Online Video - TV but smaller?

08 Jun 2011  |  Chris Worrell 
Chris Worrell

Chris Worrell, European research manager, Specific Media, says online video is not simply TV smaller. It brings with it its own unique characteristics, the viewing experience is different to that of traditional TV and the reasons behind viewing are also distinct from its older, more established sibling...

The imperious growth of digital has carved up the media landscape and fundamentally disrupted the way people consume their chosen media. We read less newspapers, we buy less CD's and we don't print our photos anymore. The evidence of this change is all around us from the struggles of high street stalwarts such as HMV to the collapse of newspaper sales and the decline of Polaroid.

The growth of online video puts traditional TV viewing firmly in the cross hairs as digitals next target. Developments in technology (primarily the faster internet connections provided by broadband) and devices (wi-fi, tablets, laptops) allied with empowered consumers demanding what they want, when and where they want it (be it shopping in the sales on Christmas Day or streaming Coronation Street at 3am) have created an environment where online video is thriving.

However, it would be overly simplistic - and, frankly incorrect, to suggest that the growth of online video means the death of traditional TV. Likewise, it is rather one dimensional to think of online video as TV but on a smaller screen or a different device. The two are distinct mediums with their own unique properties, and both can thrive in the modern media ecosystem.

We recently conducted research into the way that consumers use, view and interact with online video, to better understand the motivators and experience of online video and, crucially how it is different to traditional TV. The research confirms some hunches and throws up some interesting findings:

Fundamentally, online video viewing is not a new or novel experience for consumers - it is something that comes very naturally to them. The weight of viewing is high (over half of the 1,000 consumers we spoke to were viewing at least an hour of content a week), mainstream content dominates viewing (rather than user generated content), and consumption patterns mirror that of TV - that is, the bulk of viewing occurs at home and in the evening. Digital has entered the living room.

Secondly - viewing motivation is very different to that of traditional TV. Most traditional TV viewing occurred either out of habit or a desire for a shared viewing experience with family and friends (The X Factor moment). For online video, motivators are more personal and involving - revolving around factors such as lifestyle and convenience; the top three motivators cited by consumers for online video were 'Choose content', 'Interacting with content' and 'Fit around lifestyle'.

As a consequence this creates a very different, arguably more engaging, experience. Two thirds of consumers we spoke with said that they had an active mindset when viewing online video while two thirds felt passive when viewing traditional TV - the classic lean forward, lean back argument.

Finally we looked at the way consumers select and interact with content - and again a story of participation and involvement emerges. Consumers actively seek out content that they want to watch, when they want to watch it (rather than just clicking on links that have been forwarded to them) and they are taking advantage of the unique properties that online affords them - commenting, sharing and discussing content.

So to summarise - online video is not simply TV smaller. It brings with it its own unique characteristics, the viewing experience is different to that of traditional TV and the reasons behind viewing are also distinct from its older, more established sibling.

So what is the opportunity for advertisers? The opportunities are myriad. To take just one example, we recently worked with a key advertiser on a research project that discovered that most consumers view content on their own and feel they have fewer distractions, creating a great environment for targeted communications with sensitive messaging.

Online video offers advertisers a distinct, viable and engaging channel to reach consumers. Online video certainly marks a step change in consumer behaviour, but it does not mean the death of traditional TV. That said, recent findings from the Nielsen US TV Household universe shows that the number of households without a traditional TV declined to 96.7% from 98.9%, a small but perhaps significant shift.

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