Only a few years ago, “watching TV” meant just that: going home, turning on the TV and flipping through channels. More recently, what it means to watch TV has changed, as more and more people cut their cable subscriptions1 in favor of streaming services available across devices.2
Facebook IQ wanted to understand how people’s behaviors are changing as a result of these emerging media platforms. We explored how people on Facebook engage with and talk about their favorite content, and we conducted a survey of frequent TV watchers to understand what people want from content providers.
Streaming inspires conversation among Millennials
We looked at conversation on Facebook that focused on hundreds of top shows from both cable providers and streaming providers, including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. We found that, of all age groups, Millennials are 1.24x more likely to talk about streaming shows compared to other topics on average, while Boomers are 1.74x less likely to discuss streaming.3
There are differences across multicultural affinity groups as well, as the US African American affinity group was 1.47x more likely to discuss streaming shows than other topics on average.3 In contrast, US Hispanic and Asian American affinity groups are less likely to talk about streaming content compared to other topics on average, even though they notably are more likely to talk about entertainment as a whole.3
After better understanding how conversation happens on Facebook, we surveyed over 2,000 people in the US and Canada to learn more about their specific habits around why and how they watch their favorite content.
Streaming Viewers are much more likely to be Millennials, but TV + Streaming Viewers represent a more diverse age range. Gen Xers in particular are most likely to share time with both TV and Streaming platforms, creating an interesting messaging challenge for marketers.
Streaming Viewers demand their favorites
Streaming Viewers said that the availability of their favorite content is the most important factor when picking a provider, and traditional TV Viewers care more about the hit to their wallet. While the average paid cable TV subscription is more costly than any single streaming service, we see that TV Viewers may value that cost relative to how much service they get. Meanwhile, Streaming Viewers value access to specific shows.
We saw these preferences play out further when we asked viewers how they are willing to spend their money. Streaming Viewers are 1.40x more likely than TV Viewers to say they would subscribe to a smaller set of channels at a lower price. Streaming Viewers are also 2.23x more likely than TV Viewers to pay a monthly fee to watch content without ads and 2.13x more likely to want to watch back-to-back episodes instead of tuning in weekly.
Indeed, Streaming Viewers know what they want and will forego channel-surfing to dive right into their favorite show. Streaming Viewers are also influenced by the availability of content and accessibility of the streaming platforms themselves, with differences between men and women. Women are 1.23x more likely than men to choose a show based on how many episodes are available to “binge watch” and 1.21x more likely than men to make a decision based on whether they can stream their content on any device.
Mobile and social influence drive content choices for all viewers
In the US and Canada, Streaming Viewers are more likely to prefer movies, comedies and documentaries, while TV Viewers favor sports, talk shows and news programs. A closer look at what influences these choices reveals that the top way Streaming Viewers discover content is through a friend’s recommendation, while TV Viewers and TV + Streaming Viewers browse the platform they’re on to discover content.
It’s important to note, however, that while Streaming Viewers are more likely than TV Viewers to discover content in the above ways, TV Viewers are still highly likely to discover content through Facebook, on mobile and via traditional advertising. In fact, TV Viewers still outpace the general population in terms of Facebook and mobile usage.
The media landscape is currently undergoing a transformation, but it’s clear that whether your audience is streaming or watching traditional TV—or mixing a bit of each—the conversation is happening on mobile. With the rise among content-focused viewers, now is the time to show that you are tuned into the right channels and your message is tailored to your audience.
What it means for marketers
Know what your audience watches (and where they watch it): Millennials may make up the majority of streaming-only viewers, but the mix of ages among people who mix traditional TV and streaming means marketers shouldn’t leave any group out. If you’re targeting TV Viewers, remember that the “experience” still remains a critical asset and can be emphasized in marketing. This is particularly true in sports and news, both of which rank as top content valued by TV watchers.
Use platform-specific messaging: Because streamers still care about great content, emphasize actual content in your marketing to Streaming Viewers. And because the price-to-value ratio still matters to many cable TV Viewers, tread lightly, keeping in mind that younger viewers place less importance on the value ratio of paid TV.
Leverage mobile and social for discovery: Be present on the devices Streaming Viewers use, and understand the connections they have with their friends. Using platforms and creative that highlight content that their friends are interested in is likely to be more effective in drumming up interest around a new show or movie.