Older and Tech-Wiser Viewers Master Multiscreen Universe
Which age group has the highest penetration of video-enabled BlackBerries? Big screen TVs? Cell phones? Internet connections at home? Laptop computers?
And what about viewing HDTV? Which group is most likely to use free video on demand? Subscription VOD? Or play games on TV?
The correct answer isn’t tech-savvy teens or young adults. According to data from Horowitz Associates, adults aged 35 to 49 top each of those categories. And, they also place very high in the usage of other devices, tying with young adults on the likelihood of watching HDTV programming.
Sitting firmly in the middle of the demographic divide between young and old, adults aged 35 to 49 have long been the mainstay of the television business. Not only do they comprise a large, relatively affluent group that is the mainstay of many ad-supported networks, but they control the family purse strings and have at least some power over the living room television and the family computer, thus influencing the way kids and teens access video.
Horowitz data shows that the group tends to purchase more expensive gear and have higher penetration rates for cable, Internet, cell phones and other telecommunications services. In contrast, young adults are more likely to use mobile devices and access Internet video.
Adults are also heavy media users. Forrester Research estimates that adults 41 to 50 spend 12.1 hours a week watching TV, more than the 10.6 hours spent by those 18 to 26. While they spent less time online per week than the 18-to-26 set’s 12.2 hours, they still spent a significant amount of time on the Web, surfing 7.7 hours a week.
“In terms of age groups there is no question on some broad curve, the younger groups are more comfortable with newer platforms,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, vice president of digital media for NBC News. But “we’ve gone far beyond the time when only young, techno-savvy people were online. The online audience pretty much resembles the profile of the broader U.S. population.”
Not surprisingly, the changing habits of the influential and affluent adult demo, is also forcing some fundamental changes in the way operators and programmers deal with mainstream TV audiences.
This is particularly apparent among news networks, which have been struggling to attract younger viewers that now get much of their information online.
“Everyone has been wondering if these new platforms would cannibalize TV,” CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton said. “Fortunately the answer is no. TV and cable viewing is up. And, if you add in our digital business that is experiencing exponential growth, the audience for news is really growing.”
In an average month, users spend 6.5 billion minutes on news sites, with 943.3 million minutes passed on CNN.com. The site has also been racking up an average of 1.1 billion page views per month, and through mid-November had served up more than half a billion video streams.
David Payne, senior vice president and general manager of CNN.com, added that video streaming has quadrupled from the first to the fourth quarter, hitting about 60 million streams in October. “As people get more familiar with the use of video, it will really take off,” Payne said. “We are just on the cusp of what it can become.”
Similar digital efforts have been an important part of MSNBC’s strategy since its inception and that focus seems to be catching on in ratings — which have been up this year — and online. On Election Day (Nov. 8), it had over 75 million page views from 11 million unique viewers.
That may also explain why MSNBC has the youngest average age of any of the cable news networks, Lukasiewicz said.
“The reality is that the news audience has always tended to be older,” he said. “But being aggressive and putting our news stories where there are more young people, has been helpful in attracting younger viewers.”
Newer networks are also pursuing multi­screen strategies. “As a new network reaching about 20 million that has been on the air about 18 months, new platforms are an important way for us to expand our reach,” Fox Reality chief operating officer and general manager David Lyle said.
To that end, Fox Reality began making its content available on Apple Computer’s iTunes store in mid-September. “Since then we’ve had over 1 million downloads” of Reality Remix, said Ed Skolarus, vice president of business and operations for the network.
Fox Reality also created an on-demand offering designed to promote the linear channel and has been building up its online content. This December, the network promoted new series My Bare Lady by making it available online a week before its cable debut.
Besides promoting the show, having data on downloads and Web traffic is aiding ad sales efforts. “As a new network we don’t have ratings,” Lyle said. “This gives us numbers that we can take to advertisers to show them the value of our programming.”
Such platforms are also allowing established networks to build new brands. Recently TBS launched a broadband video site, VeryFunnyAds.com. The site, tied to its annual Funniest Commercials of the Year special, helped build awareness for the special, which delivered 4.2 million viewers. But it has become an even bigger hit online. By the end of the November, users had viewed more than 24 million videos.
That project is only one of several examples of how Turner has been using broadband video to build new brands, Turner Broadcasting System executive vice president of business development Dennis Quinn said.
TBS brands itself as a place for comedy, Quinn said, so it made sense to expand the brand online into VeryFunnyAds.com and launch a “Funny or Not?” video sharing site in November.
In January it is making what Turner executives call a “significant investment” to launch a much more ambitious effort: a broadband comedy channel called Super Deluxe. The channel melds social networking features with original content that will also be made available on mobile and other devices.
“It gives us a way to expand our brands,” Quinn said.