Viewers Redefined: Meet 'The Fragmented'

TV is changing even faster than you think. Disruptors like YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon have fundamentally changed the way we watch. To get a sense of just how much viewers have changed, Mediahub embarked on an in-depth research study. What did we find?

We found a new kind of audience; or, really, multiple types of audience whose viewing behaviors are changing by the day. We dubbed these new viewers the Fragmented, and we quickly realized that the TV and advertising industries are way behind them. Here are three ways audiences are dramatically changing, and what we in the industry need to do to catch up.

Viewers Redefined How They Think About “TV”—Cross Screen Is Mandatory

Since its inception, the concept of “TV” has always been fairly universal, essentially equating the content with the delivery system. However, today, more than ever, audiences have their own definitions that depend on the devices and platforms they use and how often they use them. The biggest drivers of how people perceive their version of TV are age and life stage (though income, urbanicity, and other factors certainly play roles). 



When we asked respondents to choose a picture that best represents what watching TV means to them, more than 40% of 13–24-year-olds chose a device other than an actual TV (often a smartphone), and that number was as high as 24% even for 35–49-year-olds.

It’s not just the device that’s redefining TV, as streaming services have not only been adopted quickly, they’ve actually become the preferred method of viewing for many. In fact, when we asked respondents if they had only one way of accessing TV—streaming service or set-top box—the majority of 13–49-year-olds chose streaming.

What does this mean for the TV industry? First off, any advertiser still separating “TV” and “digital video” is well behind the curve.

A cross-screen strategy is crucial. NBCU’s CFlight and Nielsen’s Total Content Ratings are two examples of the industry trying to move in the right direction, but we have a long way to go in a short period of time to catch up with audiences.

In Ad Free Streaming They Are Transient, If Not Partially Invisible – Solve for Infrequency

With streaming services so embedded as a preference for accessing content, a great deal of viewers’ video time is now off-limits to advertising.

A quarter of 18–34-year-olds’ time is now spent with media in ad-free environments. Add in the fact that these empowered viewers are as fickle as ever.

Any TV buyer will tell you that audiences often abandon shows, as premiers typically get higher ratings than finales. With the absurd abundance of shows today, nearly 6 in 10 respondents are always or at least sometimes quitting shows that they’ve started to watch.

On top of that, nearly a third claim to be overwhelmed and don’t know how to keep up with all of the content available. They’re riddled with anxiety and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), as half of all viewers have started watching a show that has a lot of buzz even if they’re not that interested in it (and, sadly, a quarter of 25–34-year-olds will watch the whole season).

This all leaves us with audiences that are weaving in and out of paid and non-paid content, sampling, committing, and abandoning as they go, depending on some combination of their personal preference and their social anxieties. Advertisers will need to solve for this “infrequency.”

The reality is TV advertising is not known for its flexibility, but it’s time for that to change. What the likes of Fox and Hulu are doing with lighter ad loads is a start, but not enough.

The industry needs to shift toward the digital model that is always on, and also requires more real-time cultural knowledge and creativity to grab attention where possible.

8 in 10 Viewers are Watching By Themselves – Personalized Experiences Are Crucial

Co-viewing has always been a big part of the “TV” experience. However, with the freedom to watch across multiple devices, it’s no surprise that we found more people are watching alone than ever. The surprise came in just how many people are watching alone.

We found that 82% of 13–75-year-olds watch alone either all of the time or sometimes. Most people prefer to binge alone on the stuff they really want to watch, and with the vast amount of content tailored to just about everyone, it’s clear that TV has become a truly personalized experience. Co-viewing is still very much happening, but it’s often a compromise, as people can too easily find another screen. This means the video experience overall is becoming very much personalized, providing advertisers the opportunity to customize messaging for audiences—but the technology must move well beyond the clunky world of addressable TV as it exists today.

Evolve Faster

Advertisers and the TV industry need to start thinking about how they’re going to evolve their approach to “TV” and video overall. It may be too simplistic to say it needs to look more like digital media, but it certainly needs new tools and metrics to address infrequency, more real-time flexibility that takes into account the ever-changing preferences and behaviors of a very fickle and overwhelmed audience, and data and platforms that can deliver more personalized messaging in a world of lonely solo viewers.


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