Beyond the Cable Box: The New Face of TV Viewership

Thursday, April 10, 2014 | 8:50 AM

It’s been called the “New Golden Age of Television,” but today’s TV ecosystem differs greatly from that of the era of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. People now turn to their laptops, smartphones, and tablets to view trailers and research cast information before tuning-in, to use social media for real-time conversations about their favorite programs, and to binge watch episodes on demand. In fact, 90% of TV viewers also visit Google and YouTube, signaling the shared audience between both digital and television.*

In an effort to identify how digital has impacted viewer behavior in this new era, we analyzed search queries, video views, and engagement metrics from a sample of 100 cable and network television shows. From this analysis we published a new report called “The Role of Digital in TV Research, Fanship, and Viewing,” which outlines how online behavior is a clear indicator of a show’s popularity.

To view the full report, visit Think with Google. At a quick glance, here are a few of the key findings from the study:

  • TV related activity is growing on Google and YouTube. Searches have grown by 16% and 54% YoY* on Google and YouTube search respectively. We’ve also seen a rise in video views, watch time and engagement on YouTube around TV-related content, suggesting that TV viewers are increasingly using these platforms to interact with other fans and engage in a show - in fact, watch time on YouTube for TV-related content has grown 65% YoY.
  • Mobile and tablet searches are spearheading growth. Searches for TV content on Google and YouTube have increased 100%+ YoY on mobile devices, where users are looking for quick bits of information like premiere-date, plot, and cast-related information, and on tablets where users are looking for watch-related information.
  • Activity on Google and YouTube is correlated with tune-in. Our analysis of Google searches, YouTube searches, and YouTube video views show positive .72, .74 and .67 correlations with “live plus three day” viewers, respectively.*
  • The YouTube “community” actively creates TV-related content. In 2013 for every piece of content uploaded by a show’s network on YouTube in 2013, there were more than seven pieces of community-generated content related to a show. Some fan favorites far exceed that benchmark: Game of Thrones, for example, had 82 community-generated videos per video uploaded by the network and The Vampire Diaries had 69.
  • Subscribers are vital to driving awareness for new content. TV networks have been gaining subscribers for their official YouTube channels at a blistering rate, with an average per channel subscribership increase of 69% from the beginning of 2013 to the end of the year. These subscribers are vital to spreading content on YouTube.
  • Catching-up on seasons is on the rise, and drives tune-in. We found that 70% of viewers catch-up on prior episodes before tuning-in to a new season. And this intent appears to be on the rise - catch-up related searches on Google in the pre-premiere timeframe have grown by 50% YoY. For people who catch up on past seasons of returning shows, about half will start more than two months in advance. Analyzing behaviors around catch-up are important, since 4 in 5 viewers say they are more likely to tune-in to a season premiere after catching up on prior seasons*.

In summary, today’s TV audiences use Google, YouTube, and digital overall to extend and inform their TV-watching experience.  To learn more, download the full whitepaper from Think with Google.

Posted by Mahlet Seyoum, Industry Analyst, Media and Entertainment