It snuck up on us a generation ago. What used to be the living room suddenly became the TV room. Then we got the entertainment room and even the game room. Since those early rabbit ear days, where and how we consume our media has continued to evolve, but the pace is faster than ever. Now digital entertainment is with us everywhere: even off the couch and through the front door in our pockets.
It's no secret that smartphones tablets and wi-fi enabled TV's have opened up massive new channels for content, but there's a tidal wave of digital devices coming that is changing the way we consumer our entertainment media forever.
Yusuf Mehdi, who heads up marketing and strategy for Microsoft's Xbox business, was quoted in the LA Times with a game-changing statistic: that households who own an Xbox now spend 84 hours a month on videos and music. People may still use the Xbox to play games, but for the first time it's become a primary channel for accessing entertainment content such as Netflix, Hulu and more.
That's an even more important number when you consider the average American household is watching around 150 hours of TV a month – in addition. As the number of devices such as the Xbox rises, so does our consumption of content and overall usage. So we're not trading one device for the other, we're consuming more.
The fight for the key entertainment delivery system has taken a huge turn. Xbox and other gaming consoles continue to truly innovate and reshape the entertainment model for a new consumer lifestyle, perhaps liberated from terrestrial broadcast. Relationships with Netflix, exclusive access with HBO, the list goes on. Smart game platforms have now not only reached a critical mass, but they're also offering increasingly exclusive access and content.
The battle for the entertainment room hasn't been won yet, but there are some interesting implications for marketers as well as consumers. As gaming consoles take a stronger lead in delivering digital entertainment content, there is increased opportunity for brands to take advantage of what game consoles provide: a closed environment where a consumer may be more involved, immersed and engaged, as well as a landscape where it's easy to control, limit or grant access to create demand and reward behaviors.
The explosion in game platform entertainment channels is also boosting the traditional. Tablet apps geared toward enhancing the viewership experience are springing up with greater frequency. And brands are working hard to create experiences that go beyond the television program. (Showtime, AMC and HBO are leading the way). In essence, they are all trying to kickstart a behavior that already comes naturally to those who regularly use gaming consoles: physical interaction with the brand and content.
Also worth noting, this isn't just a trend for younger consumers. February ComScore data shows adults 18+ who watch TV online "sometimes" have more that doubled (14% to 31%) in the past year. The single largest increase came from Boomers – jumping from 11% to 31%. And, they saw a five times increase in saying they prefer streaming TV online. Console ownership among Boomers also jumped from 25%-29%.
The first shift in content consumption went from when to where: from viewership (and before that listenership) of scheduled broadcast content. The next, even bigger shift is more about 'how' and 'on what' we will consume our entertainment.
The ultimate winner is going to have to do what Apple did for music: blend platform, content provision and consumption model into one user-friendly engine. It's certain that the gaming console is going to play a significant role in any scenario that shakes out over the next few years. Just look at Kinect technology or the integration of social media and voting into how we consume our entertainment content. We're trained to either click thumbs up or down but what if, just like motion-recognition, our consoles could detect physical voting or our expressions and report likes and dislikes in real time to the source.
Or, imagine when social referrals will happen in real time. We will soon be able to see which of our friends is online and recommend, comment, share or complete group tasks while we watch. This is already a trained behavior for online gamers. It is easy to see how it could translate to all forms of entertainment consumption.
Regardless of what you call the room you consume your entertainment, the console has earned its way out of the basement.