Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Web Viewership Not a Zero Sum Game

This week's Multichannel looks closely at the effects of the writers strike on TV viewing. And makes an interesting point, that web video usage may have risen, but not at the expense of TV. And even with the writers strike two months in, January TV viewing still did well with reality programming and sports. Cable continues to impact broadcast viewing, perhaps even more than the writers strike did, by being able to carve up smaller pieces to reach individual interests.

Most interesting, according to Multichannel, "the splintering of the viewing audience among hundreds of TV channels and innumerable Web sites had already been in play before the strike started Nov. 5. The effects of the strike only really became noticeable, one top cable-research official said, when broadcast networks began running out of fresh episodes of hits like ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy."

We live in an age of multitasking and the ability to do many things at once. Most recently, that ability has become noticable with TV and web usage. The TV is on in one corner of the room, or perhaps even on one corner of the screen, while attention switches from show to web clip to blog and back to TV show again. And as most tv programming has become what I like to call low involvement viewing, it takes little attention to catch up to plot lines on the big tube.

I once worked on a research project that compared low and high involvement viewing to advertising effectiveness and the general results were that the higher the engagement, the higher the recall to the spots. It becomes much harder to multitask during a high involvement show. Still in today's world, younger viewers are more quickly able to move between online and tv engagements; that is to watch a high involvement show like Heroes, then quickly switch to the website and blogs during the commercial breaks. As the TV and the pc exist in the same room, those kinds of multitask relationships will only get stronger and web usage will grow, but not at the expense of broadcast or cable TV programming.