Viewers bypass TV schedules in US

9 April 2013
NEW YORK: Growing numbers of US consumers are using video-on-demand services, DVRs, streaming platforms and similar tools, and bypassing network schedules as a result, a survey has claimed.

The Harris Poll questioned 2,496 internet users in February 2013, and found that 78% had utilised at least one of these technologies or rented TV shows on DVD to date.

Video-on-demand services topped the list, with a penetration of 41%. Most consumers opted to access such properties via a cable service (34%), rather than through a satellite provider (9%).

DVRs and other similar devices came next, favoured by 37% of contributors. Streaming services were also popular, with 30% of the panel having used Netflix, a total hitting 22% for Hulu and Hulu Plus.

Purchasing, renting or borrowing episodes or seasons on DVD was fourth, on 29%.

Age was a key determining factor, as 89% of people in the 18-39 year old age range had engaged in these activities, compared to 78% of 40-54 year olds and 67% of those over 55 years old.

Similarly, the presence of children in a household was an influence. Americans with children under the age of 18 years old at home were more likely to engage in "self-scheduling" (84%) than those without (76%).

The difference in this case was driven largely by Netflix: 40% of households with children had used this service, measured against 27% for those without. 

The survey also found that "binge viewing" was widespread, with 62%  of interviewees reporting that they had watched multiple episodes of a single TV show in quick succession.

Both new and old shows contributed to this trend, with 50% of this group having "binged" on older shows or past seasons of current programmes, and 40% doing the same for the most recent seasons.

The study suggested some of these viewers will be taking in content on platforms beyond the reach of advertisers, like Netflix and Amazon's VOD services. It argued that the TV and advertising industries will thus need to find ways to make the twin trends of "binge-ing" and "when-I-want it" work for them.

But for all the talk of water-cooler moments, fewer than two in ten (18%) of the sample pointed to a desire to discuss shows with friends, family and coworkers as influencing their viewing habits.

Data sourced from The Harris Poll; additional content by Warc staff
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