The Biz - Study: GenY is key to convergence

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They grew up on the Internet and instant messaging. Commanding video-game controllers, navigating electronic programming guides, performing music downloads and burning CDs is second nature to them. So it's not surprising that 75% of 1,219 GenY participants in a recent survey said that they multi-task while watching TV.

The survey was mounted as a kind of focus group by an alliance of cable operators and programming providers angling to learn more about the viewing habits and preferences of 18-to-29-year-olds toward on-demand TV (AA, Feb. 24). Eighty-one percent of the multi-taskers talk on the phone while watching TV, 76% are on the computer, and 66% read newspapers or magazines. Fielded online by Liquid Generation, a GenY-focused research group and portal, the survey also found that 96% of the respondents are interested in receiving an incentive for watching a movie within a 24-hour period, while 92% indicated that pausing and stopping are the VCR and PVR (personal video recorder) features that interest them most.

"It makes me think about ... the impact on things like the recall of advertising," says Debby Mullin, VP-marketing and new media, Cox Communications. Cox is currently running a trial of FreeZone, an ad-supported video-on-demand service. While Mullin wonders about retention, she also thinks that GenY audiences are probably more receptive to interactivity in advertising via questions and polling.

The multi-tasking findings suggest that eventually a new form of technology will combine chatting online, TV and computer functions, according to Mitch Oscar, principal, HocusFocus, an independent consultancy. "A lot of people [not just GenY] love to multi-task," says Oscar, who organized the parties backing the research.

good indications

Artie Bulgrin, senior VP-research and sales development, ESPN, agrees. "There's a good indication that PC/TV convergence might have a future after all," he says, adding that, "this study kind of indicates that this new generation will certainly adopt convergence."

Discovery is already accommodating multi-taskers. It launched "Viewer Lounge" on around popular programs on its network such as "Trading Spaces" and "Monster Garage." Viewers can conduct live chats with one another while shows are on. "These people are passionate about these shows and we're trying to tap into those passionate users," says Bill Allman, senior VP-general manager, Discovery Interactive Media, who took the idea of creating live chat communities from his 13-year-old daughter. "GenY has grown up expecting two-way conversation ... and they expect total control and community," he says.

Among other key findings of the GenY research: 92% of the survey respondents indicated they liked the idea of accessing a previously broadcast program, while 62% said they would consider paying a fee for such a service. "This supports the ad-supported VOD concept," Oscar says. The desire to time-shift viewing is reflected in the finding that 87% said they would like the ability to consistently access favorite episodes. The finding indicates the influence of TiVo-style TV viewing-watching what you want, when you want to-comes into play in the on-demand environment.

Interestingly, 56% of survey respondents said they never watch pay-per-view. This, ESPN's Bulgrin says, may be because they don't like the linear nature of it; pay-per-view movies can't be paused and must be watched at a specific time, unlike VOD. It also may point to GenY's comfort with the online model of paying one fee for unlimited usage rather than pay-for-play.

The multi-tasking issue raises interesting implications for the deployment of wireless networks and broadband service in the home and simultaneous viewing, says Chris Pizzurro, VP-multimedia marketing, AOL Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting Sales. Turner's Nascar broadcasts also sync with "You have stats and live audio feeds that are going along with the Nascar broadcast," he says.

Fast Facts

75% of the 18-to-29-year-olds surveyed said they multi-task while watching TV.

Of those 75%:

81% talk on the phone

76% use the computer

73% 'romance' a friend

66% read magazines and/or newspapers

Source: Liquid Generation GenY On-Demand TV Study