Heavy Twitter Focus Can Be a "Waste" for TV Industry, Study Finds

AP Images

Only 33 percent of people are now traditional "couch potatoes"

Only ‎18 percent of people with Internet access follow TV shows on Twitter while they watch them, according to a study from research and forecasting firm Strategy Analytics.

Networks have devised strategies to encourage social media engagement and buzz, but the survey found that only some viewers follow hashtags and trending topics about shows while they watch.

The report identified six main types of TV viewers, based on the degree to which the use of other devices plays into their viewing behavior.

"The traditional way broadcasters and advertisers have discussed TV audiences for 70 years — by age and gender — is becoming increasingly irrelevant and outdated," said David Mercer, Strategy Analytics' principal analyst. "People within a traditional group, say 18- to 34-year-old men, can watch TV in completely different ways, so new behaviors are as important as demographics when it comes to planning for all elements within the TV industry, be it content, scheduling and advertising."

Discussing the role of social media for TV viewers, Mercer said networks and advertisers must "learn the intricacies" to plan successful strategies. "There's been a lot of hype about how Twitter is changing TV viewing, but in reality, only two types of people are remotely engaged with 'Twitter + TV,' " he said. "Consequently, strategies heavily focused on this would be a big waste, as it's irrelevant to over 80 percent of TV viewers."

The biggest group of TV watchers, according to the report, are still traditional ones. The study dubs them "couch potatoes." They account for 33 percent of viewers. "Very focused on TV when watching it, they never phone or text people about what they're watching and hardly ever use social media," the study says. "None of this group uses Twitter trending topics or hashtags on a weekly basis to follow a show they're watching."

With 26 percent, the next biggest group are "OTTers," a name derived from "over-the-top" or online TV services. This group is most likely to go 24 hours without watching TV in traditional ways, preferring to watch shows via online services. Strategy Analytics found that 95 percent of OTTers watch a show they missed online. ‎

With the debate about pay TV cord-cutting continuing in the U.S. and beyond, industry observers will be interested in the estimated size of this group. But the study didn't detail how many of them may have given up their pay TV subscriptions.

"Couch chatterers," meanwhile, account for 12 percent of TV viewers and are 2.5 times more likely than the average person to call or text others about what they're watching on TV.

The study calls other TV viewers "multiscreeners" but differentiates three subgroups. "Indifferent" multiscreeners (83 percent) mostly use another device while watching TV, and 91 percent use Twitter to follow a show they watch. "Moderates" watch much TV on other devices and "manic multiscreeners" form the only group beyond the indifferents that does more than half (55 percent) of its TV viewing on other devices. Still, its members are the most likely to have a pay TV subscription.

The study was conducted among more than 6,000 consumers online in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and Italy.‎ Strategy Analytics has offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai