Myth busting the volatile viewer

Alex Tansley, MCN’s Senior Yield and Business Intelligence Manager, Data Solutions, dives into the numbers and pulls out some new viewpoints on linear and subscription TV viewing trends.

Television viewing has always been made up of a combination of appointment and passive viewing. People either tune in to a pre-determined favoured set of programming, or they flick channels in the search for a program that captures their interest.

Having spent the past four years analysing viewing trends across the total TV market, we are now seeing interesting insights about attention and viewing trends which have made it apparent that the way in which audiences consume linear TV content has changed significantly.

Over the past five years, there has been a consistent shift away from passive viewing and an increase in appointment viewing, with data showing that viewers who engage with premium programming are tuning in for a greater portion than they were five years ago. An increase in the average time spent viewing on premium content indicates an increase in overall engagement, and greater affinity with the content. When the viewer develops this affinity, they are willing to commit and engage with that content at a deeper level than they have historically.

The data backs this up. Engagement levels within core programming across FTA and STV have consistently increased over the past five years. Since 2013, Foxtel’s major premium content pillars of Sport, Premium Drama, and Lifestyle, have collectively seen engagement up by 12% on key programming.

FTA TV has seen similar increases, with engagement on top FTA programming up 6% since 2013. For Network Ten, core programming such as MasterChef Australia and The Bachelor have seen engagement increase by 14%.

Critically, across both FTA and STV, engagement with younger viewers (P16-39) is increasing at a greater rate, despite the common narrative that fragmented viewing patterns are reducing the attention spans of viewers, particularly in younger viewers.

The flow of more high quality content into the TV viewing market has not led to volatility in viewing at the program level. More competition from premium content has only served to increase the value of TV audiences, based on this shift towards highly engaged appointment viewing, and the elimination of low-engagement passive viewing.

Marketers and advertisers who want the best return on their ad spend would be wise to question headlines that point to declines in total TV audiences. That narrative does not tell the full story of behavioural changes in TV viewers, as data is proving that demand for high quality TV content has never been greater.

More competition from a content perspective is only going to increase the value of the premium content being produced and the value of each individual viewer who tunes in. For advertisers and networks, investment in high end premium content is more critical to success than ever before.

Source: OzTam Metro 5 Cap City & National STV Homes, 2013-2017, 0600-2400, Networks Seven, Nine, Ten & MCN Foxtel, Total People, P16-39, Projections & Average TSV%, Consolidated Data.