Survey: Live news & sports connect viewers with pay-TV

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An annual survey on US consumer video viewing habits from advisory firm Altman Vilandrie & Company indicates that more than 60 per cent of US viewers now subscribe to paid video services, with a majority subscribing to at least one video service and a pay-TV provider. Furthermore, 63 per cent of all viewers selected live news as the reason to subscribe to pay-TV, with five of top six ‘must-have’ programmes were news or sports.

The survey reveals the continued growth in popularity of online video services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Overall, 61 per cent of consumers subscribe to at least one video service, with middle-aged viewers subscribing at the highest rates: 68 per cent of 35-44-year-olds subscribe to at least one video service, and 45 per cent to two or more. However, 52 per cent of consumers subscribe to at least one online video service and a pay-TV provider.

Respondents were asked to choose their ‘must have’ programmes from a list of 235 popular programmes from network, cable and streaming services. Across all respondents, five of the top six programmes were live news and sports: 1) favoured local news programme, 2) favoured national news programme, 3) NFL, 4) Big Bang Theory, 5) NCAA Football, 6) Major League Baseball. Sports interest slipped for the youngest viewers (18-24), with only live NFL and NBA programming ranking in the top 20 priority programmes.

However, 52 per cent of all pay-TV customers indicated that live sports was a top reason for subscribing to pay-TV. Similarly, 63 per cent of all viewers selected live news as a reason to subscribe.

The ‘must-have’ programmes show clear viewing differences among the various age groups. Younger viewers had many more ‘must-have programmes than older viewers, which indicates an opportunity for both pay-TV and streaming providers to feed millennials’ large appetite for video content.  Sixty-nine programmes were deemed ‘must-have’ by 20 per cent or more of 18-24-year-old viewers, compared to 22 programmes for 25-34-year-olds and nine for those 55-plus.

In addition to placing a high value on live news and sports, viewers 55 and older gravitated toward programmes on network TV, particularly crime and medical dramas. Younger viewers pulled their top choices for content from a broader variety of sources and formats, including cartoons, cooking shows, and science fiction/fantasy.  There were some areas of overlap, specifically Stranger Things, which was the top ‘must-have’ show for viewers under 35 and also ranked high for older viewers.  Big Bang Theory was ranked in top five for all age demographics.

Consumers turn to friends and acquaintances more than any other source when making viewing decisions. Sixty per cent of all consumers – including 64 per cent of younger viewers (18-34) and 57 per cent of 55+ viewers – said that “word of mouth” was their preferred way to choose TV programmes. For younger viewers, that result outpaced “video service recommendations” (53 per cent) and “social media ads” (42 per cent).

Another more established advertising method, “on air commercials on the show’s network” placed second in the rankings with 54 per cent of overall viewers.


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