Posts Tagged: tv viewing

Ofcom’s ‘most missed’ media misses the point

Which would you miss most: your iPod, iTunes or music itself? Let’s say you are only allowed to take one with you to a desert island. Stupid question right?

Today, you may have read about a survey by the usually very helpful and insightful Ofcom. It asked a similar sort of question. It found that young people say they are more likely to miss mobile phones or ‘the internet’ above TV. This is the first time TV has not come top of Ofcom’s most missed for younger people (it is still top overall). Inevitably, this has been seized upon by some as a worrying sign for TV. Read more on Ofcom’s ‘most missed’ media misses the point…

4 hours a day could be peak time for TV (or it could not)

In case you’ve missed it – and, if you have, it’s here – we’re now watching over 4 hours of live, linear TV a day. This is the most since records began. This really is remarkable and is worth taking a moment to consider.

There are many reasons for linear TV’s pretty spectacular performance (in one year it has increased, on average, by 2 hours a week per viewer). The take-up of new TV technologies like DTRs; on-demand TV services – which we now know lead people back to watching linear TV; the economic and weather climates; the new measurement system introduced by BARB in January last year…and of course fantastic TV shows.

The press releases Thinkbox issues on a quarterly basis announcing the BARB figures have been rather similar for the last couple of years. Every one announced that live, linear viewing has increased on the same period the year before. The good news for TV was getting predictable. The only real difference between the announcements was the new evidence that was constantly emerging about how technologies and activities that people predicted might harm live viewing were in fact strengthening it.

Now however, it is not quite so predictable, so we’re making a prediction: live, linear TV viewing could well have reached its peak. We fully expect to issue a press release in the not too distant future announcing that linear TV viewing levels have either stayed the same or, perhaps, dipped a little from their current record high.

When this inevitably does happen, please don’t be alarmed or tempted to start reheating decline of TV narratives (interesting blog from Ad Contrarian on that topic here). Linear TV viewing has to stabilise at some time; we’re never going to get to 25 hours a day.

But remember that, alongside our daily dose of 4 hours linear TV, we’re also consuming extra helpings of on-demand TV via devices other than our TV sets (BARB estimates there is an additional 1% of TV viewed via other devices).

TV is now a solar system, not a single planet, and it is expanding as a whole.

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Now then, now then

Jimmy Saville, among his many gifts, was acutely aware of how time slips away from us, perpetually moving us from now… to then. Hence his catchphrase, which was, I’m sure, a profound comment on the nature of existence itself rather than the irritating and patronising tic that some would have us believe.

Either way, Sir Jewellery draws our attention to the importance of ‘nowness’. It would be nice if you commented on this blog once you’ve finished it, but if you don’t do it now, then I suspect you never will, because the moment will have gone. Now will have become then.

‘Nowness’ is one of the reasons that watching TV as it is broadcast is so compelling. The latest figures from BARB for the first half of 2010 show that time spent watching linear broadcast TV viewing has increased again. Even in those homes with digital recorders, the percentage of their viewing to ‘live’ linear TV has increased slightly to 86.3% from 83.7%. Of the 13.7% that is time-shifted, over 80% happens with 7 days and a whopping 38.3% is VOSDAL (viewed on the same day as live). I didn’t just make up that VOSDAL acronym by the way; it is an official BARB descriptor. BARB doesn’t even publish any viewing past 7 days’ shifting or include it in TV numbers.

Let’s be honest, we all know that the longer something sits on our planner the less and less likely it is to get viewed. I’ve got an episode of Gardeners’ World from this March, all about planting a wild flower meadow, waiting for me. I wouldn’t like to bet on its chances of being viewed before meadow planting season comes round again.

On-demand TV services also show the magnetic force of the schedule with over 50% of catch-up viewing in Virgin homes taking place within a day of the original programme being aired. In fact, many normal people call on-demand TV players ‘catch-up’ TV because that is the overwhelming motivation for using them. They are trying to get back to watching ‘now’. Even if you choose to never watch linear TV, the schedule will be the biggest influence over what you watch on-demand.

Nowness – and attempts to either get ahead of it or catch-up with it – is why sneak previews are popular, why live music events are booming, why we want to see the latest cinema release the first weekend, why Peter Mandelson’s memoirs so boosted The Times circulation (although the supporting TV campaign had more than a little to do with it). It is also, sadly, a motivation behind the piracy that robs media companies – and creative people along with them – of some of their income. And that’s why actual live ‘live’ TV is even more attractive – the talent shows, the sport, the news – and not just because we might want to interact or participate.

It’s about the conversations. Twitter and Facebook updates are emblematic of our desire to connect in real time and share our experience of now. As such, they are a brilliant window into the fact that, even for the fancy media and advertising types that I follow, ‘now’ includes watching a lot of telly. ‘Social TV’ is the trendy phrase to use; it’s making watching TV as it’s broadcast even more magnetic.

Broadcast TV is a real time event that sucks people into its stream, that’s shared with our families, that’s talked about in the moment as well as the next day round the watercoolers and coffee machines. This was true back when Jim was trying not to drop cigar ash on his shell suit; the internet is just making it even easier to enjoy TV ‘now’.

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Judging from the sofa

David Reviews, the influential TV and film aggregation site, has recently started something called The Lunch Break. This is a selection of TV ads put together to watch as if in an ad break. The very good idea behind this is obviously to better replicate the experience that viewers have.

People rarely watch any advertising with devoted attention – unless they’ve specifically sought it out to view again. TV viewers watch a series of different ads from non-competing markets with varying levels of attention (all of which we now know are valuable to advertisers, thanks to neuroscience).

This is not astonishing; I’m clearly not breaking much new ground telling you this. But it occurred to me while I was on the jury for the Campaign Big Awards that when we judge ads they are dislocated from their natural habitat, and often alongside others in the same market.

Advertising is affected by many things, but one of its primary concerns is context; the TV programmes you’re rubbing shoulders with, the pages of the specific magazines or websites you’ve bought, the posters in those particular locations. And let’s not forget the emotional and physical contexts of rushing to work or relaxing in the bath and cuddling with your kids/cat on the sofa. But when judging awards normal contexts are lost and artificial ones imposed. It is impossible to recreate the actual viewer experience when lined up alongside an eclectic bunch of people you don’t know well in a hotel room focussing solely on a screen and watching 60 TV ads in a row.

Where TV is concerned, the influence of the context in which we watch is incredibly significant. For sponsorship credits I would say it is impossible to judge them fairly when detached from the editorial context in which they appear and with which they are supposed to relate.

Later this year we’re publishing new research into the influence of watching TV with other people, but initial findings show that it exerts a big influence on the impact and effectiveness of TV’s advertising.

So, taking all this into account, perhaps it would be better for creative judging if ad judges convened at one of their palatial country houses to lounge around the living room watching Peep Show or The X-Factor, eating a takeaway curry and letting the short-listed ads appear serendipitously, just as the media planning Gods intended. Let’s see what works best then.

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Unintended headlines

While it is music to Thinkbox’s – and advertisers’ – ears that commercial TV has increased its share of viewing and that commercial broadcast TV viewing is continuing to grow, it certainly wasn’t our intention that this should be used as a stick to beat the BBC, as some have. There are quite enough sticks beating the BBC at the moment.

Read more on Unintended headlines…