Subscribing to TV's Digital Future

July 08, 2015
By: TMCnet Special Guest
Gavin Mann, Accenture, global broadcast industry lead

As viewers shift their allegiance from the television set to other devices, television’s undisputed popularity as the “go-to” entertainment device is waning.

So says Accenture’s (News - Alert) new Digital Video and the Connected Consumer report which polled 24,000 people online globally about their digital entertainment habits. The survey asked how they viewed and consumed programming, presentation quality, and which content providers they trusted. The big conclusive finding is that television sets are being replaced by new devices as a medium for digital entertainment.

Of course, as an online survey the audience was a bit skewed to those digitally enabled, however, given historical benchmarks there is an undeniable acceleration in the shift from TV to other devices.

How big? I consider it a subtle but seismic shift. Television as a video format is stronger than ever, and Television as a device is still an incredibly important part of the viewing mix. However, the devices that are supplanting the TV set all have two-way communication front and center, which is opening up a world of opportunities.

As a result, new entrants are stimulating a level of innovation and competition for consumers’ eyeballs like we’ve never seen before.  

And while our research clearly shows viewers have a preference for the incumbent television providers over their new competitors, the incumbents must quickly adapt how they conduct business. These over-the-top (OTT) disruptors are driving incumbents to transform their platforms, operating models, and their entire organizational structures so that they are able to listen to their audience and react. If they don’t, how long will their brand advantage last?

So, we aren’t witnessing the death of TV, but the way viewers consume video content is certainly changing faster than ever before. Television was the only product category to see uniform, double-digit usage declines across different types of media worldwide among viewers of nearly all ages, not just millennials who did show the fastest rate of decline. Viewership for long form video content such as full movies and television shows on a TV screen declined by 13 percent worldwide over the past year and by 11 percent in the United States alone.

Not surprisingly, viewers are using laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones to get their digital content. TV was still a part of the mix but it was far from the central focus of the viewing experience. In fact, the vast majority (87 percent) of respondents were using a mobile device while watching TV, either to enhance the central viewing experience or to compete against it by being online or playing a game. Television is just becoming one of many outlets for viewing broadcast entertainment and that is quite the dramatic shift after years of being the only outlet in town.

Image via Shutterstock

It’s not hard to see why. Mobile devices are just better equipped for the digital experience. They are more powerful and come with immediate access to the Internet, social media and texting. Looking beyond devices, bandwidth has increased exponentially and newer entrants like Amazon, Apple, Google (News - Alert) and Netflix have quickly established themselves as the go to place for digital entertainment.

The outcome of all this is that the delivery and viewing of television content has started to change.

In this race, speed is everything. Digital entertainment requires new content forms and distribution models, and digital entrants already have the infrastructure in place to cater to a hungry audience. If traditional TV providers do not act now, they risk ceding market share they may never get back.

Viewers Still Trust Traditional TV Providers

Traditional TV providers have an established brand that viewers still regard highly despite the number of alternative digital options. Our research shows that 31 percent of respondents preferred TV and satellite broadcasters for video-over-the Internet services. Standalone video providers could only score favor with 15 percent of respondents. People still trust traditional TV providers but they need to give them a fully realized digital streaming outlet. Without one, viewers will gravitate to the next available option and that will come from newer, digital-only entrants. To borrow a line from the classic film Field of Dreams, “If you build it they will come.” 

Television viewing no longer happens in isolation. It is happening in concert with a host of different activities from live tweeting, game play to shopping online. We found that nearly 90 percent of respondents to our survey were using TV and a second screen in unison. These are important consumer habits that providers need to consider as they trial new capabilities and features that allow users to discuss, engage or react to digital content. Some will succeed and some will fail, but adaptation and innovation is a must.

Some traditional TV providers may have been slow to adapt to today’s digital realities but there is nothing stopping them from getting back on track. They have the content, the tools and consumer good will on their side. What they need to do is execute by investing in their digital infrastructures and offering unique programing that leverages the full capabilities of the medium. If they can do that then they will continue to dominate the digital television market for years to come.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino