Media Consultant


TELEVISION – THE 600 POUND GORILLA: Not one, but several studies have been released recently showing that mainstream television is THE mainstay of the American media diet.  The top study is the Video Consumer Mapping Study done by Ball State University’s Center for Media Design for the Council for Research Excellence.

In short, it showed that no other media comes even close to television when it came to daily reach (94%) or daily duration (5 hours and 31 minutes).  Even among the media-savvy 18 to 24 year olds, live television watching alone accounted for more time (210 minutes) than all of the so-called “second screen” use, which, adding up web-surfing, emailing, IM’ing, software use and the meager two minutes of video use, ‘only’ totaled 164 minutes.  A survey by a pair of youth oriented groups confirms the higher interest in television.  Online quiz company Pangea Media and YPulse which describes itself as ‘the leading media platform for youth’ say their survey of their own teen and tween audience found that two-thirds (64%) prefer to watch live television versus the quarter (26%) who prefer DVR’s and the 11% who watch online.  However, as a point of balance, when asked to give up TV or the Internet, three quarters (76%) said they would give up television.

And if that isn’t enough, another study by the prestigious Advertising Research Foundation will gladden the hearts of my television sales brethren.  Its analysis of nearly 400 case studies found that TV ads are not only as effective as ever, but may in fact be even more effective in increasing sales.  The analysis said the number of units sold per various items increased as the number of television impressions increased.  Yet another study, this one by media planning and research firm McPheters and Company, showed that net recall of TV ads was twice that of magazine ads which, in turn, had a recall almost three times that of Internet ads.  The study tested people watching the various ads in a laboratory setting and then asked them questions afterwards.  A caveat of sorts, the Internet ads were Banner Ads, not Internet video ads, and the study, using eye tracking software, showed that two thirds of the web users (63%) didn’t even see the banner ads.  But still the same point about effectiveness of TV ads was shown in an analysis of personal care products by TNS Media Intelligence which showed that companies that cut advertising during a recession lost market share to private labels – and market share they didn’t regain.  Most particularly, the analysis cited research by a University of North Carolina professor that showed companies maintained or hiked ad spending – particularly TV spending – lost limited share.

And if that isn’t enough, proof that every cloud has a silver lining, research by the good folks at Frank Magid Associates for the Hearst-Argyle group showed that 99% of the people surveyed said they are tuning in as much or even more to local television news, to keep track of the economic news.  One in six said they were watching television more (16%) and going to the Internet more (17%).  Similar to the McPheters study, those surveyed said they pay more attention to TV ads than magazine ads (57% versus 43%), TV ads over newspaper ads (64% versus 36%), TV ads over radio (72% versus 28%) and TV ads over the Internet (85% versus 15%).  Finally, if that isn’t enough, it turns out that happiness is not, as the Beatles song says, a warm gun, but rather a warm TV.  A series of studies by the University at Buffalo and Miami University of Ohio has found that watching TV can drive away feelings of loneliness and isolation.  The four studies carried in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people felt less lonely when watching TV, that writing about their favorite TV programs aroused “belongingness needs”, that they expressed fewer feelings of loneliness after writing about their TV programs, and that just thinking about their favorite TV programs proved a buffer against “drops in self esteem.”

NOW YOU SEE IT; NOW YOU DON’T: In all candor this could have been headlined – now you understand it; now you don’t.  The point is… it’s a little confusing.  The Video Consumer Mapping Study cross-examines the issue of “concurrent media exposure.”  In other words, are people watching other media or doing something else when watching TV, online or listening to the radio.  And if so, is the media the sole focus of attention, the primary focus of attention or the secondary focus of attention.  As the report says, concurrent media exposure isn’t a phenomenon restricted to 18 to 24 year olds; it is a phenomenon for the 18 to 54 year olds as well.  In this area, television wins hands down again.  Television was more likely (80%) to be the sole source of media attention, meaning people only watched it and nothing else.  Television was also more likely to be the primary source of media attention, meaning there may be other media being used but the prime focus is on the television.  What was somewhat surprising is that people are more likely to be using “any print” as their second media of choice when watching television, not computers as we’ve been told so often.  And when the computer is their ‘primary’ focus, the second choice is not television but “any phone.”  However, by way of balance, in the Pangea Media study cited earlier, teens and tweens said they were multi-tasking when watching TV, either going online (78%) or text messaging (66%).

THE MISSING SCREEN: You’ve no doubt heard references to the “three screen” description of media viewing – television, computer, and mobile phone.  Actually, the report says there is a fourth screen – environmental, as in movie screen ads, TV’s in stores and GPS screens.  In fact when you add these ‘out of home TV minutes’ into the equation, they amount to ten times as much video viewing as video on the Internet and video on the mobile phone combined.  In fact, when it comes to watching video in general, 99% of the time is spent watching it on the TV or DVR.  Watching video on the Internet (when you’re only doing the three screen approach) accounted for less than half a percent of the time spent and watching video on a mobile device accounted for only one tenth of one percent.

Again, by way of balance, we should note a report by Microsoft about European video viewing that may be a harbinger for the U.S.  That report predicts that by next month European Internet consumption will reach 14.5 hours compared to 11.5 hours for TV.  Also Nielsen Online reports that online video viewing passed a milestone in March with the average viewer consuming three hours per month for the first time.  It says viewers are spending more time watching full-length episodes and longer-form shows.

LEAN FORWARD; LEAN BACK: Another reference you’ve probably heard used, and which popped up several times in the various readings.  The contention is that television is a ‘lean back’ medium, meaning you are further from the screen, sitting back, just hitting the remote; and also implying it is a more passive, non-interactive medium.  Personal computer use on the other hand is a ‘lean forward’ medium, meaning you are closer to the screen, using the mouse; and implying it is a more interactive and engaging medium.  Several of those quoted in regard to the Ball State University study say the video consumer mapping study shows those lines are becoming more blurred.  Several new technological developments are further blurring that line.  For example, Adobe is developing a TV version of the Flash video player normally associated with computers and the Internet.  The result, according to observers, will be the ability to watch more web-based video on TV.  Chip maker Intel has partnered with online service Yahoo to create “TV Widgets” – mini-apps that appear as icons on the screen and connect to the web.  TV maker Samsung has already come out with a TV widget equipped set and Sony and Vizio are expected to follow shortly, according to PCWorld magazine.  In an article headlined PC/TV Convergence: turn on, tune in, log on, MediaWeek reporter Adrian Pennington makes the somewhat obvious statement that the key to bringing the Internet to TV is to strike the balance between the viewing differences of television and the computer.  He says the BBC iPlayer has led the way by bringing online TV viewing into the mainstream.  Research firm In-Stat says 40% of ‘young adult’ US households view Internet video on the TV once a month now, and predicts Web-to-TV streaming devices will generate $3 Billion in revenue by 2013.  In a statement so obvious that it borders on stupid, an In-State analyst says once Web-to-TV video becomes “simple and convenient, mass adoption will follow quite rapidly.”

FINAL FOOTNOTE: The VCM study was based on actual observation of people during the day – 376 people over two full days, once in the Spring and once in the Fall.  The study authors contend this is much more accurate method measurement than the questioning of people as to what they remembered or thought they did.  The council members questioned the idea that people under 30 were all watching Internet video and not TV, that the 30-second spot is dead, and that everyone is record TV on their DVR’s instead of watching.   And the report appears to show they were right to question those assumptions.