TV viewing habits have been upended. Audiences are more likely to watch content by themselves. Dayparts no longer determine platform choice. These changes demand a new approach to TV planning, writes Sky Media’s Sarah Jones.

TV has changed more in the last 10 years than in the previous 50, with over 150 channels, an array of different devices and new platforms launching every other week, it seems. People have the flexibility to choose what they want to watch, when they want, on whatever screen they want.

However, with increased channels, devices and platforms, comes greater complexity for the media industry. We have adapted our plans and processes to account for the change in viewing behaviour, but the acceleration driven by 10 months spent at home means we have reached a tipping point. Traditional TV needs a rethink.

How has TV viewing behaviour changed?

We see Sky Q homes where all content is neatly presented in one place as key to understanding trends in TV consumption.

Different audiences are changing their viewing habits at different speeds based on their needs. The TV narrative has changed from assumptions around an ageing audience to younger audience viewing rising again. In fact, 2020 has the highest total TV set viewing levels on record for 16–34-year olds.

New habits show that TV is being viewed across different platforms and devices, but the traditional big screen experience still leads the way with 92% of viewing. This is helped by better connected platforms and players, and bigger, higher quality screens, meaning catch-up services are no longer restricted to laptops or tablets.

The shift towards video on-demand (VoD) has seen the greatest acceleration during the lockdown period, with a noticeable rise in solus viewing. With more people confined to their houses comes either a compromise in content viewing or watching content on your own terms, on your own device. In 2020, we have seen the biggest growth on Sky Go across mobile phones – up 53%. Despite the flexibility to watch whenever and wherever, 82% of all Sky Go is watched at home. We will be watching this trend for further developments as lockdown measures ease again.

Different content also determines different platform consumption patterns. For example, Sky channels saw 99% of live viewings for sports and news, whereas dramas on Sky Atlantic saw mostly viewing on-demand – 63% in fact. As a marketer, if the platforms are not planned holistically this could have a significant impact on the content that is surrounding your brand.

Dayparts no longer determine platform choice. We have reached a tipping point for VoD this year: people are choosing to view during the day and night. In 2020, with people spending more time at home, we have seen the biggest percentage increase in viewings between 2pm and 3pm. Within this time slot, linear viewing was up by 16% and on demand was up by 57%. These daytime viewing increases are more pronounced midweek, with Thursday seeing the overall largest increases in VoD viewing. With documentaries and leisure content driving these daytime uplifts, maybe the excuse of ‘edu-tainment’ takes the guilt out of daytime TV.

Another significant VoD increase time slot is between 12am and 1am, which has risen by 70%. Late night viewing is also evidently not such a problem without the following morning’s commute.

TV planning is more complicated than ever

By having such a wealth of data on viewing, we could cut and re-cut this data by audience, channel, device, day-part, platform or any other dimension for TV planning. As the new platforms have been bolted on, they have adopted digital metrics rather than TV metrics. This means that TV plans have become fragmented between different platforms and different audience definitions, and the way that a TV campaign is measured versus a VoD campaign is different. Plus, with different systems and approval deadlines, there is a lot of admin around campaign management.

With the nation’s viewing evolving at pace, and the dimensions for TV planning becoming ever more complicated, what does this mean for the future of TV advertising?

Bringing it back to what matters

Audiences do not differentiate between whether they are watching content on linear or on demand, they simply sit down and find great stuff to watch. At Sky Media we believe it is time to do the same – to bring our platforms together to deliver a unified plan for advertisers. We have spent the last 18 months developing a new proposition called ONE campaign, launching in January.

It really goes back to the fundamentals of media: to find the right blend of channels and platforms to reach an advertiser’s audience. Our vision is to transform the media landscape by focusing on audiences, not platforms.

With one audience (BARB or Addressable), one measurement (CFlight offers de-duplicated total campaign reach), one simplified price (unified metrics means prices can be blended), and one process, we hope to streamline how campaigns are booked, measured and managed.