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What Can Baby Yoda Teach Us About Linear TV?

December 9th, 2019   ||    by Rick Howe

At the 2019 TVOT NY conference, Howard Horowitz presented some real-world research at the start of my panel, “The Viewers Have Changed. Can We?”

I was joined on the panel by Caavo Founder Ashish Aggarwal, LG’s head of US content development Mark Lee, Comcast Lab’s senior director of product management, Christian Peterson, and Sinclair ONE media VP of technology strategy, Michael Bouchard. And of course, Horowitz Research president, Howard Horowitz.

Howard’s slides told a somewhat different story than I expected.  My going-in assumption was that we love to dream that, at their core, television viewers are the same folks who built our industry over the last 50 years – looking forward to sitting back with quality television entertainment every night after dinner. Unfortunately, I surmised, there are three incorrect assumptions in that fevered dream:

  1. The viewers don’t sit back.
  2. Quality has been sacrificed for instant gratification.
  3. They don’t eat dinner (just kidding, sort of…)

Howard opened the panel with a perspective on today’s television viewer, with a bit of instruction on how our strongly traditional television ecosystem (from production to distribution) depends on viewers who are (literally) a dying breed. His slides came from Horowitz Research’s “State of Streaming and Viewing 2019” study.

Turns out some of my assumptions were wrong.

Howard’s research showed that in 2019, 58% of weekly TV viewing for content viewers 18+ was on traditional platforms (Live, DVR, VOD), and 37% was streaming. Only 5% was DVD. No great surprise for industry watchers there, and virtually unchanged since 2017.

Howard also pointed out that traditional viewing was up to 74% for viewers 50+, 53% for viewers 35-49, and 29% for 18-34. Also, no great surprise.

But here’s where it gets interesting: the importance of live TV when making a subscription decision.

Turns out 64% of our “lost” audience, 18-34, still thinks live TV is important or very important when making TV subscription decisions. And 58% of those folks think live TV is very important when making a TV subscription decision.

But wait (as they say), there’s more! Turns out the “Watercooler” conversation is also still very much alive (although we’ve probably traded in the fixed watercooler for portable water bottles).

Nearly half of all viewers in all age groups agree with the statement: “There are shows I watch as close to live as possible so I can talk to others about them.”

We know that HBO grew its kingdom on the power of that attitude, with Sunday night premieres of “Game of Thrones.” And that follows closely the traditional scheduling strategy of network television.

But now we have a streaming service, Disney+, who premieres new episodes of the Star Wars spin-off “The Mandalorian” at 12:01 AM Pacific time on Fridays. According to The Observer, “Thanks to its weekly release schedule, the show has enjoyed a sustained upward trajectory thus far through its run. Buzz is capital in the streaming wars and the pop culture conversation continues to get louder with each passing Baby Yoda meme.”

Although exact tune-in stats are not available, social media indicates that roughly 1/3 of the Pacific time-zone audience gloms onto each new episode of “The Mandalorian” the minute it becomes available.

That’s appointment viewing, folks. At midnight no less.

And now with advertising automation from Videa rapidly deploying nationwide, local broadcasters can deliver appointment viewing ad opportunities with scale, accuracy and transparency.

Live Television is Alive. Linear Television is Alive.

And we have Baby Yoda (the child) to thank for it!


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