New Study Explores How Much Real America Wants Connected TV (A Lot)

A new study of Chicago households from the Nielsen-backed Council for Research Excellence (CRE) suggests that consumers shopping for a new TV or other video device think its ability to connect to the Internet is the most important feature they want.

That seems utterly unsurprising, but the CRE study shows wide and strong interest in OTT services. It charted what these consumers—real people, not those crazy early adopters—actually wanted to buy, from a Chromecast dongle to a smartTV, and how they use their media hook-ups.

Researchers spent real time in the homes, hooked in fish-eyed cameras, and provided some cameras so families could record their thoughts and viewing determinations.

The results are as unremarkable as they are…well, fascinating, for the variety of ways they view, and they give media companies lots to think about. CRE research is funded by Nielsen, but its members are the biggest names in the business.

It appears that the Internet-viewing experience is all over the place, in exotic ways. One husband hooked his lap-top to his TV so he could watch rugby via SkyTV. Another family just bought a Blu-Ray player but feel they’re going to take it back to get an AppleTV box instead—it seems to offer more content.



A household of two single, but unattached men, watch a little TV together, but retreat to their bedrooms to watch on a laptop most of the time. One of the roomies uses two laptops—one to watch a familiar show, like a “Seinfeld” rerun—while he’s using the other laptop to blog.   

Word-of-mouth is hugely important—particularly about Chromecast (which it was noted later, still seems popular with the study group, despite some reports than the bloom if off that rose). Kids  have a “huge influence,” even to the point of saying they prefer, perhaps Netflix over Hulu Plus. Those opinions shape their parent’s buying decisions. (Obviously, that’s why Netflix and Hulu and Amazon fight for kids product.)

Portable screens are changing viewing choices in dizzying ways but also bring some families together, or let families divide into little viewing camps. One of the early questions asked at a CRE luncheon today is how Nielsen should count the viewer in the home watching Netflix on a tablet while his mother is watching over-the-air TV in the same room.  

CRE’s study had one group of consumers, of just 50 households, that were studied for just a short while. CRE offered to assist them in purchasing devices they wanted. In those families, 37 bought just one device; 13 bought two. And over half of those purchases were for smartTVs.

CRE is watching another group of 100 households in eight cities across the country on an ongoing basis that will continue into 2015, and in a presentation today, CRE seemed to zero in on them. The research is being conducted by GfK.

The CRE study seems to confim that as suspected, Netflix really is the gateway online content source: Consumers who got Chromecast or smartTVs mainly to watch Netflix found out there were plenty of other choices, for example.


--The TV is the main screen, though in some homes there may be more than one main screen.

--Portable devices are portable—they’re being used around the home.

--Consumers are searching for the best OTT device.

--Consumers are getting very comfortable with multiple sources, in ways established media companies should pay attention to.

--Time shifting is more important to these consumers than live viewing.

--Personal devices are used mainly by one person, but they are used by groups—a mother and son, for example—more than might be imagined.

--People who say that can concentrate on two screens appear that they’re not always honest with themselves about that.

While some of the findings are surprising, some are a little déjà viewish. In 2009, CRE discovered most consumers were hankering to buy one of  those new HDTV sets; five years later, the smartTV rules. But as David Poltrack, head of CBS Resarch harrumphed, the network’s own studies conclude consumers are frustrated by how badly many smartTVs work.      


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