For Millennials, WOM Is A Big Driver For New TV Viewing Choices

There's a reason why CBS is constantly -- or perhaps irritatingly -- airing promos of its new series Scorpion. TV ads are the most popular way viewers discover new TV shows, according to Horizon Media's Finger on the Pulse survey. 

More than seven in 10 viewers (72%) find out about new summer TV shows by seeing commercials on TV -- significantly more than those who use reviews online and in print (28%), word of mouth (22%), radio or online streaming spots (17%), and outdoor media (8%).

Although both men (71%) and women (74%) primarily learn about new shows through TV ads, men are more likely than women to seek information through online and print reviews (22% vs. 35%). 

TV ads also are the preferred channel across all age groups, although the Silent Generation (50%) is notably less likely to rely on them than Millennials (73%), Generation X (73%), and Boomers (75%). Rather, those in the Silent Generation (44%) are more likely to be swayed to watch new TV shows through online and print reviews. 

Millennials, for their part, are also more likely than other age groups to be influenced by word of mouth. Nearly half of Millennials (44%) say they learn about new shows via friends and family, compared to 22% of Generation X, 14% of Boomers, and 22% of the Silent Generation. 

Meanwhile, an engaging storyline (34%) is most important to everyone when selecting a summer TV show, regardless of age or gender, followed by shows that are relatable. Women are slightly more likely than men to prefer shows that they can watch alongside friends and family (22% vs. 16%). 

Despite the growing popularity for on-demand viewing, being able to watch on their own schedule is least important to all viewers (26%) when it comes to selecting new TV shows. "We were surprised more people didn’t agree that 'watch on my own schedule' was an important factor driving their summer viewing habits," says Kirk Olson, VP of Trendsights at Horizon Media. "We expected busy summer social schedules would impact how they make TV choices. But we believe schedule is less important now because time-shifting and over-the-top viewing are more common. When it comes to TV, 'schedule' already means 'my schedule.'"

Still, it is increasingly evident that TV viewers like not having to worry about how things like social commitments, a kid’s weeknight soccer game, or that a summer vacation will mess up their connection to shows and story lines. "Probably the biggest change is in the growth of over the top and time-shifted, a second- or third-screen viewing," says Olson. "These aren’t the dominant form of viewing. However, we do know that the availability of these options empowers viewers to fit their 'must see' summer television into their schedules. For advertisers, it’s just more support for thinking about TV as video content, delivered across channels."

Most viewers (41%) say they start watching one to two new shows in the summer, while nearly three in 10 (29%) watch three to five new shows. Interestingly, those that supposedly have less free time are the ones who are most likely to start watching new shows. Some 7% of Millennials say they start watching more than 10 new shows during the summer, compared to zero of those in the Silent Generation.

Furthermore, longer days don’t alter viewing habits. For most, viewers start watching the same amount of new shows in the summer that they start during the other seasons. In fact, only about 20% say they start watching more shows in the busy fall season than they do in summer. “We found that somewhat surprising as well,” says Olson. “We think it’s good news for advertisers and for programmers because people are engaged with television throughout the year. This study confirms that viewers don’t think of the summer as a doldrums of reruns. That means advertisers and programmers can work together to create strong engagement with consumers via television content throughout the year."

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