When are the Heaviest (and Lightest) Pay-TV Viewers Tuning In?

August 14, 2013

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Broadcast & Cable | Household Income | Television | Youth & Gen X

VisibleWorld-Pay-TV-Viewing-by-Daypart-Aug2013Visible World has released a white paper [pdf] that examines cable TV subscriber behavior for one (unnamed) operator. While the study is about the effectiveness of cross-channel marketing (such as whether ads for triple play are being shown to subscribers already with the bundle), the glimpse that it provides behind the curtain of a top-tier multiple system operator (MSO) results in some intriguing insights into subscriber behavior.

It should be noted off the bat that these figures apply to only one MSO, so they should not be interpreted as applicable to the entire TV viewing population. Nevertheless, the study notes that this is a “top-tier” MSO, and the volume of data analyzed (18-24 months of detailed information spanning more than 13 million subscriber records and over 10 billion viewing records) gives the results some heft.

The report goes into some detail regarding the behavior of different groups based on daily time spent watching TV. As the researchers note, there are some large differences in behavior: the top quartile, for example, spends about 6 hours per day watching TV, versus only 38 minutes for the bottom quintile. (Unfortunately, the share of subscribers per quintile is not shown.) The top quintile accounts for 45% of all viewing, with the second quintile an additional 24%.

The different groups also show some fairly pronounced differences in how they distribute their TV viewing throughout the day. While primetime grabs the largest share of viewing time across each segment, the top quintile of viewers spends a smaller share (27.7%) of their daily time during these hours than any other segment. (That does make some sense, in that primetime is a confined set of hours; given that heavy viewers are watching so much more TV than others, those hours would likely count for a smaller proportion of their overall viewing. Even so, on average, they’re spending 100 minutes per day watching primetime TV, so they’re not fully saturated.)

A quick note on the prrimetime results: across each quintile, primetime TV accounts for less than one-third of daily TV consumption.

So where does the top quintile’s other consumption go? These viewers spend a greater proportion of time watching TV in the morning (6.7%) and daytime (22.6%) hours than most other segments, but a smaller proportion during late night (19.4%) and overnight (9%).

Conversely, the bottom quintiles spend more of their time watching during late night and overnight hours than  heavier viewers. Those results suggest that for advertisers seeking to reach light TV viewers, while primetime is the best bet, the late night and overnight hours are more likely to prove effective than the morning hours.

Reaching light TV viewers is certainly a challenge. An analysis of cross-channel marketing campaign impressions in the study reveals that the bottom quintile accounted for only 2% of the millions of impressions tracked. (For reference, they accounted for 5% share of TV viewing minutes.) And while the top 2 quintiles accounted for 69% of viewing minutes, they represented an outsized 80% of exposures to the marketing campaigns.

The average frequency of campaign exposure also was heavily skewed. While a majority of subscribers reached by the campaigns were exposed only once, 4% were exposed on average at least 10 times, with this fractional subset of subscribers bombarded to the tune of more than 60% of all exposures.

Here are a few other interesting data points from the study:

  • “Wireless White-Collars” (0.8% of the subscriber population), “Early-Adopting Elite” (3.3% share) and “Young & Wireless” (2.4% share) subscribers watch somewhere around 20% less TV per day than the average subscriber;
  • The least affluent, mature subscribers account for 48% of all TV viewing;
  • Younger, more affluent groups were roughly 50% more likely to subscribe to a TV and internet bundle than a triple play;
  • The “Emerging Techies” segment was the least likely to subscribe to a triple play package;
  • Internet production penetration was high among all subscriber segments, topping 70% even among “Elderly Traditionalists;”
  • On average, 49% of cross-channel marketing campaign impressions were found to be on-target; and
  • Across all campaigns tracked, on-target viewers converted at a rate 70% higher than overall campaign results, suggesting that targeted TV ads have a bright future.
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