Viewers Still Don't Want to Work to Watch TV

MediaWorks Viewpoint: Hallmark Channel's Jess Aguirre

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Jess Aguirre
Jess Aguirre
Back in the heyday of broadcast TV, viewers could come home after work, enjoy dinner, then sit back, relax and enjoy that night's shows with family and friends. Today, the utility of the household TV set remains the same: Seventy percent of all TV continues to be viewed in the family room or living room. But these days, viewers are taking extreme measures in using new technologies like the DVR, VOD, DVD and PPV to try to hold on to the TV experience of days gone by.

After a long day's work (in many cases spent in front of a computer), viewers don't want to work hard for their entertainment. In countless focus groups across the country, viewers continue to tell us they "have lots of channels but find it hard to find something to watch" and that they are "tired of having to have their hand on the remote when viewing in mixed company."

Viewers take dim view of TV
According to the 2007 Yankelovich study commissioned by Hallmark Channel, a majority of viewers continue to believe they cannot watch TV together as often as they would like because of TV's coarsening content. More specifically, 88% of cable and satellite viewers say that there has been a significant increase in the number of shows with sexual, violent, crude or obscene content over the last five years. Eighty percent of parents think children are being exposed to too much sexual content on TV; 68% say there are not enough shows parents and children can watch together; and 63% say children cannot safely watch TV unsupervised.

More importantly, 74% believe that TV does a poor job of reinforcing the values parents want to teach to their children. Not surprisingly, the latest CTAM Research Tracking study clearly indicates that the lowest-hanging fruit for new TV technologies are households with children, and according to Yankelovich, most viewers (81%) want to see more programs that they can watch with other members of their household, with nearly nine in ten parents (88%) saying it is important to view TV programs with their children.

So what has changed is not the utility of the TV set but the content, as 63% of parents with children say the content of programs forces parents with children at home to watch TV separately. This number has risen from 53% in 2001. Given the demand for co-viewing, its not surprising that in the recently concluded 2007-08 TV season the evidence on the real utility of the household TV set continues to mount as four of the top five shows on broadcast TV (the only shows on broadcast that averaged above a 20 share) were episodes of "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars." On ad-supported cable, in any given week, children's, sports and news programs dominated the top 20.

Islands of stability
Not surprisingly, the 2008 Millward Brown "Consumer Television Technology" study found that Hallmark Channel, HGTV and TV Land were consistently favored by viewers who said they "prefer to watch one show and not change the channels," "would like to see more wholesome shows on TV" and "have lots of channels but sometimes it is hard to find something to watch."
Jess Aguirre is senior VP-research for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel. He can be reached at [email protected]

Full-season C-3 and "length of tune" rankings among adults 18-49 also clearly indicate commercial retention and length-of-tune is less affected by age and gender and more a function of program content and the matched flow between programs and commercials that are easy on viewer sensibilities. In fact, for the 2007-08 season, the two top ad- supported cable networks in C-3 retention and "length of tune" were Nick at Nite and Hallmark Channel versus MTV and E!, which are consistently ranked at the bottom.

Today, the need for the old family-friendly broadcast TV experience remains strong and indeed has grown, yet according to Yankelovich, there are only a handful of networks meeting the needs of viewers by providing high-quality, family-friendly fare.

So it's back to the future -- a time to sit back, relax, enjoy a night of the old prime-time broadcast TV experience -- compliments of "American Idol," "Dancing With the Stars," a limited number of family-friendly cable networks and ... DVRs, VOD, DVDs and PPV.

Jess Aguirre is senior VP-research for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel. He can be reached at [email protected]
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