Yesterday's interview with market researcher Bruce Leichtman highlighted a key point in his latest study: that broadband video is most heavily adopted by 18-34 year old males. That point has been supported by research from other firms and is one of the key drivers behind a lot of the new broadband-only video programming that's sprouted up in the past couple of years.
A clear implication of this finding is that current video providers that target 18-34 males better be aggressively pursuing broadband video offerings if they want to stay competitive in this new media landscape.
But less clear is whether video providers that don't primarily target 18-34 males, or maybe have them as secondary audiences, should also be investing in this new medium in order to stay in synch with broadband users. Though other age groups and demos are also adopting broadband video, they are clearly less fervent, at least for now. In a world with finite resources, should these other video producers not worry so much about broadband video and instead stay mainly focused on their traditional approaches? Or should they invest in the broadband medium as well, even if their true target audiences may be smaller for now? I think they should do the latter, for the following 3 reasons:
1. Eventually broadband video usage will deeply penetrate all age groups. This is a macro trend that all programmers need to be in synch with. Previous technology adoption patterns show that what starts with young, and often male, early adopters, eventually spreads out to other groups as well. There's no putting the broadband video genie back in the bottle. Three-to-five years from now, virtually all Internet users will view video as just another routine application, alongside email, search, commerce, etc. Today's video providers need to position themselves properly.
2. Cultivating younger audiences is critically important. Marketing types always emphasize how important it is to cultivate younger audiences. Brand choices and loyalties are developed early, and it is more difficult down the road to influence these. Look around and see brands that once targeted somewhat older, and wealthier, segments but which now also try to target the young - Heineken, BMW and Tiffany to name a few.
The fact is that young people have energy, enthusiasm, spending power and a strong desire to promote their favorite brands to cohorts. So even video providers need that may not normally skew young need to figure out how to have some appeal to this group, because they will be key drivers of the brand's strength down the road. In fact this is what a number of cable networks, like Lifetime, AMC and Food Network been doing in recent years. Though they didn't originally target younger audiences, they began cultivating them through programming choices and marketing campaigns. They are all succeeding.
3. Now is the time to learn about broadband video. Given the above two reasons, it is urgent that video producers targeting all age groups and demos start their learning process now. Finding pockets of current heavy users to appeal to is the key challenge. As a new medium, broadband has its own set of capabilities well beyond being just another pipe to funnel current programming. Understanding these opportunities will not happen overnight. No video producer should wake up one day 3 years from now, when a healthy percentage of its viewers are spending substantial time on broadband, and realize they didn't cultivate the knowledge and skill sets to succeed in this new medium.
Video producers across the spectrum are grappling with how to attract and retain audiences in the broadband and on-demand era. Though 18-34 year old males are today's heaviest users, that will change over time. All video providers need to stay in synch with this.
What do you think? Post a comment and let us all know!
One of my continuing goals for VideoNuze is to bring relevant research about broadband video to your attention. Today I'm pleased to share a short interview with Bruce Leichtman, president of Leichtman Research Group, Inc. regarding a new survey his firm just released to its clients, "Emerging Video Services II." Bruce is a veteran media market researcher who I've known for many years since we were colleagues at Continental Cablevision.
Bruce has generously provided slides from his new survey exclusively at VideoNuze. The download is available here.
Following is an edited transcript of my interview:
VN: Please provide some background on your firm's new study.
BL: This is the second annual Emerging Video Services study that my company has done. The study is focused on non-TV-based services such as broadband video, mobile video and portable video (example iPod). This is one of five annual syndicated studies.
The survey was conducted in December '07 and January '08 with 1,250 people who were surveyed by phone. The reason that's important is that we're trying to reflect the entire population of the U.S. Remember about a quarter of U.S. homes are still not online, so when I'm doing these studies, I'm trying to project to the entire U.S., and so the studies are also pre-weighted to reflect the age and gender makeup of the U.S. population over 18 years of age.
VN: Talk about some of the study's high level conclusions.
BL: Not surprisingly, when compared to last year's study, online video usage is growing. But what's more important is the detail: who's using it, how are they using it, why are they using it? Today there is not across-the-board usage. It's still very weighted to young, 18-34 year-old males. So this has huge implications for players in this market. You need to know who's really using online video so you can better tailor your product to fit that demographic and the ones that may follow.
Another interesting finding is that the growth in the past year was in fact among the young. So online video's use is continuing to penetrate this demographic more and more deeply.
Yet another is that online video is really a medium unto itself, and consumers don't see it as a replacement for traditional TV, but rather for what it can do uniquely as a new medium. So it's important that companies not see online video as just a replication of TV.
VN: What are the implications of the growing intensity of broadband video adoption by the young?
BL: For companies targeting this demo the key is how to tailor product appropriately. There's a ton of multi-tasking going on, so younger people don't even necessarily see online video or TV as one OR the other, sometimes it can be both at the same time. They obviously live lives that are different than preceding generations. But given they're just one segment, we shouldn't conclude that everything is going to change in the next 3-5 years.
VN: Can you discuss actual usage time?
BL: Across the whole population, people still spend twice as much time watching TV as being online. However, among young males the gap is being squeezed. I don't want to read too much into this data, but TV watching is beginning to decline a bit in the group. Their use of media is changing, but we don't see that across all age and gender groups. The same is true on an income basis. The traditional gap remains for lower income groups.
As with so many things in consumer adoption, it's more about evolution than revolution. Basically what we're seeing is a market evolving. Increase in the number of broadband subscribers, increase in the content that's out there, and an increase in usage. But it's still just a small percentage compared to TV.
VN: What does the study find regarding session lengths?
BL: Over half of those who consume online video say they do it less than 10 minutes at a time. comScore talks about the average session as 2.8 minutes. Today it's really bite-sized morsels, its news clips, UGC, YouTube, comScore says one-third of all legal video is YouTube.
VN: How about in longer-form?
BL: Certainly there's interest in TV and movies, but the challenge is that in reality consumers have choices. And I always like to say "TV is a good place to watch TV." Given a choice of watching a TV show on TV, that is their choice vs. watching online. So there has to be a compelling reason for them to watch online that's differentiated.
VN: Did the survey offer any insight about consumers' interest in dropping cable subscriptions in favor of broadband-only options?
BL: From a consumer's standpoint it's not either/or. Just 4% say they'd switch to online only. The overwhelming majority of people, 87%, would not consider switching.
VN: Did you ask about what kind of broadband video consumers would like to watch on TV?
BL: We really only asked about YouTube and UGC. Do people want to see it on TV? Generally they said no. Just 13% said yes. So maybe this confirms that online is a better medium for this stuff. Those most interested are young men: 29% of men 18-34 said yes, they want it, with 17% of women in the age bracket saying they want to see it.
VN: Thanks for sharing information about this new study.