Don’t fear the device: TVNZ assesses the impact of multi-screening on TV

Earlier this month, Nigel Latta took to the stage in TVNZ’s foyer to present the broadcaster’s latest Forecast Study and in doing so, commanded attention from the audience. Phones were muted, put out of reach and eyes remained on him. It was a fitting demonstration of behaviour from the audience as the research topic was attention and the findings were that TV gets the most of all the screens.

What’s more, is that when devices are used while watching TV, they stop the audience from walking away from the ads and keeps the remote out of their hands, meaning the channel isn’t changed and the volume remains turned up. It also found that those watching pre-recorded TV are less likely to fast-forward through the ad breaks.

“We knew there was a lot of multi-screening going on but we didn’t have a deep understanding of it and we wanted to figure it out,” says group insight manager Kathryn Mitchell. “And what better platform than Forecast to have the opportunity to do a really deep interesting research project for TVNZ that helps our advertisers and clients understand what’s happening in the market and answers some questions for us at the same time.”

That interesting research came in watching the audience, by placing cameras in three households to film what families and flatmates get up to in front of the TV. Every night for a week the cameras were turned on and by the end of it, there was 105 hours of footage recorded for the research team to go through.

That was then followed by the quantitative stage, which saw 3,807 diary entries collected from 595 multi-screeners.

The results of those were then combined with ad effectiveness case studies and a review of academic literature on attention. When analysed, the findings show that during the average half-hour of TV viewing, the majority of attention is on the TV.

Broken down, TV gets 62 percent of attention, life distractions get 21 percent and device attention gets 17 percent. Furthermore, the highest attention is driven by pre-recorded TV and drama, while Sunday night sees the highest attention across the week.

And when their attention was away from the screen, the research found 32 percent returned to the screen when the ad break was over, 25 percent returned with they finished what they were doing on their device, 15 percent returned when they realised they hadn’t been following what was on and most importantly for TVNZ to find, 21 percent were triggered to look up when they heard something.

With audio being something that broadcasters and advertisers have some control over, TVNZ hopes this finding will inspire creatives to be more considerate of music, verbal story-telling and being different or unexpected, and to think about cueing long-term memories.

To further reiterate this point, Mitchell gives the example of the ‘Legends’ campaign released last month for NZTA by Clemenger BBDO. It begins with silence and Mitchell says when it comes on, she will stop what she’s doing and look up at the TV to see if it’s been turned off.

“The message was that audio, whether it be a great song or a great voice, a great piece of music or the unexpected, like going to silence, anything that differs from what people would expect is going to grab their attention.”

She adds, TVCs have 30 seconds, sometimes 15 or 45, to make an impact and get a message across and audio used well can make a big contribution to that.

But it’s not just creative agencies that stand to benefit from the findings as it was presented to the TVNZ commissioning team that used it to consider the way sound can be a trigger to bring people back in from ad breaks.

Mitchell gives the example of reality TV formats, that often return from the break with a recap of what’s been happening. Now, armed with the knowledge from this research, that approach has been questioned and it sparked a discussion around using audio cues to alert people to the fact that the ads are over.

As well as taking on board lessons about using audio to recapture audience attention, the research has also shown an opportunity for advertisers to leverage the devices and integrate them within the content. As it stands, one in 10 multi-screening occasions are related to TV content and Mitchell says given people are watching free-to-air en masse with a device in their hand, “Why not bring the two together?”

“I think people were scared of the second screen and the most refreshing thing to find out is that it’s so supportive for viewing and if anything, it’s just a really huge opportunity and it hasn’t been tapped into for its full potential.”

She gives the example of What Next, as it was the first truly multi-platform show that TVNZ has told audiences to pick up their devices for. And to do that they did, with over 32,000 people participating in the live surveys and over 200,000 in total providing responses to the questions.

The same goes for advertisers, Mitchell says, because while some are showing prowess by lining up their TV buy with search marketing and social media campaigns, the next step is to leverage the content more.

Being able to show that devices are not being used to the detriment of TV comes at a timely moment for the platform as it’s fighting back against the perception that it’s dying.

Last year, Mark Ritson, adjunct professor of marketing at the Melbourne Business School pointed out that around the world, TV accounts for between 80 and 90 percent of all video watched and there’s still about 15 years to go before TV is compromised.

“The dominant medium for New Zealand in 2017 will be television. Don’t worry about the long-term provenance of TV for your brand. What I’d be worried about is your digital video spend,” he said.

Now, Mitchell argues the same point, saying TV gets a bit of a hard deal sometimes despite research showing its continued relevance.

“We know TV viewership is dropping, but it’s not declining as fast as people think, which is great,” she says.

“Yes, the landscape has changed and we embrace that wholeheartedly, but we do need to understand that and we need to know how TVNZ can manoeuvre to remain really relevant in people’s lives in the future.”

Helping it to do just that was another camera positioned in the households that faced the TV, giving a view of what was being consumed and how.

And with each household being picked for its combination of content devices and services—one having Sky, another Netflix and YouTube, the other Sky and Netflix—TVNZ got to see how the different modes of watching were used in comparison to each other.

Mitchell says insights like these allow TVNZ to assess its own offering to ensure it’s relevant to the audiences’ consumption behaviour, giving the example of its move to add a live-stream of TVNZ 1 and 2 to its website last month.

The site now features TVNZ 1, 2, Duke, 1News and on-demand content and at the time of roll-out, TVNZ general manager of technology Greg Montgomery, told StopPress, that with the steady uptick in online streaming services through various SVODs, TVNZ is taking its broadcast offering to where the audience has moved.

And it’s already proven its worth, as New Zealanders across the country tuned in online to watch the America’s Cup parade held in Auckland last week, according to Mitchell.

With this latest chapter of the Forecast Series complete, TVNZ’s  researchers are now off on a tour of the country to continue an assessment of TV’s power through the next round of segmentation research.

Mitchell says it adds further weight to the Forecast research as it looks at how New Zealanders are viewing content. Last year, it managed to break that down into different streaming and TV segments and it’s going back to do more focus groups and see what’s changed because as she reiterates: “It’s an incredibly dynamic landscape and our industry, I’d say, is probably one of the fastest changing industries at the moment.”

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