What Every Marketer Should Know About the Changing TV Consumer

There’s no question that entertainment habits have changed drastically since the days of endless channel-flipping and rushing home from school to catch MTV’s “Total Request Live”. Just in the past month, we’ve seen the launch of Netflix offline viewing and the debut of AT&T’s DirecTV Now streaming service--along with relentless headlines about “cord-cutting” and other cord-related buzzwords (we dive into “cord-cobblers” below).

Keeping up with all this change is tough! Especially for entertainment marketers, who have the unique challenge of still reaching viewers despite major shifts in behavior—no small task for an industry that’s made billions (trillions, perhaps) knowing exactly how and where to connect with consumers: the TV screen.

But even with new screens and new habits, it can still be done.

The best way to master a changing audience is always to understand the driving forces behind the changes. That’s why, for the second year running, we asked our massive listener base about how they’re consuming and thinking about long-form video and TV content. The resounding message was that as more entertainment options become available, people watch more!

Out of this listener survey, we identified two major behavioral trends fueling today’s shifting TV consumption. These are concepts every entertainment marketer should get very familiar with, as they’ll help you authentically connect with today’s TV consumers.

Trend #1: People are drawn to choice

Whether deciding how to watch, where to watch or when to watch, today’s TV viewers exercise more and more control over how they consume entertainment.

Showtime CEO, David Nevins, coined the term “cord-cobbling” earlier this year when he suggested 2016 would be the year of customized viewing among early-adopters. He was quoted saying, “This year’s going to be about choice—people putting together the bundle that makes sense for them. In most cases that will be through traditional distributors with maybe some add-ons.”

This habit of piecing together the right entertainment mix for you is evident among Pandora listeners. Although 2 in 3 subscribe to a traditional cable or satellite service, 76% of Pandora’s traditional Pay TV viewers also subscribe to a subscription video on-demand (SVOD) service, such a Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video. Personalization, customization & accessibility are the new norms. Just like Nevins said, people are no longer comfortable with a company or network dictating what they’ll watch, read or listen to. They’ve gotten a taste of on-demand and they aren’t letting go.

One of the most obvious examples of this is the phenomenon of skinny bundles, or pared down versions of cable and digital TV packages, an offering that many entertainment companies are planning for next year. Among Pandora listeners, more than 70% said they’d be interested in purchasing a skinny bundle if it meant greater flexibility and better price. And of Pandora listeners who don’t currently have a traditional Pay TV subscription, 2 in 3 said they’d consider purchasing a skinny bundle. With rumored launches from Hulu, YouTube and more, it seems like they’ll have plenty of chances to test these skinny services out in 2017.

Trend #2: TV consumption has no boundaries

With more choices for content but no more hours in the day, consumers are seizing the promise of “TV Everywhere” to watch on their schedules, across more screens than ever. In fact, our survey results showed that viewing across devices increased significantly since last year, with 45% of Pandora listeners regularly viewing long-form TV content on a laptop, 37% on a smartphone and 24% on a gaming console. The only device that lost penetration this year was the standard (non-internet-enabled) TV, as more people opted for a Smart TV instead.
The fast adoption of watching on-the-go tells us that people have a ferocious appetite for long-form video. Now, every moment spent on a commute, waiting in line or stuck on a plane is an opportunity to catch up on your favorite shows. At this point, you might be wondering: how can anyone possibly find the time to watch more content? Well, the answer is not necessarily more, but better. There is growing demand for new and improved offerings—which is why the race for original content is heating up between streaming services.

As consumers try to keep up with all these options, we also see the marketplace for streaming services grow. We found that 81% of Pandora listeners subscribe to at least one SVOD service, a significant increase from the already high 69% last year. And 44% of listeners subscribe to two or more services! With control on their side, consumers favor services that meet their higher expectations. For instance, an astonishing 87% of Pandora’s TV streamers said they could be motivated to add another service if it offered the right content.

What this means for entertainment marketers

In the end, there’s no better time to be in entertainment. Viewer appetite is at an all-time high, and growing with the many tech and content innovations happening in this space.

This audience still wants your content, just on their terms and at a fair price. Cutting through the clutter to reach the right consumer with the right message, in the right environment becomes more important than ever.

Ready to learn more? Find out more about the results of our listener survey here:

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Still curious about how to connect with the changing TV consumer? Get in touch with a Pandora rep to discover how: