Watching It My Way: Multiscreen Viewers Want It All

Today’s guest post on Discovery Blog is from Pam Pearce, Senior Director of Ad Sales Research,  for Discovery Communications.

Watching it My Way: Multiscreen Viewers Want it All

There has likely not been a time since the inception of television during which the fundamental aspects of the medium have changed as rapidly and dramatically as they have recently.  As we’ve written about in earlier editions, a television set is no longer just the box in the living room, as a host of digital connections have or will expand the TV footprint to include nearly every type of device with a screen. Even Nielsen, which had been relatively slow to acknowledge changes in the way people access TV (see DVR penetration pre-2007), is now moving forward with plans to include connected viewing in what were formerly non-TV homes in the calculation of television ratings.

In order to understand more fully the shifting Television landscape, Discovery Communications, in partnership with Mediavest, recently completed a study to gain insights into the implications of these changes.  The proprietary research had a special focus on those viewers who embrace and use multiple devices to access television programming.  The results provide a deep dive into the motivations, desires and unmet needs of today’s multiplatform viewers. The study also delves into what inspires viewers to use and move across various devices and platforms, as well as how their expectations vary by context and viewing situations.

The research study was conducted by Latitude among 1,052 TV viewers ages 18-54. Each respondent was required to watch at least 1 or more hours of TV shows every week, have an internet connection, and have at least one method of watching TV shows (traditional cable, a mobile device or computer, or a connected TV) with which they watch shows via the web.  The survey was conducted online during March/April 2013.

Multiscreen Viewing is Becoming Mainstream – And Instant Access is a Driving Force

A not-very-surprising finding from the study was that Web-enabled show viewing is becoming mainstream, as a majority of those surveyed reported watching shows using mobile/OTT devices and the web on a weekly basis.  The study found that this is altering the dynamic of how viewers discover new shows, as well how they view shows.  In addition, the research showed that “multi-source viewers”,  or those who have adopted a number of viewing options, seek out content and select which device to view a program on based upon their viewing circumstances and what is driving their viewing desires at that moment. Viewers decide what to watch and how to watch (whether a TV set, connected/mobile device etc.) based on which source allows them immediate access to the programming they desire.

The study provided key insights regarding the evolving manner of program discovery and adoption of Multi-source viewers.

  • While in-person, word-of-mouth is still the dominant way that audiences learn about programs to watch across all audiences, digital and social discovery methods are also key among Multi-Source Viewers.
  • The means of show discovery and adoption are changing at different paces – Multi-Source Viewers are much more likely to discover and subsequently access shows digitally.
  • Cross-platform access is important for show adoption, with viewers indicating that there are shows they would not have watched regularly without multi-platform access.
  • With immediate platform-agnostic access paramount, understanding go-to sources for different in-the-moment contexts is critical.

What Drives Device Choices?

Lead Influencers:  A Multi-Screen Opportunity for Brands & Advertisers

One of the most important insights derived from this exploration was the identification of a group of “Lead Influencers” who represent an emerging opportunity for advertisers to engage with audiences in new and interesting ways.

Defined by their propensity to share ads and recommend brands, Lead Influencers are also especially likely to influence friends’ viewing behaviors & actively seek new content experiences, making them a critical segment for content creators and advertisers alike.

Lead Influencers spend more time watching TV, in more ways.  Lead Influencers are frequent viewers, with 4 in 10 spending 15+ hours a week watching TV shows.   When it comes to how they watch, Lead Influencers take advantage of the growing number of new options available to access content. They are more likely to be multi-source viewers, consuming TV shows via both non-TV devices (tablets, laptops, smartphones) and connected TV (including Roku & Apple TV) on a regular basis.   As multi-source viewers, they engage with shows beyond traditional viewing environments.  Compared to non-Lead Influencers this group is 31% more likely to watch full episodes of TV shows on YouTube and 33% more likely to watch via VOD, or a TV network app/website once a week or more.  Their search for new content makes them more likely  to be ahead of the curve and they are typically among the first of their friends to buy new technology.

