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Advancements in cable television and digital video streaming have made it increasingly easy for consumers to watch TV content on their own schedules. With technologies like DVR and video on-demand (VOD), they can catch up on their favorite shows or watch commercial-free when they please. Also, streaming services like Netflix have made it all the easier for viewers to watch just one more episode—and then one more—from the comfort of their home.
A February 2013 study by market research firm Harris Interactive looked at how consumers used TV advancements to watch when they want and “binge-view” TV content. According to the findings, nearly eight out of 10 US adult internet users watched TV on their own schedule. Of those consumers, 41% did so through a cable or satellite on-demand service. Forty percent did so through a web-based streaming service like Hulu, Hulu Plus or Netflix. Thirty-seven percent used a recording device like TiVo or DVR, and 29% watched physical DVDs.
Of those who have watched TV on their own schedule, Harris reported that 62% watched multiple episodes of a TV show in succession, also known as “binge-viewing.” Younger consumers were more likely to watch multiple episodes in a row than their older counterparts—78% of 18- to 29-year-olds binge-viewed and so did 73% of 30- to 39-year-olds, compared with 58% of 40- to 54-year-olds.
In terms of the content they binge on, the greatest percentage of respondents (22%) told Harris they did so with older shows or past seasons of current shows, compared with only 12% who did so with current seasons of shows.
Global entertainment research firm MarketCast also examined the binge-view phenomenon in February 2013 and found that most US TV viewers (63%) had used an online subscription service (like Netflix) to binge-view TV. Moreover, 41% said that online subscription services were their primary method for doing so. A little more than half of TV viewers said they binged via a network or cable website, yet only 15% said that was their primary method for binge-viewing. Forty-four percent of TV viewers binge-viewed with DVR, yet like TV websites, only 15% used it as their primary method.
Broadcast and cable TV networks are thinking about how to capitalize on this phenomenon in a smart way. From offering catch-up streaming sessions on their websites, to launching subscription-based portals like HBO Go, it’s an area that could potentially benefit both the network and the consumer. Jesse Redniss, SVP of digital at cable television channel USA Network, told eMarketer: “Consumer habits are moving toward accessibility of where they want it, when they want it and how they want it.” He went on to explain how USA has launched programs to encourage marathon viewing or catch-up viewing before a big episode or a show’s premiere.
Prior to its premiere of season two of “Suits,” USA ran a “catch-up stunt,” and made season one’s episodes available for streaming on Hulu and USANetwork.com, as well as on VOD. According to Redniss, the stunt drove an increase of close to eight million views of the “Suits” franchise. In terms of catch-up viewing, 60% was via VOD and 38% was via streaming—either on Hulu or USA’s site. “Those results have really made us think about how we are bringing in new viewership and how we are talking to our fan bases and using them as brand ambassadors to help market our shows,” Redniss said.
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