TV Multitasking, Binge Viewing Increasingly Widespread

March 31, 2016

Deloitte-TV-Multitasking-Behavior-by-Generation-Mar2016More than 9 in 10 US consumers aged 14 and older say they typically multitask while watching TV, up from about 8 in 10 just 3 years earlier, reports Deloitte in its latest annual Digital Democracy survey. While multitasking is most common – and almost ubiquitous – among younger age groups, it’s also widespread among older generations, as more than 5 in 6 Baby Boomers and Matures report engaging in other activities while watching TV.

However, those older generations estimate only engaging in one other activity while watching TV, while teens and Millennials average 4 other activities. Interestingly, this doesn’t seem to negatively affect the probability of these younger groups engaging in activities related to the program they’re watching: roughly one-third of multitasking activities for 19-32-year-olds are directly related to the program they are watching, compared to less than 20% of the activities for the older generations. Overall, about one-quarter (24%) of multitasking is estimated to be directly related to the program being viewed.

The most common multitasking activities also vary across age groups: reading email is the most popular for Baby Boomers (50-68) and Matures (69+), while browsing the web is the most common activity for Gen Xers and all but the youngest (14-18) respondents, who prefer text messaging and using social networks.

The increase in multitasking comes at the same time as another emerging TV behavior: binge-viewing. This year 7 in 10 consumers said that they ever binge watch TV shows, a figure that rises to 86% among 14-18-year-olds but drops to just 33% among Matures. Although weekly binge-watching remains the same as last year (at 31% of binge-watchers), monthly binge-viewing has increased to 40% of this group, up from 34% last year.

TV dramas remain the most binged genre across generations, followed by TV comedies. When binging, respondents find the time to watch an average of 5 episodes in a single sitting.

While not explicitly covered in the report, the prevalence of binging behavior suggests increasing use of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services. (Previous research indicates that binging behavior is typically via DVR’d content or SVOD services.)

Indeed, almost half (46%) of consumers surveyed said they subscribe to a streaming video service, with 26-32-year-olds the heaviest subscribers, averaging 3 paid service subscriptions. Streaming video services have surpassed pay-TV in value to the youngest Millennials (14-25), though older respondents continue to favor their pay-TV services.

Testament to the growth of streaming among younger Americans (and possibly to the extent of binge-viewing), all of the Millennial age brackets now estimate spending more time streaming than watching live programming. While the difference is minor among the 14-18 and 26-32 age groups, it’s larger among the 19-25 bracket, who say they average 38% of their TV time with streaming as opposed to 29% with live programming.

As found in other recent research, convenience continues to be a top driver of streaming, with 71% of respondents strongly agreeing that it allows them to watch content when they want to. Interestingly, while about two-thirds strongly agree that they value the ability to watch content without commercials, fewer than half strongly agree that they value their service’s availability of recent TV show releases (44%) or recent movie releases (42%). In other words, streaming services appear to be valued more for their convenience and accessibility across devices than for their content libraries.

About the Data: The Deloitte survey was fielded online by an independent research from November 5, 2015 to November 19, 2015, among 2,205 US consumers. All data is weighted back to the most recent US census.

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