min read

What is TV “viewing” now, anyway?

by Dominique Vancraeynest , 27.07.2015

Take a moment to recall “Back to the Future (Part 2)”. Now picture Marty McFly’s surprise if he’d hopped in his time-traveling DeLorean in 1985, emerged in 2015 and discovered that he can watch TV on a mobile phone.

In his day people actually fitted their activities around the TV schedule. They’d drop what they were doing and head to their home’s designated viewing room to watch their favorite show.

But, as we know, thanks to anytime, anywhere viewing technology, the TV landscape is now much more complicated - and so are the viewers. Taking the place of the old “Couch Potatoes”, are…


Arguably the most undemanding audience, “Linears” are happy to be passive, consuming content as it comes, when it comes. They pay for cable, but still watch live TV.

TV 2.0s

Determined to get the absolute most out of their TV set, the 2.0s pay for cable TV but also use digital services on their TV set.

Traditional Time Shifters

“Time Shifters” value scheduling flexibility but without embracing the online world. They pay for cable TV and watch either live or time-shifted TV using traditional services like DVR or Video On Demand.

Digital Enthusiasts

“Digital Enthusiasts” are willing to pay for quality content – in any channel. They subscribe to cable and three or more TV services online.

Connected Bunny Ears

The “Bunnies” don’t like to be tied down, hopping between free TV (they don’t pay for cable) and paying for over-the-air and digital content.

On-the-Go Getters

These digital converts don’t sit still long enough to watch an actual TV. They view all their TV content on mobile services and devices.

PowerPoint Presentation

Now think about the sheer complexity of advertising to these audiences. Consider that a “Digital Enthusiast” who loves film might catch a trailer online in the morning on his phone, arrange to see it with friends on Facebook, email a film review, start watching the film using a catch-up service on TV, all before falling asleep safe in the knowledge he can watch the end on his phone on the way into work. Now consider that another group, such as “On-the-Go Getters” will have a completely different journey. Zooming in further, consider that every individual viewer’s behavior will vary from day to day.

What’s more, our most tech-savvy groups (“Digital Enthusiasts” and “On-the-Go Getters”) spread their viewing across many devices: laptops, videogame-connected TVs, HDTVs, smartphones, and more. If these folks are your targets, you can’t count on one platform to do your work for you.

And you won’t find influencers conveniently in one place. Influencers in key product categories are likely to be found in two contrasting viewer groups – our more traditional “Connected Bunny Ears” and “Digital Enthusiasts”. So you’ll need to reach out not just to the digitally savvy, but the couch-bound.

If knowing where and when to catch your audience is tricky, there’s also the small matter of creating the right content. Compared to the digital-savvy segments, we found that many more traditional TV watchers view advertising as unwelcome and uninformative. You’ll need to develop communications that don’t come off as ads, such as native content and product placement.

Altogether, it’s more than enough to blow Marty’s mind.

Clearly, there’s no such thing as a straightforward viewer journey any more. To understand the complexity of audience decisions, TV measurement needs large digital data trails (“machine data”) to gauge the scale of behavior. At the same time, it needs representative panel data (“human data”) to evaluate what individuals are doing. But here’s the crunch. Independently, both human and machine data are of limited use. Panels are usually too small to capture the full complex picture of choices viewers enjoy and machine data is too “dumb” to understand who - demographically and psychographically speaking - is behind the bigger trends.

So at GfK we’re bringing Big Data and individual insight together. With the unrivaled breadth and depth of expertise at our disposal, we can offer macro events fused with rich, micro audience profiles – just what marketers need to succeed in the mixed up media world of 2015. And if you’d like to read more about Media Measurement, click here.

We like to think that Marty Mcfly would be excited, but perhaps also disappointed that we haven’t started traveling by hoverboard. Sorry, Marty.

For more information, please contact Dominique Vancraeynest at dominique.vancraeynest@gfk.com.