Research: TV Viewers Will Follow Shows, Celebrities and Brands Online

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Digitas declares an end to the era of passive TV viewership with findings ahead of upfront-style advertising sales events by online companies.

NEW YORK - Ahead of a two-week series of events where major online companies including AOL, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft will hype their content lineup and advertising opportunities,  integrated ad agency Digitas is about to release new research showing how online video is engaging viewers. The data reveals a healthy appetite for exclusive online videos of TV shows and is being touted as showing that entertainment fans are becoming, more than ever, a nation of brand-seeking multi-taskers.

Emulating the way that TV broadcasters roll out their content and meet with advertisers during upfront presentations, the online giants have made plans of their own. Later this month, the two-week so-called Digital Content New Fronts will kick off. From Hulu to YouTube, each company will take a day to pitch advertisers on why the digital sector deserves a bigger slice of the ad budget pie graph.

Digitas will make their own showing on April 26 in a program entitled “Big Content: From Video Bloggers to Blockbusters,” intended to showcase how longer-form digital content continues to make inroads into prime time viewing, how distribution models are morphing with the advent of social media and mobile devices, and how content is now being driven by access to a tremendous amount of data.

In advance of the the showcase, the ad agency is rolling out some of the data, including these highlights from a survey conducted by Harris Interactive last month among 2,211 U.S. adults age 18 years and older:

  • 53 percent said that if their favorite celebrity announced that they were starring in or launching an online video or Web series, they would check it out.
  • 58 percent said that if their favorite TV show posted exclusive videos online, they would watch.
  • 46 percent said that if an online video mentions a new product or brand, they're likely to look that brand up afterwards.

"As the survey results show, today’s viewer is not just passively sitting and watching—they’re sharing, talking, clicking, testing,” says Stephanie Sarofian, managing director of The Third Act, the brand content unit of Digitas. “Brand content has become an integral part of any successful marketing strategy."

The data reveals that older baby boomers are getting really used to the Internet. Almost half (47 percent) of those aged 55 and up say they are interested in exclusive online content from their favorite TV shows, compared to 69 percent of those between the age of 18 and 34. Older women are especially receptive to online advertising. About 44 percent of women who are 55 and up say they are more likely to look up a brand after seeing it on an online video compared to 34 percent of men in the same demographic.

Overall, the nation seems increasingly comfortable with doing several things at once. About 63 percent of adults say they look at online content while watching TV. Of those TV viewers, 27 percent look at related show content online while the TV is on compared to 48% who are surfing the Web on unrelated matters.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner

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