It should come as no surprise that our seemingly insatiable appetite for streaming video is making us all more anti-social – even in our home. A fresh study suggests that the ability to view on connected devices is driving consumers to watch TV independently of other family members.
The increasing trend towards personalised viewing, something that consumers are said to desire, is morphing our behaviour so much that we are increasingly identifying as solo viewers.
Recent research by Ampere Analysis found that solo viewers no longer find watching TV with other members of their household particularly attractive – in fact they actively disagree that watching with others is important. It found that the numbers of solo viewers are greatest in those markets with highest OTT video usage, indicating that it is specifically the rise of VOD, and the huge variety in content choices that it enables, that is driving the phenomenon.
It’s only going to continue. As new streaming services launch, the content pot grows larger, while the ability to serve content tailored to individual preferences is improving all the time.
Ampere believes this won’t make much difference to how content is marketed .“I don’t think SVOD platforms will want to position themselves as advocating watching things on your own all the time, because watching TV is always seen as a communal activity that brings people together,” says Minal Modha, Consumer Research Lead and report author. “Also, in an age when people are allegedly becoming more insular due to social media and smartphones, SVODs wouldn’t want to contribute to anything that could be perceived as having a negative impact on mental health.”
Despite that, the more people a streaming service can get to watch different assets in its library, even from the same account, the more information it can collect about individual profiles. For the growing number of AVODs launching into the market, that can only be good for slicing, dicing and serving up targeted ads.
“With personalisation, I think it’s hard for SVOD platforms to know whether people are solo viewing or viewing with other people through a single profile on the account,” suggests Modha. “Ampere envisages that, as long as those profiles are engaging consumers, SVODs won’t change their personalisation process.”
Ampere found a clear correlation across countries including the U.S., Sweden, Denmark and Australia between SVOD usage and the proportion of consumers identifying as solo viewers. The relationship is especially clear once demographic effects are taken into account, and strongest in adult-only homes. The pattern breaks down among households with children. For this group, family time is still important. Regardless of whether the households have older or younger children, adults in these homes are less likely than their peers to engage in solo viewing, despite their high SVOD usage.
Live broadcasts were not included in the research, but Ampere concludes that live will encourage different viewing patterns due to the need to watch the content… live. “Therefore [live] aligns itself more with communal viewing and we would not expect that to change any time soon.” Indeed, last Sunday’s Super Bowl scored its first ratings increase in five years, with just under 100 million viewers, on average, watching Fox’s broadcast.
There is evidence that scheduling the release of ‘must-see’ content , rather than dropping all episodes into an on-demand offer at once (as a box set) for binge-viewing can still encourage communal experiences. The BBC scored its biggest new drama launch in more than five years with His Dark Materials, transmitted over eight successive Sundays before Christmas. For the first episode, 7.2 million tuned in, with the rest of the run averaging around 4 million and another million plus watching on catch-up.