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1 in 7 Australians watch no Commercial TV

Over one in seven Australians now watch no commercial television on a normal weekday – over twice as many as in 2008. The audience is fast getting older and SVoD looks set to make a bigger dent in the medium’s reach in 2016, the latest media data from Roy Morgan Research shows.

Seven years ago, only 6.9 per cent of Australians (14+) wouldn’t watch any Commercial TV on a normal weekday, and there was little difference between age groups. Nearly everyone, regardless of age, would watch at least some show (and advertising) during the day. It was simply a matter of which show reached which people.

Since then, the proportion of Australians who don’t watch any Commercial TV has more than doubled to 14.9 per cent—and the gap is widening between age groups, with 14-34 year-olds making the fastest exodus from the medium. In 2015, over one in five 25-34 year-olds (20.7 per cent) watched no Commercial TV, up nearly threefold from the 7.6 per cent who couldn’t be reached by the channel in 2008. 18.8 per cent of 14-24 year-olds now don’t watch any Commercial TV, up from 7.0 per cent in 2008.

Commercial TV also has less reach among older people, but their abandonment has been slower: 14.1 per cent of 35-49 year-olds and 11.0 per cent of Australians 50+ reported watching no Commercial TV on a normal weekday in 2015 (up from 6.5 per cent and 6.9 per cent respectively).

The firm notes that this still means that Commercial TV reaches 85.1 per cent of Australians – more than any other medium. On an average weekday, Australians watch a combined 39 million hours of Commercial TV.

What has changed though, as certain audiences turn it off faster than others, is just who sees all that broadcasting. In 2008, not only were rates of non-viewing much lower, and more uniform across age groups, but the heaviest viewers (50+) watched only around 26 minutes more on average per day than the lightest (25-34)—and so the reach of Commercial TV, by share of total viewing minutes, quite fairly reflected the population as a whole.

In 2015, nearly half the total time spent watching is by viewers aged 50+ (48.9 per cent, up 6.5 per cent points from 42.4 per cent in 2008). However, as a share of the total 14+ population, this group grew just 1.8 per cent points over the period. Less of the total daily time reaches all other age groups: 22.7 per cent goes to 35-49 year-olds (down from 25.1 per cent); 14.4 per cent to 25-34 year-olds (down from 15.2 per cent); and 14.0 per cent to 14-24 year-olds—the sharpest proportional decline.

This shift away from Commercial TV viewing since 2008 coincides with the rise of Internet-based entertainment: 7.7 million Australians 14+ (40 per cent) now stream or download video, TV or movies in an average four weeks; among those who don’t watch any Commercial TV, 54 per cent stream or download televisual content—a majority for the first time in 2015.

But aside from being simply a new competitive channel, Internet streaming and downloading provided a whole new outlook on media consumption: content on-demand. Now, Commercial TV faces an even more direct competitor, in the form of Subscription Video On Demand (SVoD) including Netflix, Stan, Presto, Quickflix and Foxtel Play.

By the end of last year, almost three million Australians 14+ had access to at least one of these SVoD services. As the firm reported throughout the year, the spread of SVoD has so far been dominated by Netflix, which alone now reaches over 2.7 million people in over a million homes.

Those in SVoD homes watch, on average, half an hour less Commercial TV on a normal weekday than those without any SVoD. It may still be too early though to conclude that people watch 30 minutes less commercial TV as a result of subscribing to SVoD – perhaps these earliest subscribers were more likely to already be lighter or non-viewers of Commercial TV.

Australians aged 14-24 or 25-34 with SVoD in the home watch 13 minutes less TV on average per day than their counterparts without it, and the difference is even starker among older groups: 35-49 year-old subscribers watch 19 minutes less, and those 50+ watch 33 minutes less Commercial TV—in part because these older SVoD subscribers are, by definition, already atypical of their age group.

These differences in the average time spent watching Commercial TV are, in part, because SVoD subscribers are more likely to watch zero minutes of Commercial TV on a normal weekday, reducing the average: 18.6 per cent watch no commercial TV, compared with the norm (as discussed above) of 14.9 per cent. However, it’s the fewer minutes, not zero minutes, which has the greater impact. On top of the non-viewers, another 43.1 per cent of SVoD subscribers watch up to only two hours of Commercial TV a day (compared with the norm of 34.9 per cent), while only 18.4 per cent watch three or more hours (compared with 28.3 per cent of all Australians).

According to Tim Martin, General Manager – Media, Roy Morgan Research, Commercial television has the biggest reach of any medium. “An in-depth knowledge of each show’s audience and their levels of engagement can give advertisers huge reach and impact in their target markets.”

“Roy Morgan is the only source of consumer media consumption data across all media, which is more important than ever in a fragmenting, competitive landscape. Our television attention level and involvement research in particular goes beyond ratings to show networks and advertisers which shows engage audiences. We also ask consumers about their awareness of SVoD services and intentions to subscribe or switch in the coming year.”

“Commercial TV is now unable to reach around a fifth of all 14-34 year-olds, and the trend looks set to continue. In another seven years, it might well be a third. Already the very idea of ‘seeing what’s on TV’ at a particular time is beginning to seem a little archaic next to the massive libraries of niche, personally appealing content ready—by definition—on demand.”

“Commercial TV networks will need to become more innovative with content and scheduling, rights deals and partnerships, how advertising is incorporated into programming. Foxtel has yet to suffer any significant drop-off in lapsed customers, with SVoD so far broadening the paid television market rather than competing with Foxtel.”

“Most viewers aren’t desperately to avoid any advertising whatsoever—it’s just that there are more easy ways to circumvent it, so why not record a show and skip through ads, download it, legally or illegally, subscribe to SVoD, or simply switch attention to the tablet or phone the second an ad break arrives.”

“Nine’s Stan and Seven’s Presto lag well behind Netflix in the SVoD market. After another rocky year on the ASX, 2016 may be do-or-die time for the networks to get a better, long-term understanding of how to attract and engage viewers and put the right ads in front of them. Without some self-reflection and innovation, Commercial TV could perhaps find itself as a medium only for people taking a quick channel-surfing break from the burden of choosing between all the range and quality available elsewhere.”

“Roy Morgan Audiences is a next-generation tool that can measure and profile unique viewers of digital content across devices, including streaming TV. With this new capability, the shift of audiences to digital platforms becomes a great opportunity for the commercial networks to count their audiences more accurately and understand them in more depth than ever before.”

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