that watching online video isn’t a great experience because of Internet connectivity issues.
  • Approximately 40% complain of too much advertising. 
  • Around one-third encounter problems with video buffering … and an equal portion report problems with audio distortion or dropouts.

More highlights from the Accenture research are available for download here.

time-shifted TV

Another study – this one from Hub Entertainment Research – has found that viewers who have broadband and watch at least five hours of TV per week are actually watching more time-shifted TV than they are watching live broadcasts.

On average, participants in this study reported that ~47% of the TV shows they watch are live and ~53% are time-shifted.

Among younger viewers (age 16-34), time-shifted viewing is even more prevalent (around 60%).

Most time-shifted viewing is still happening through a set top box:  DVRs (~34%) and video-on-demand from a pay TV provider (~19%).

For consumers, being able to watch TV on their own schedule isn’t just more convenient; it has also made back catalogue material more accessible.

Survey respondents noted the following reasons for watching shows at a different time:

  • Can watch when it’s more convenient to do so: ~60% of respondents
  • Can see missed episodes:  ~37%
  • Can skip ads: ~37%
  • Can pause or rewind the program:  ~34%
  • It takes less time to watch the show: ~33%
  • Not available to watch the show during live airing: ~29%
  • Can watch show episodes back-to-back: ~19%

Notice that ad avoidance isn’t at the top of the list.  Nonetheless, for the industry this is a mixed bag.  Time-shifting has clearly put pressure on the business model and how the TV business traditionally makes money – namely, shows watched live, with ads.

Additional details on the Hub Entertainment Research report can be accessed here.

Take Your Pick: One Super Bowl Ad Spot … or 14 Billion Facebook Ad Impressions

Super Bowl Ad Cost

 

This year a single 30-second ad spot during the Super Bowl TV broadcast will cost a cool $4 million.

And that’s just for the placement alone — not the dollars that go into producing the ad.

The high cost of advertising is directly related to Super Bowl viewership, of course, which is predicted to be north of 100 million people this year.

Still, $4 million is a really hefty sum, even for major brand advertisers.  Just how big is underscored in some comparative figures put together by Jack Marshall, a reporter at marketing e-zine Digiday.

Jack Marshall
Digiday’s Jack Marshall

In lieu of spending $4 million on a single ad spot, here’s how Marshall reported that the promotional money could be spent in alternative ways:

  • 14 billion Facebook Ad Impressions – According to digital marketing software firm Kenshoo, right-hand column “marketplace” ads on Facebook averaged 27 cents per thousand impressions during 2013.  This means that for $4 million, an advertiser could run a Facebook marketplace ad every second of every day for the next 469 years.
  • 3 billion Banner Ad Impressions – In 2013, average online display ad CPMs were running just shy of $1.30, looking globally.  Applying that figure to the U.S. market translates into 3 billion display ad impressions for your $4 million spend.
  • 160 million Sponsored Content Views – The typical charge is ~$25 to distribute sponsored content to 1,000 readers.  At that rate, $4 million would give you 160 million impressions (provided a publisher could actually deliver that many!).
  • 10.8 million Paid Search Clicks – With an overall average cost-per-click of 37 cents in 2013, $4 million would cover just shy of 11 million clicks.  That may be one-tenth the size of the Super Bowl viewing audience … but at least your audience would be actually searching for your product or service instead of heading to the kitchen for more corn chips and queso dip.

These are just some of the comparative figures outlined by Jack Marshall in his article.  You can read the others here.

Observations on the Newtown Tragedy and its Larger Societal Implications

Shady Hook School, Newtown, CTI’m going to take a step away from the usual focus of my blog posts to address the larger cultural factors that really need to be on everyone’s radar screen as we “process” the horrific actions in Newtown, CT. The school massacre has left a community reeling and I’m sure many are re-examining their thinking about what this all means in the “larger context” of our society and culture.

A good friend of mine I’ve known since college, Wesley Green, is someone whose opinion I value highly. He’s been a “media person” for decades and always has interesting observations to share about the “bigger meaning” of events as they occur.

Wes sent me his observations about Newtown, meant for my eyes only, but I found them thought-provoking and compelling enough to want to share with my blog audience. With his permission, here is what Wes shared with me:

We all wonder how something like this could happen …

The natural disposition of humans is to be compassionate and outward looking. We are by nature people of community—predisposed to love and take care of each other. But … when afflicted by a psychological or neurological injury, humans lurch towards some form of narcissism.

Common in small children whose frontal lobes are not fully developed, narcissism re-emerges, sometimes with a vengeance, in adults as an unconscious reaction to neurological/psychological disequilibrium. As far as I can tell, all mental illness is accompanied by some form of narcissism in that one’s capacity for empathy is somehow impaired.

How narcissistic tendencies are enabled …

The modern world unfortunately gives people novel opportunities to indulge any narcissistic tendencies. Video games allow people to be the heroes of their own virtual worlds – worlds in which they have power and prestige.

Websites, including social sites, also allow people to feel more … consequential.

But I think the most insidious modern innovation remains television. Not only does TV blur the lines between fantasy and reality, it can actually turn fantasy into reality.

Why TV may be a linchpin …

More than any other media, television has the power to take “nobodies” and transform them into “somebodies” almost overnight. We see it on American Idol, The X-Factor, and a host of reality TV shows (Jersey Shore, anyone?). So much celebrity is doled out, it becomes an achievable goal to many – including people with weapons.

