Editor’s note: Joe Webb is the head of digital at TNS APAC, Hong Kong.
The rise of individuals owning multiple digital devices worldwide is driving a change in viewing habits among content-hungry consumers. While our love affair with television endures, the fact is that TV alone isn’t enough to satisfy our appetite for content, driving the popularity of online media and “screen-stacking” – the use of multiple devices at one time.
The digital landscape is only set to become more complex. According to Connected Life, a study by TNS which surveyed over 55,000 Internet users across the globe, people in the U.S. now own an average of four connected devices each, a figure which rises to five in the U.K., Australia and Germany.
Screen-stacking leads to greater opportunities
The study also found that almost half of people who watch TV in the evening simultaneously engage in other digital activities such as using social media, checking their e-mail or shopping online. This – combined with demand for TV and video content on-the-go – is fuelling the rise of multi-screening or screen-stacking.
The role of different platforms at different times of the day is evolving, opening up new opportunities for marketers and advertisers to reach consumers. To capitalize on these opportunities, marketers will need to track exactly how people are using their devices to understand emerging trends and how people can be targeted in different contexts.
Once marketers are equipped with this knowledge their biggest challenge is adapting marketing approaches accordingly. For example, 46 percent of Internet users in the Middle East and Africa watch online videos via their mobile phone or smartphone. In comparison, in the U.S. just 17 percent watch videos on a mobile device and 40 percent prefer to use a laptop.
This particular finding is in fact representative of a wider trend. While it’s true that mobile is taking on a bigger role across all markets, it is more dominant in developing markets with no past history of using fixed line devices. Low-cost smartphones offer the most affordable route online and are leapfrogging traditional devices such as desktop PCs.
Demand for TV content drives online video
It's not just increasing ownership of devices that is driving online video consumption but also our desire to access our favorite TV shows at all hours of day. One quarter (25 percent) of those surveyed in the U.S. watch content on a PC, laptop, tablet or mobile device daily. This rises to one third (33 percent) in mainland China and Singapore and 32 percent in Hong Kong, where phablets are increasingly popular.
In Hong Kong, more people actually choose to watch TV and video online rather than on traditional television sets. After dinner one quarter of people tune into content on their digital devices, in contrast to 14 percent who switch on their TVs.
Brands need to use relevant market data in order to tailor their approach to the adoption habits of particular markets. Many of the big global media companies are already taking advantage of online viewing trends, offering on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer, Hulu or HBO GO, which allow people to access premium content wherever they are through their phones or tablets.
Specific targets lead to success
Despite this surge in online consumption, advertisers cannot afford to forget the power of TV. Three quarters of respondents (75 percent) in the U.S. choose to sit in front of the box every day. TV dinners are also alive and well, with three out of four viewers (76 percent) globally giving TV their undivided attention while eating in the evening.
However, the context in which viewers are watching TV is changing as people become increasingly distracted, checking e-mails, texting on their phones and researching on their iPads. While there is no disputing that viewers love traditional TV, advertisers must continue to adapt to the evolving viewing habits. Online devices are offering more ways to access TV and video content, meaning advertisers need to adopt an even more integrated online approach to engage consumers.
The key to success lies in identifying the specific context for use of particular devices. With so much time spent online, advertisers can pick and choose the right moment in order to engage the right audience. Armed with this knowledge, they can leverage the challenge of media fragmentation and transform it into a major opportunity.