ABC Studies iPad: Redefines TV Viewing

IpadABC research into how viewers consume video on the iPad has revealed three emerging trends: micro-mobility, parallel play and marathoning. Also, parents find their kids eager to grab the devices.


Charles Kennedy, senior vice president of research at ABC, revealed the insights at an Advertising Week event last week. The network conducted the study with the aim to understand viewer relationships with iPads, and where the devices may fit into the broader TV landscape.

"Increasingly, television as we think of it is becoming untethered," Kennedy said.

The iPad surely will play a role in accentuating that lesser connection to time and place going forward. ABC would have studied viewer usage of other tablets, but none had critical mass. That might change with the introduction of the new Kindle.

The micro-mobility iPad trend is simply a desire to access content anywhere and anytime, from the bathtub to the beach.



Parallel play involves one person using the iPad, while another uses a different device simultaneously. Kennedy cited the example of a wife watching "Desperate Housewives" on the big screen, while sitting next to her husband watching CNN on the iPad with headphones.

Marathoning is the trend of people watching a run of episodes of a show, one after the other.

Another discovery: participants saying the "device kept getting kidnapped" by their kids, who even as young as four intuitively knew how to use it.

ABC was the first network to offer ad-supported full episodes via the iPad with its ABC Player.

Some questions asked in the study:

Did the iPad exceed expectations? 70% said yes.

Has the iPad changed your life? 43% said yes. (Some said viewing TV on the go was a reason.)

IPad users don't necessarily gravitate towards full episodes; they also appreciate a chance to watch nuggets and clips while passing time. A man may surf around when a woman says she'll be ready in 22 minutes was a scenario Kennedy mentioned.

The study involved ethnographic research, focus groups and a blog. Initially, ABC planned to pay participants. Then, Kennedy said: "We realized we could have charged them money."

ABC plans to recontact participants and move ahead with a longitudinal study to gauge whether behaviors and appreciations are changing -- and perhaps get a sense if other tablets are gaining a foothold.

1 comment about "ABC Studies iPad: Redefines TV Viewing".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, October 10, 2011 at 9:59 p.m.

    I note that "The study involved ethnographic research, focus groups and a blog."

    These sources are all in the realm of qualitative research rather than statistically representative quantitative sample-based research.

    So why are percentages and proportions quoted so liberally. While I do not doubt the 'directionality' of the findings of this study, I would be loathe to rely on the quantification of those directions given the sources quoted.

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