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Multitasking Takes Over Small Screen, Finds Accenture Study

Consumers can’t just watch TV anymore. In an era of increasingly short attention spans and a consistent need to stay plugged in, consumers are using laptops, tablets, phones -- even books and newspapers -- while they watch TV. Welcome to the world of multitasking.

When it comes to watching video online, the broadcasting industry isn’t immune to the impact of convergence. In fact, as devices have diversified, consumer preferences have matured, and the demand for high-quality content on the most convenient device has increased significantly.

According to Accenture’s third annual multi-nation “Video Over Internet Consumer Survey,” a staggering 90 percent of consumers globally now watch some video content over the internet. And they are viewing that content in ever more sophisticated ways. Multitasking on all devices has grown by leaps and bounds in the past year. In fact, more than three-quarters (77 percent) of all respondents reported regularly using their computer while watching TV, up 16 percentage points from last year. And despite relatively low ownership rates, the use of tablets rose the most significantly -- to 44 percent compared to just 11 percent last year.

Viewer multitasking poses obstacles and opportunities

This steep rise in multitasking while watching TV poses challenges for broadcasters and content providers. Traditional scheduled programing, also known as linear TV, may be losing its appeal as single-track viewing falls out of favor. However, multitasking also presents significant opportunities for increased engagement through improved social functionalities that capture viewers on several devices at once or drive traffic from one medium to another. There are also unprecedented opportunities for new monetization models that take advantage of multiple platforms at once.

These prospects are particularly strong with the tablet. Although multitasking activities are mostly unrelated to the content on TV, the use of tablets correlates more closely with what consumers are watching than the use of laptops and smartphones. And that means the tablet could become a complementary companion device for multitasking consumers -- presenting broadcasters and content providers with the prospect of exploring how to best use that second screen.

Another interesting finding, and one that adds another level of complexity to capitalizing on the multitasking consumer, is that the type of content being watched varies across different devices. Full-length movies/series and live content are most watched on TV, while user-generated content and short clips are mostly watched on mobile devices. Tablets showed growth in viewing habits for all types of online video content -- establishing them as an up and coming go-to device for watching video.

In response to this trend, and in alignment with key digital trends identified in the Accenture Technology Vision, broadcasters and content providers should look to create digital relationships with consumers to improve interactions, develop better insights into individual consumer preferences, and deliver a more customized consumer experience.

Consumers are both increasingly sophisticated and more confused

While users continue to multitask across various devices, we found that they remain confused about the available options for accessing online video on their TV. Even though TVs connected directly to the Internet remain the ideal method for accessing online video, the percentage of consumers who are not sure or don’t have a preferred method for accessing online video on TV has risen from 23 to 28 percent. On top of that, consumers remain confused about the available options for accessing online video. For instance, while only 16 percent indicated a preference for an online connection through a set-top box, nearly a third (30 percent) reported watching daily online content this way.

This confusion indicates continued opportunity to educate and persuade the public. The battle to win viewership continues to be hard fought. Surprisingly, despite the changes happening in the online video world, traditional broadcast companies are holding their own against emerging international players like Netflix and YouTube, perceived to be more internet savvy.

Traditional broadcasters still have an edge

In fact, thanks to recent investment by broadcasters in online video capabilities, they are gaining consumer trust and reaping the benefits of their investments. When asked, “Who would you trust more to offer you a video over the internet service on your TV screen?” more than half of consumers cited the traditional TV broadcaster -- up from 32 percent in 2012.

Regardless of where the needle currently sits, consumer expectations of content providers continue to rise, and both traditional broadcasters and international newcomers cannot become complacent. New and consistent innovation is essential to success. One thing content providers can be sure of is that as consumer demands and habits continue to change, their business models will need to keep up.

This is a vendor-written article. StreamingMedia.com accepts submissions from vendors as long as they provide value to our readers without promoting any particular vendor or solution. Francesco Venturini is the broadcast lead for Accenture’s Media & Entertainment industry group. He can be reached at Francesco.Venturini@accenture.com.

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