NEW YORK: TV viewers who use multiple screens and sources show a preference for live TV and stronger network loyalty than those who restrict themselves to one screen, according to new research.

Media giant Viacom surveyed 1,500 viewers aged 13 to 44 and carried out in-depth interviews with people on Boston and Chicago for its report titled Getting With the Program: TV's Funnels, Paths and Hurdles, as it explored how audiences discover, watch and become fans of TV shows.

The study showed that around eight in ten viewers (79%) said having more ways of accessing shows helped them try more programs and a similar proportion (78%) indicated that they would not have become fans of some shows if they couldn't watch in multiple ways.

Multi-screen viewership was also linked to a stronger preference for live TV and network loyalty. Twice as many multi-screeners as single-screeners said it was important that they watched their favourite shows live (47% v 23%), while 45% of multi-screeners were loyal to a few networks compared to just 28% of single-screeners.

"What we're seeing is that the myriad of sources and devices has taken fandom to new heights, making TV a bigger part of our audiences' lives than ever before," said Colleen Fahey Rush, evp and chief research officer, Viacom Media Networks.

The research identified a five-stage process in the journey to fandom which it dubbed the TV viewing funnel. This started with discovery, most often by word of mouth or by TV promos, leading on to research, involving initial viewing and discussions with family and friends, then selection of device to view on, followed by fandom and sharing.

Within this funnel, Viacom reported that audiences were dedicating more time to the discovery and research stages, which in turn was driving greater fandom and sharing.

Compared to a few years ago, for example, 73% become interested in new shows more quickly, while 81% watched a greater variety of shows and 61% agreed that TV was now a bigger part of their social life.

Looking five years ahead, most respondents expected that they would have even more options for where, how and what to watch TV (84%) and that they would be watching a greater variety of programs (83%).

Data sourced from Business Wire; additional content by Warc staff