TV in All Its Forms

One of the things that stood out in some recent analysis I did of media consumption trends is how the plethora of options available to consumers to consumer TV content the more of it they seem to consume. It seems obvious that if consumers could consume their TV content on any device they choose, at any time they choose, they would consume as much of it they can. Nobody wanted their TV stuck, well, on their TV.

The great unbundling of content from one set-top box, which sits under your TV, and is constrained to your home, has opened the door for more TV content to be consumed. Note this chart I made based on the type, and amount, of TV content consumers, consume. I broke this out by year and by age.

What you see is the advent of streaming options for TV content led to an increase in total consumer time spent watching TV. Now, different demographics are consuming the medium in different ways as younger generations watch more online/streaming TV where older generations still watch a lot of linear TV coming over cable or satellite.

The reality, in the minds of consumers, is that TV now comes in many forms. It is no longer restricted to the big screen but can now be consumed on all screens. In fact, I would argue the availability of consuming TV on any device you choose is what is leading to the increase in overall time watching TV content. When I looked at what percentage of the US market, for example, I found 45% of consumers in the US had used a PC, smartphone, tablet, and big screen TV to consume a TV show at least once in the last month. Note, that was not any one of those devices it used ALL of those devices at least once to watch a TV show of some kind in the last month. Which underscores my point that the more devices consumers have to consume TV content on, the more of that content they will consume.

TV is alive and well, only the nature of what we use and how we engage with it has changed. But what also stood out to me when I sifted through the data was how many legacy devices are still used to watch TV. By legacy devices, I mean the TV and the PC. The narrative is that most people just watch a lot of content on their smartphones and or tablets, but we still see a lot of monthly TV time being watched on the big screen TV and on PCs.

Again, what this goes to show is how even legacy screens remain a key part of the overall TV consumption experience. Meaning, new types of services being offered by networks, or cable companies, needs to have an experience optimized for all screens. Being a consumer of TV content on all these devices, there is a vastly inconsistent experience across PC/Mac, mobile, game console, streaming stick, etc., and that to me feels like an opportunity of some kind.

Lastly, there is going to come a time where re-bundling the bundle is bound to happen. During my last experiment, I tried to get all the channels I wanted in a streaming-only option. DirecTV Now, Hulu, YouTube TV, and other services didn’t offer everything I wanted. On top of that networks like CBS offered shows like Star Trek only in their pay streaming service. So I ended up paying money to: Tennis Channel, Hallmark, CBS, Netflix, Amazon (as a part of prime for Prime now content), HBO Now, and YouTube TV for the wider network of content. That’s seven individual accounts and subscriptions I had to pay just to cover everything I was getting and wanted. As Disney creates their own service, which I’m sure will include exclusive content, that will just add to the list.

I find it hard to believe that consumers will slice and dice their content subscriptions this way and will still opt for a service of some kind to unify all this for them. Everything may have to get unbundled just so it can be bundled again but it will happen in some way and at some point.

In the meantime, there will be many successes and failures as this new model of distribution of premium content gets flushed out. It’s not perfect, but at least we have much greater access to content and much more choice than ever before.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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