The Return of Appointment Viewing

The gradual customization of the TV viewing process is nothing new. Choice has always been a factor of television ever since the earliest days, when we could opt for favorite programs on the limited number of channels available.

When channels began to proliferate, and the VCR debuted, the notion of taping and watching later or buying movies to build one’s own library became commonplace to consumers.

Fast-forward through the DVD era, which brought the growth of the series box-set market, the advent of the DVR and the growth of VOD. More complexity, but at least viewing was still tethered to the TV screen — however it was done.

Today, that isn’t the case. Devices like the iPad, Kindle Fire and smartphones have made it possible to watch video wherever and whenever. How we understand viewing behaviors has to evolve, too.

Beyond understanding what proportion of viewing is tied to the broadcast schedule versus some kind of time-shifted or on-demand viewing (which can form the building blocks for some kind of segmentation), we need to understand how different means of viewing relate to each other (DVR vs. Tablet for example). And the behavioral aspects such viewing suggests.

After all, from a behavioral standpoint, one of the most significant factors to arise from a landscape in which the options to view at any time (or when it is possible to view), is the resurrection of appointment viewing. Only this time, the appointment isn’t determined by the broadcast schedule but personal preference.

Before the DVR took hold and while VOD was still finding its feet, many in the business were coming to accept the demise of appointment viewing. The reasons were many, but key was audience fragmentation caused by the proliferation of channels and lifestyle changes within the family dynamic.

Now, though, there is much to suggest that the ability to control when a program is viewed provides the opportunity to watch with one’s partner, children and friends.

With different devices and social settings pertaining to time-shifted and on-demand viewing in all forms, we inevitably see different behaviors emerging. Each needs to be understood in isolation and in relation to each other. We could think of them as follows:

• Private indulgence – a person’s favorite program (not necessarily watched by others in the household) and viewed in
their own TV time. Which devices predominate here?

• Paired viewing – co-viewing with one other as a shared activity. Ranging from simply relaxing after the kids have gone to bed through a stay-at-home date night to viewing with a friend (sports perhaps?), the make up and motivation of the pairing creates a different setting for marketers.

• Time with kids – this may be as much about time spent with children as it is about the actual program choice as far as an adult is concerned.

• Harvesting - beyond playing catch-up for programs just missed, this is when people choose to watch several episodes of the same series back-to-back from DVR, VOD, Netflix, Online or whatever other source is available to them. This is session viewing, or binge viewing and is a knowing indulgence.

• Mobile viewing – using either a tablet or a phone, there are also circumstances when these devices will be used to watch preferred programs. This may be when traveling or otherwise out of the home (commuting), or it could simply be for clips to catch up quickly.

There are more scenarios in which time-shifting takes place and each will impact engagement with programming and advertising. Many of those factors will have little to do with the content and more to do with the device chosen, the setting and who people view with.


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