Really Everywhere and All the Time

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Programmers and especially cable operators developing new customer-premises architecture may need to heed the findings of a new Google research report on “The New Multi-screen World?

Beyond the typical laudatory data about cross-platform multi-tasking (yes, we know that TV viewers have a tablet or smartphone at hand 77% of the time they are watching TV), this Google study plunges into multi-screen behavioral dynamics. The findings are potentially essential for marketing and on-demand suppliers. For example, 90% of respondents said they start an activity (passive viewing or interactive project) on one device and continue it on another platform.
Moreover the study, conducted with Sterling Brands and Ipsos, identifies emerging patterns of “sequential” and “simultaneous” (or complementary) multitasking. In the simultaneous category, checking email is still the #1 distraction (60% of viewers do it). But coming up fast are Internet browsing (44%) and social networking (42%). Most significantly, as the report observes, “TV is a major catalyst for search.”
“Consumers search for things they see on TV,” the study concludes - a somewhat predictable explanation given Google’s “search” roots and its ambitions for TV connectivity. In addition to expected real-time searches, such as information about performers or other program details, the #2 search item is information triggered by a TV commercial.
That alone should make advertisers take notice.
More than half of survey participants said they handle part of the shopping process on a smartphone at home, about 50% more than those who shop via smartphone while away from home.
In addition to the marketing implications, the Google study underscores the growing importance of integrated wired and wireless services in the home. (I had been trying to understand why October’s SCTE Cable Tec-Expo is spending so much time on Wi-Fi and other home wireless services. This explains it.)
More than 90% of respondents said they use a TV and smartphone or PC and smartphone together; 89% (of those viewers who have tablets) said they prefer TV and tablet. Those are strong incentives to make sure the femtocells and any other home wireless distribution infrastructure are sufficiently cranked up to assure timely, reliable reception.
Just for validation, a separate Ericsson “TV and Video: Analysis of Evolving Consumer Habits” study came out this month. It offers similar, albeit somewhat less bullish data on social media and cross-platform experiences. Ericsson’s global study (U.S. plus 11 other nations) observes that in households worldwide “a large main TV [is] supplemented by a number of mobile devices that provide access to services from all over the home.”
“Many consumers are looking to modernize their TV experience, yet are unwilling to invest in more than one new TV or add set-top boxes to their old TV sets in order to access new services,” according to the Ericsson report.
Both studies - and a slew of similar research projects - are strong reminders of the rapidly changing ways viewers “watch” and what they’re doing.
The reports are also calls-to-action for new structures to reach viewers “everywhere.”
Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications LLC in Bethesda, Md., and a long-time interactive TV enthusiast. Reach him at GArlen@ArlenCom.com

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