TV also has power no other media have to legitimize formerly illegitimate behavior. The Brady Bunch did more than people realize to legitimize blended families. Years later, shows like Modern Family and Glee helped change our attitudes about gays.

But … there is a flip side: Behaviors once considered not just off-limits but barbaric also have gained some legitimacy when those behaviors are seen to bring global attention to a “worthy” cause and thus advance it. For years now, violent demonstrations and terrorist attacks have been scripted to maximize broadcast exposure.

It doesn’t take much imagination for a narcissist to connect dots and suffuse his/her own personal fantasies with the same import. “Round-the-clock international newsfeeds” and “deadly impulses” make for a combustible mixture.

Newtown TragedySo, what does this mean?

It seems to me that the problem isn’t that these “suburban terrorists” see too much violence on television and in the news. It’s that they yearn to see themselves on television and in the news.

While they may have an impulse to vent their rage, what they really covet is the immortality that comes with a leading role in some sort of Götterdämmerung—in prime time.

Regulating automatic weapons may help, but when glory beckons a twisted ego, I suspect that ego will find a way to answer the call.

Alas, ironically, as we become increasingly connected to each other through technology, we’re being forced to put up new barricades to protect ourselves from those who want to use that “connectedness” to advertise their own perverse agendas and/or raise their own humiliatingly low profiles.

Is it something particular about America and our culture?

It’s too pat a response to contend that more restrictive gun control laws are all that stand in the way of solving the problems of mass shooting in the United States. I think that answer is deceptively easy – and insufficient.

The more I think about this, I suspect there may be one more important ingredient in the toxic brew: the central place of “aspiration” in the American psyche.

In the U.S., self-worth is largely defined by achievement. We are what we manage to accomplish in life. (Not so much in most other countries/cultures. At least, not historically.) All of us — except African-Americans and Native Americans — are descended from people who came here chasing dreams.

Even today, we measure ourselves by milestones along similar personal journeys. In fact, so important is “accomplishment” in our culture that we now have a website that purports to be able to quantify it: Klout.

It is instructive, I think, that all the young gunmen who have perpetrated these awful acts are males of European or Asian descent. They come out of middle-class, strongly aspirational cultures. It leaves one to wonder if the same ethos that drives innovation in Silicon Valley and entrepreneurial activity coast to coast also factors heavily into the narcissistic fantasies of disturbed young men. Mass murder is simply the shadow side of headline personal success: headline personal failure.

Remember this line from Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman:

“I’m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have — to come out Number One man.”

Interesting, no?

When you understand the strong impulse middle-class Americans have to make a splash in life — our fascination with the BIG statement … and then factor in the disorientation of mental illness and the opportunities for really big statements afforded by the modern media, maybe the questions “Why in America?” and “Why these middle-class young men?” begin to answer themselves a little more easily.

What’s ahead?

It’s chilling to contemplate, but the future may look a lot like this:

We’ll increasingly live in gated communities.
 We’ll increasingly shop in malls with airport-like security.
 We’ll increasingly worship behind doors outfitted with metal detectors.
 We’ll increasingly send our kids to schools that look like Fort Knox.
 Our physical connectedness will dissipate even as our virtual connectedness expands.

A horrific thought. What’s worse, I suspect there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it – gun control regulations or no.

In addition to Wesley’s observations above, I’d be interested in your own views about Newtown and what it says about our society and culture. Please share your thoughts below if you feel so inclined.

“Necessity or not”? Pew says Americans’ views are changing.

Pew Center for People & the Press logoThe Pew Research Center fields a Social & Demographic Trends survey on a fairly regular basis which asks Americans if they think certain items are “necessities” … or a luxury they could do without.

Included in the survey are a variety of items ranging from automobiles and appliances to communications devices.

The 2010 survey was conducted in May and queried nearly 3,000 respondents. The results of this survey were released in late August, and they reveal that landline phones and television sets are quickly becoming less essential to U.S. consumers.

In fact, only ~42% of the survey respondents feel that a TV set is a necessity, which is down 10 percentage points from just one year ago.

Here is what respondents reported in response to being asked whether they consider each of the following items to be a “necessity”:

 Automobile: 86% (down 2 percentage points from the 2009 Pew survey)
 Landline phone: 62% (down 6 points)
 Home air conditioning: 55% (up 1)
 Home computer: 49% (down 1)
 Cell phone: 47% (down 2)
 Microwave: 45% (down 2)
 Television set: 42% (down 10)
 High-speed internet: 34% (up 3)
 Cable/satellite TV: 23% (no change)
 Dishwasher: 21% (no change)
 Flat-screen TV: 10% (up 2)

Of course, landline phones and TV sets have been fixtures of American life for as long as most of us can remember. But the Pew research shows this is now changing, and it’s especially so among those in the 18-29 age bracket. In fact, only ~30% of the younger age segment believe that having a TV set is a necessity.

As for landline phones, current government data show that only three-fourths of U.S. households have a landline phone, which is down from ~97% in 2000. Not surprisingly, going in the opposite direction are cell phones; today, more than 80% of U.S. adults use them, up from only about 50% in 2000.

The Pew survey results from 2010 versus 2009 reveal several other declines in “necessities,” but those declines are only slight and may be a result of the economic downturn. Instead, it seems clear that the major shifts are happening due to technological change, not because of the economic picture.

The Pew survey results don’t reveal too much that’s surprising … but it’s important to put some statistics to our broad hunches. And those stats are telling us that certain changes are occurring rapidly.