Lead Influencers crave new brand relationships.  These curious, pro-brand consumers are driven to discover new brands and products.  Lead Influencers recognize that advertising can be a positive and important part of the entertainment experience, however, they do have high expectations of the brands that try to engage with them. While Lead Influencers are willing to befriend a brand, context and relevance are critical.  Lead Influencers are more likely to pay attention to ads that connect with them “in the moment”, and are able to help them with what they are currently doing.  Lead Influencers are more likely to reward brands that help them interact with their favorite shows in new and interesting ways, including providing opportunities to connect to content related to their favorite shows across web enabled devices.  Not only are these ad-receptive consumers tapped into what is now, new and next, but they carry some serious clout.

Lead Influencers are especially likely to impact friends’ viewing behaviors & advocate for their preferred brands.  Lead Influencers actively seek out new entertainment experiences, not only to satisfy their own curiosity, but also to share with others.  Lead Influencers are most likely to be the drivers of social viewing choices.  Over 6 in 10 Lead Influencers report that when they are watching TV with friends or family, they are driving the decision on what the group will watch.

Program Choice Influencers


Lead Influencers leverage social media to spread the word about their favorite shows and encourage others to join in on the rapidly evolving multiplatform content experience.

Lead Influencers Share What They See

When it comes to recommending brands and products, Lead Influencers are frequently sought out for advice; however, they are also highly motivated to share their own brand experiences.  This group shares the ads they connect with, especially if they find the ads funny or clever.

Lead Influencers are a critical target segment for advertisers in nearly every category, as their influence reverberates far beyond the number of friends and family members that comprise their social networks.   They tend to influence other influencers – the echo impression concept – who, in turn, influence others.  And since they are focused on spreading their views on brands, an impression delivered to this important audience has a higher value than average.

Reaching Lead Influencers:

Context matters.  It is important to consider the viewing motivations of this highly influential group.  61% of Lead Influencers “expect different kinds of things from advertisers depending on what show or type of show [they are] watching”.  Like most viewers, Lead Influencers want to laugh, relax, take a mental break—but they over-index on shows that speak to their curiosity and give them a character to root for.   They are highly receptive to ads that leverage the stories of both the brand and the program.

Be where they are – across all platforms.   Results of the study reveal that Lead Influencers are likely to be in a certain mood or mindset when watching shows at the website or app of a specific network, resulting in a higher level of engagement for a related advertisement.   After viewing a show cross-platform, Lead Influencers posted increased levels of awareness, info-seeking and digital word-of-mouth behaviors.   Maximum brand impact can be fostered among this key group by consistent communication throughout cross-platform show experiences.

Enable access and pursue show and location relevance.  According to Lead Influencers, brands should be doing more to bring them the content they love, when and how they want it.   They are open to purchasing products if it will grant them greater access to their favorite shows.  Lead Influencers are seeking relevance, across time, device and location. Opportunities exist to develop ads and products that speak to where viewers are (both their geographic location and device).

 Lead Influencers Are Drawn to Discovery Networks:

This high value audience over-indexes on viewership of Discovery Networks, and those who view Discovery Networks are 37% more likely to be Lead Influencers than non-viewers.

Lead Influencers vs. All Viewers


New Pathways to Success

The Discovery Networks are differentiated not only in their ability to attract this increasingly important audience, but also in meeting their expectations of both content and brand partnerships.  More so than other networks, viewers look to Discovery Networks to partner with brands to create meaningful cross-platform entertainment experiences. Discovery Networks excel in helping partners leverage the cross-platform viewing environment, resulting in higher levels of engagement, recall and overall impression of partner brands.   3 in 10 viewers said that seeing a brand team up with Discovery to create content related to a show on their web-enabled device would make them think more highly of that brand.

As the viewing landscape continues to evolve and show viewing is no longer constrained by context, content creators and advertisers alike have the opportunity to connect with audiences in new and interesting ways.  Understanding how various devices function in viewers’ different “life contexts” can help to achieve maximum brand impact.  “Traditional television viewing” still makes up the lion’s share of all video viewing, but as this research study illustrates, a growing share of the audience wants and expects advertisers and content creators to provide choice and options that extend far beyond the linear-TV experience.   Those who satiate the desire of the Lead Influencers will be building a framework for effective communication — both today for this critical audience segment and in the future as the majority of viewers adopt these new viewing styles.