Misconseptions About Older Demo Highlight Research Failings
The 45-to-54-year-old age group has the highest median income of any demographic, with an annual average of $61,111. An even older group, the 55-to-59 set, has the highest discretionary income, with the 50- to 54-year-olds a close second.
Yet, programmers don’t seem to be doing a great job of keeping this group happy. Nearly two-fifths (37%) of all the boomers say that they are “not at all” or are “not very” satisfied with the television programming options they have. Only 3% are extremely satisfied.
Those are some of the results from TV Land’s “New Generation Gap Study,” which highlighted many of the common misconceptions about the baby boomer generation, adults 42 to 60.
“Baby boomers have a joy of technology,” said Tanya Giles, TV Land senior vice president of research and planning. “Boomers are just as likely to own as many electronic devices as younger groups and have higher penetration of some, such as HDTV and [digital video recorders].”
Surveys by Horowitz Associates show that the 50-to-64 set had the highest penetration of any age group for digital cable and satellite services and cable modems. They are also heavy media users, with the 51-to-61-year-old group spending about 6.6 hours a week on the Internet and 13.7 hours watching television, according to Forrester Research.
Programmers also noted that older demos are active on the Internet.
Scripps Networks, which targets 25-to-54-year-olds, has a slightly younger demo for its Web sites. It has seen video streams grow tenfold over the last year. But Burton Jablin, Scripps executive vice president, stressed “our Web sites do very well with both the older and younger parts of our audience. I don’t think there is as much of an age differential as people like to think.”
Other programmers note that misconceptions about older demos highlight a much broader issue — the need for better research on consumer habits and viewing patterns.
At the moment, research about different platforms is as fragmented as the viewing audience, making it difficult to track usage.
“The agencies and the media are being challenged by advertisers from whom all money flows,” said Jack Oken, general manager of strategic measurement initiatives at Nielsen Media Research. “The advertisers have a lot of concerns and questions about what consumers are doing.”
To help answer those questions, Nielsen has announced an ambitious program called Anytime Anywhere Media Measure, or A2M2. The company hopes A2M2 will eventually allow it to “deliver integrated ratings for all forms of television viewing, regardless of the platform,” Oken said.
This year Nielsen began measuring video-on-demand and DVR viewing and continues to expand its local people meter program, with the eventual goal of rolling out LPMs in all markets. It is also planning to add out-of-home measurement to its people meter samples and develop systems that will integrate their measurement of TV and Internet usage. Meters to measure video viewed on other platforms and products that measure viewer engagement in their viewing are also on the agenda.
All that will take time. Oken estimated that it might take two years for a single ratings service for TV and Internet use, while devices to measure mobile usage and exposure to media outside the home may take longer.
Another promising research tool is the set-top box. Rentrak, the leading provider of VOD data, began tracking the home video industry and then theatrical movies, pay-per-view and most recently VOD, according to Kenneth Papuan, executive vice president of business development and strategic planning at Rentrak.
The company currently works with 11 cable operators that serve about 55% of all cable homes and provide daily data for on-demand usage to 42 clients.
Using data from set-tops, companies could eventually get much more detailed information on viewing patterns. Ultimately, that information could be used to insert ads specifically targeted to a viewer’s preference, much as ads on the Internet are keyed to search criteria.
For the moment, Cathy Hetzel, senior vice president of Rentrak’s OnDemand Essentials product said that they are beta testing a product that combines VOD usage from the set-top box with outside databases that provide more detailed demographic information.
This gives advertising an inkling of the income, race, education, party affiliation and home ownership of the viewers without disclosing individual viewing or violating privacy laws.
Pat Dunbar, president of the DiMA Group, a cross-industry organization focused on VOD advertising, said better measurement is an important issue, given the ongoing fragmentation of viewing across a variety of platforms.
“The biggest issue isn’t fast-forwarding through ads,” Dunbar said. “If you have a good program people will watch it, and if you have a good ad they will pay attention. The biggest problem is the fragmentation of viewership. No one has a good overview of what is happening,” which is making it difficult to build advertising-supported models for some newer media.
Robust business models to fund new content are crucial. But so are better technologies. For the moment, it is still difficult to move content from one platform to another and consumer interfaces for widely deployed video-on-demand platforms leave much to be desired.
“The operators have put a tremendous emphasis on on-demand,” said Jeff Klugman, senior vice president and general manager of the service provider and advertising engineering division at TiVo, which is working with such operators as Comcast and Cox Communications to improve the on-demand interface and make it easier for viewers to search for programs.
“The content has improved. Viewership is increasing. The question is how can we make this even more attractive?” Klugman said.
A better user VOD interface will be crucial, Klugman and others argue.
But that’s only the start. “A lot of what is going on right now has nothing to do with the consumer,” Horowitz Associates president Howard Horowitz said.
Currently there are a number of roadblocks that make it difficult for consumers to easily access content and move it from one device to another. In some cases, these roadblocks were put in place to prevent piracy; in others, they are simply designed to preserve old windows and business models.
“All of these issues of digital rights are important, but they are not a business model,” Horowitz said.
“They are not consumer-friendly. A trumping business model would allow consumers to buy access to video at some price and then use it on whatever device they want.”