What Sources and Devices Global Viewers Have, and How They Use Them to Watch TV

The latest installment from Viacom International Media Networks’ “TV RE[DEFINED]” project takes a look at the devices and sources available in global homes, and the effect this has on their TV viewing.

An ever-expanding array of options for viewing TV content is now available to audiences around the globe. What sources and devices do these consumers have in their homes—and with so many choices available, how are they using them to watch TV?

These questions were posed in “TV RE[DEFINED],” a recent research by Viacom International Media Networks that explores how people are watching television in this transforming viewing environment. This study sheds light on how global viewers discover and consume content, illustrating how content creators and TV providers can redefine their relationship with viewers in the new TV landscape. The full summary is available here.

In this post, we’re going to dive more deeply into viewers’ access to the multitude of devices and sources, as well as their behavior when it comes to consuming TV content:

The average consumer has five sources available for watching full-length TV shows. “Sources” are the ways people access TV content. They include linear TV, Video on Demand (VOD) from their TV providers, Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), SVOD/Subscription VOD (like Netflix), Direct to Own (like iTunes), free video sites (like YouTube), and websites or apps from TV channels and torrent sites.

Consumers use up to six types of devices to access these five sources. “Devices” can range from TV sets to tablets to streaming devices like Roku. This average reflects the number of different types of devices in a household but does not factor in duplicates—so if a home has 3 TV sets and 2 tablets, there may be many more devices for watching TV shows.

Across countries, people’s access to devices and sources is remarkably consistent. No countries measured by this study stand out as significantly more advanced than others. Around the world, once consumers have broadband at home they quickly reach similar levels of access to different TV sources. And with the surge in popularity of tablets and smartphones, there are relatively few differences by country in the types of devices that people use to watch TV shows.

Having more devices at home does not translate to more television viewing. When people own a new tablet or laptop, they don’t spend more time watching TV shows than those who do not. That’s because most viewing takes place at home, where a surplus of devices available for watching TV was already available. Devices provide a route to content–but they don’t necessarily fuel the desire to watch more TV shows.

One exception: tablets do increase viewing among kids because they offer independence and choice. For kids, the combination of a tablet and YouTube or Netflix can be a potent mix. The tablet gets around the problem of who controls the remote, as well as how to navigate the EPG (electronic program guide). However, like many childhood favorites, its appeal starts to fade as they enter their teenage years. And through all of this, the TV set still doesn’t lose its importance!

Having more sources available does increase television viewing. Caveat: the content has to be good. Some people in the TV industry have traditionally equated increased access to content with increased viewing—and this data supports that. However, the key here isn’t the mere amount of programming. In order for engagement with television to increase in the long term, viewers have to perceive that the content they’ve gained access to is really good.

More specifically: viewing increases when consumers have more access to great content on a TV set. This study revealed that people use free websites and online subscription services more when those sources are connected to a TV set. Viacom’s 2013 TV S.M.A.R.T study similarly demonstrated that TV sits comfortably at the top of the device hierarchy among kids and adults alike. It may also explain why VOD via TV providers was found to be more popular with viewers than subscription services like Netflix—for many, it’s easier to access the service available on their TV set.