TV Industry Looks Past Channel-Surfing, Embraces IPGs, PR To Reach Viewers

Some of the nation's biggest TV advertisers - TV programmers themselves - are beginning to look past conventional forms of advertising, which may no longer work as effectively among consumers with digital video recorders. In its place, they are likely to begin embracing ads on interactive TV program guides (IPG) - the DVR world's equivalent of an Internet search engine - or even public relations. At least that's what a new study released Friday during the final day of the TV industry's PROMAX/BDA conference in New York suggested.

The study, commissioned by PROMAX/BDA and unveiled at its annual conference Friday in New York City, confirms that viewing habits are changing in the digital age. It's all about control. More viewers are making their viewing choices by consulting the interactive program guides (IPGs), deciding what they want to see instead of just flipping channels and using television and other media to plan viewing.

"We need to stop relying on random viewing," says Jodi Gusek, executive director of research at Frank N. Magid Associates. "Channel surfing is a thing of the past."



Promotions and advertising professionals packed a room to hear the results of the study. While the study doesn't specifically speak to the 30-second spots that advertise goods and services, it shines a spotlight on the changing viewing habits of television viewers who have so many more choices than ever before.

Sixty-nine percent of viewers frequently use an on-screen IPG when they sit down to watch television--up from 63 percent in the 2002 survey. Only 30 percent start watching TV without any planning.

"It's becoming easier and easier for viewers to use an IPG to get what they want," Gusek says.

The digital video recorder is also changing habits--allowing viewers to skip commercials. Yet despite the common perception, DVR viewers aren't watching less television. They're watching more. The study found that DVR users watch more channels--15 compared to 12--and four in 10 told researchers that they are watching more television than they did before; it's just more of what they want to see.

"We're finding, in these highly digitized homes, that people are watching more television than ever and relying on television more than ever to make important viewing decisions," said Brent Magid of Frank N. Magid Associates.

That reliance on television means that many viewers still value television as the biggest resource to find out what's on television.

"Nine in 10 still say they depend on on-air spots to learn about what's new on TV," says Maryann Baldwin, executive director of Magid Media Futures.

Gusek says that today, other sources beyond straight advertising are also important in the media mix of promoting television shows. Publicity and public relations are becoming critically important, she says. The study found that 43 percent of viewers read articles online about television shows and celebrities; 39 percent read magazine articles about the same subjects; and 34 percent read newspaper articles on those topics. Thirty-eight percent had visited a Web site dedicated to the TV show they're interested in.

The study also puts another nail in the coffin of printed listings, such as those you'd find in the newspaper.

"They're really not relying on print sources for listings information," Gusek says. "They have their IPGs for that."

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